How did the part in Hollyoaks come about?
"Well, I decided that I wanted to get back into acting and got myself a new agent to try to get my profile back out there again. So I did MasterChef, which - even though it's a reality show - is really credible and you're actually doing something positive. That gave me some fire in my belly again and made me think that I wanted to do more. My agent was saying, 'We just need to get you a telly job', and then I found out that Paul Marquess was at Lime Pictures. He's my old boss from when I was on Brookside, so I was like, 'Right - you need to bombard him with pictures and let him know I'm out there!' I think my agent stalked him for a bit! (Laughs) We got the message over that I was back and wanting to work."
What happened next?
"I got a phone call saying that they wanted me to come in and read for a part in the new family. I honestly didn't get sent a script or anything and I didn't know what it was for - whether it was the new mum, or a sister role, a cameo role - I had no idea! When I came into Lime, they were casting quite a lot of people and I was up against some really strong actresses, so my heart sunk a little bit! I had to sing for my supper but in the end, I felt that I'd achieved something even better because I wasn't given it on a plate. I read for the part on a Friday and they told me that I had the role by Friday teatime."
How are you settling in so far?
"I've been here now since the middle of June and I've been thrown back into it. I haven't had light-hearted storylines, they've given me massive storylines - I've got two big ones. But it's just been like coming home. I've come back to Lime Pictures which used to be Mersey Television, where we filmed Brookie, so it's all the old crew. And ultimately I've got a job - I'm delighted to be working and to have a script again. I'm thoroughly enjoying it and I'm just going to run with it, hopefully for a long time."
When you auditioned, how did Paul describe Diane and the O'Connors?
"He actually didn't give much away because when you're auditioning, it's confidential stuff. He kind of gave me a free reign in the audition - the script was just a scene between Diane and her husband about the IVF storyline. So obviously I knew she was desperate for a child. That's all Paul really said. But I just wanted the family to come in and be likeable - a family who you can just warm to and care about. When we went on to film our first episode, I wanted to get that across. They're a normal, down-to-earth family - but the drama kicks in after that! There's loads of ups and downs, lots of tears, lots of laughs. There's so much scope and it's exciting. I don't know where it's going to go!"
What brings the O'Connors to the village?
"Rob gets a job at the school as the deputy head, so obviously he's had a lot of stuff with the other characters and I haven't really had the chance to do that yet, because all my stuff's been at the house. We've got a fabulous house by the way, you should see the set they've built for us!"
What's the relationship between Diane and Rob like?
"They have a very close relationship. I don't think Rob is that keen on having any more kids, because he's already got his two children - but he's going ahead with the IVF for her. I think that Diane pretty much stepped in and saved his life when it came to his children, and he'll do anything for her. But with Hollyoaks, you're seeing it through the eyes of the kids, so I've had a lot of scenes with the kids and we haven't really explored things between Diane and Rob too much yet. We've had some nice scenes and there's loads more scope for them, but we've not really discovered any of it yet. But it's a very tight-knit family and they back each other up 100%."
Do you think the IVF storyline will run for quite a while?
"I imagine so, it's the soap world so I don't think it's going to be one of those things that just fizzles out! I think it's going to be an ongoing thing for the family. But the nice thing is that you're seeing it through the eyes of the kids. It's not just all about how the mum and dad deal with it, it's also how the kids deal with it and the pressures that it brings. With IVF treatment, generally you get two tries free of charge through the NHS and then after that, you're on your own and you're expected to pay. It's a costly thing and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It causes all kinds of pressures, and there's the hormones and a moody mum! This storyline is great because there's just loads of avenues that they could take it down."
And we've heard that Diane's need for a baby will spiral out of control as the story continues.
"Yes, it does a little bit! I can't talk about that too much. But she is desperate - she really, really wants a baby of her own. That will unfold…"
What do you think of the current state of Hollyoaks?
"Everyone's storylines seem to have turned up a gear. I'm looking at the likes of the Costello family, who are doing the whole gender identity storyline. Who else has covered something like that? It's just nice to be part of something that's so exciting and new. There's a really good buzz about the place."
Did you have any reservations about working on a soap again?
"None at all! After being out of work for quite a while, I looked at it as a job - and on a practical side, one that's on my doorstep so I didn't have to relocate. I also have complete faith in Paul - I think Hollyoaks will become more than just a soap. He's the producer who did the live episode of The Bill. It's a really, really exciting time at Hollyoaks, so it's onwards and upwards!"
Check back on Friday for an interview with Alex's screen stepdaughter Stephanie Davis.
> Click here to read more from Alex Fletcher in Soap Scoop