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Soaps Interview

Emmerdale's Verity Rushworth: 'I'm back as Donna for five months'

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Verity Rushworth

© Rex Features / David Fisher

Verity Rushworth


Emmerdale airs Verity Rushworth's return scenes next week as her character Donna Windsor arrives back in the village with a big surprise in store.

When Donna pays a visit to her stepfather Bob Hope, she's not alone as she has a 4-year-old daughter named April with her. As she settles back into the village, Donna is forced to reveal that her ex-husband Marlon Dingle (Mark Charnock) is the little girl's father…

Here, Verity reveals all the gossip on her Emmerdale return and how she feels about reprising the role of Donna after five years away.

What has Donna been up to since leaving the village?
"Donna left the village five years ago, after the affair she had with Ross Kirk. She transferred to Essex Police, so that's where she's been. It turns out that when Donna left the village, she was pregnant at the time but she wasn't sure whether the baby was Marlon's or Ross's. As it turns out, she's had Marlon's baby - a daughter called April who is four and a half years old now.

"Donna ended up meeting somebody else, who knew the baby wasn't his but took on the responsibility. However, that relationship has now fallen apart too."

Why did Donna hide the truth from Marlon for so long?
"I think she was scared, because their relationship ended so badly and she thought that he wouldn't want to know. She didn't know whose baby it was, and once she'd left it for a year, she thought that she'd left it too long."

Why does Donna return at this point?
"Everything has gone wrong, as Donna is a single mum in Essex who is struggling with a daughter. Because April is reaching a certain age, she's starting to ask questions about who her daddy is.

"Donna knows that she's got to go home and finally put it right. She needs her family support network for her daughter, and she needs to tell Marlon what's happened and face the music. Donna has been burying her head in the sand and it's time to come home and sort it out."

Donna arrives back in the vilage

© ITV

Donna arrives back in the vilage


When were you first approached to come back to Emmerdale?
"I had a phone call in November last year. I was doing Chicago, which I finished at the end of January. They phoned and asked if I'd be interested in coming back from mid-February. I thought it sounded perfect, and the storyline that we were told about was too good to be true. It's absolutely jam-packed full of drama.

"I'm back for five months, so it's a really nice, juicy dramatic story with lots of twists and turns. It's been really exciting. I absolutely loved my time on Emmerdale and it's been great to come back and see everyone as well."

So it was an easy decision to come back?
"When I heard how good the storyline was, it was a bit of a no-brainer. I've played lots of different roles while I've been away and ticked some really big boxes, like playing Maria in The Sound of Music and making my West End debut with Michael Ball. I never thought all of that would happen!

"I feel really happy that I've been able to accomplish things that I've always wanted to do. Now feels like as good a time as any to come back. It feels like I've come full circle."

What was your first day back on set like?
"I was absolutely petrified. I was in the car driving into the village and it all came flooding back. It was 6am and it was dark and raining so I was like, 'Oh yeah, I remember this well!' The first morning was a little bit of a blur, but thank God that my first scenes were with Mark, because it felt like I'd never been away. I slipped straight back into it, but I was really nervous and excited."

Bob embraces Donna

© ITV

Bob embraces Donna


Where did the nerves come from?
"I think it was just a case of wanting to do it justice. I've been doing a lot of theatre, so when you've been doing a certain discipline for so long and move on to something else, you want to make sure that you do everything the right way. Performing on camera means being a lot more natural compared to being on stage, so all of that is running through your mind. I just wanted to do a good job, really."

How does it feel to come back and not have your on-screen mum Viv around?
"That's really sad, isn't it? It is quite strange to go back and see Bob and Brenda, but we do reference Viv and remember her. We talk about all the fun things that Viv brought to our lives, so she isn't forgotten but it is strange not having her there."

Will we see any tension between Donna and Laurel?
"Not really, as Laurel handles the situation amazingly well. The mum in her comes through, as there are obviously children involved. Laurel is the calming influence in the rift between Marlon and Donna. When Marlon understandably flies off the handle over Donna hiding the truth from him for so long, Laurel is the one who soothes everything and sorts everything out."

Could old feelings be reawakened for Donna and Marlon?
"The story is not so much about Donna and Marlon and romance - I don't think that's the point. That's not why Donna has gone back. There's going to be high drama, but I don't think that would be on the cards for them."

When Donna tries to get through to Marlon on her own, he tells her to pack her bags and leave the village for good.

© ITV

Marlon tells Donna to leave


Has Donna kept in touch with Bob?
"Yes, they have kept in touch and Bob and Brenda have been to visit Donna. Donna and Brenda didn't have much to do with each other when I left the village, but with the way I've arrived back, it's hugs all round so they've obviously visited. Bob knew about April but he didn't know that Marlon is April's dad, so that's new to him as well. That really rocks the boat at home!

"It turns out that Viv knew everything, but she passed away. So Bob welcomes Donna back with open arms, but then it all comes out of the woodwork. Bob thinks, 'I've brought you back and now you've done this!' There's also a bond between Brenda and Donna now, because they've both lost people in their lives. Brenda welcomes Donna with open arms."

Had you been asked back to Emmerdale before?
"No, this was the first time. There's been lots of different producers since I left. When I left, Kath Beedles was our producer and my departure was supposed to be a bit of a sabbatical, but I carried on. Then different producers and storyliners came in. It was the lovely Kate Oates who came up with this particular story and it's fantastic.

"The show has also been amazing in general. Even though I left and wasn't part of Emmerdale, I'm so proud of the siege scenes and everything else. The show is so impressive and really flying high, so I can't imagine anybody not wanting to go into it."

Did you always think that you'd come back at some point?
"I'm not sure. It was a funny time, because I started on Emmerdale when I was 12 in 1998. I grew up there and I did 11 years. I was so lucky, but it's an unusual upbringing. If you go in as an adult rather than growing up on the show, you'll have a completely different experience.

"I knew that I needed to go out and do something different, otherwise I wouldn't have experienced anything else as an adult apart from where I'd grown up. Going back now after having five years out is more exciting than it was before. I can now appreciate it as an older person."

Marlon confronts Donna

© ITV

Marlon confronts Donna


How has the show changed?
"The stories and the scripts are getting better and better. It's exciting and it's brilliant. When I was here before, I always used to chat to the background artists, who worked on all of the different soaps and they'd always say that Emmerdale was the friendliest. That hasn't changed - it's a warm and happy building. Everyone has welcomed me back with open arms and they seem happy that I'm back."

What's it like to work with Tony Audenshaw (Bob) and Sammy Winward (Katie) again?
"I haven't worked with Sammy yet, but she's one of my closest friends away from the show. I'm really excited to get to do some stuff with Donna and Katie. We have a real history in the show and outside of it.

"Tony is also a dream to work with - he's so endearing as a person. The first thing he did was just put his arms around me. He's been really supportive while I've been away and he's come to see me in shows and things like that. Mark has done that too."

As you said, you're back for five months. Would you have been tempted to agree to a longer stint, or was this definite length part of the attraction?
"I think it made returning to the show an easier decision because of the storyline, everything that happens and how dramatic, exciting and action-packed it is. It's difficult because I've just got married and bought a house. We live in London, so if I was coming back for longer, I would have had to sleep on it! It would have been very tempting, though."

Could Donna return again?
"I'm not going to give away the ending, but the story is very high drama and I think it's just the five months."

Read more Emmerdale spoilers and news

Emmerdale airs weeknights on ITV.

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