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Soaps Interview

'Hollyoaks' Mandip Gill interview: 'Phoebe role is really exciting'

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Mandip Gill (Phoebe, Hollyoaks)

© Channel 4

Hollyoaks' homeless teenager Phoebe Jackson returns to screens with a twist next week as she betrays her loyal friend George Smith.

George (Steven Roberts) hasn't seen Phoebe since they were both held captive by evil human trafficker Deena (Sian Breckin) last month, so he's delighted when she turns up at the Kane house safe and well.

However, it soon becomes clear that a happy reunion isn't on the cards as Phoebe leads George straight back into the hands of Deena, sparking a fresh ordeal for the troubled sixth former.

Digital Spy recently chatted to Mandip Gill, who plays Phoebe, to hear all about the latest twist to the tale.

How are you settling in at Hollyoaks?
"Really well! It sounds like a cliché, but Hollyoaks really is like a big family. I've made a lot of friends here. Also, a lot of us are in the same boat, as there's loads of new cast members at the moment. We're all there for each other."

You've certainly been thrown in at the deep end! How did you feel about getting such a big storyline straight away?
"I was really thrilled. I was quite lucky, because just before I started at Hollyoaks, I finished doing a physical theatre play in Manchester about child grooming. I'd done that two years in a row, so I'd already worked with Barnado's and had spoken to people who'd gone through the same situation as Phoebe. That meant that I already had some knowledge of the issues we're dealing with, which served me well in my audition process and then also when it came to creating the character."

3257: George and Phoebe
How do you view the character of Phoebe and her friendship with George?
"Phoebe is very streetwise and a very strong character. After living on the streets, she knows a lot more about certain situations than she should at her age. When it comes to George, Phoebe has never really had anyone who's taken an interest in her like him. Her mum's not really interested in her anymore, and she doesn't have a father figure as it stands. But George cares about Phoebe, and he's somebody who's on her journey with her. She looks out for him because he does the same for her in return."

How much do you know about Phoebe's backstory?
"At the moment, I know little bits. Over the next few weeks, you'll find out more about why she's in this situation and where she's come from. We don't find out everything about her background, but I imagine it will transpire in time."

What can you tell us about Phoebe's return next week?
"When we last saw Phoebe, it looked like she'd escaped with George - but that's not the case. Phoebe has been back at Deena's house the whole time, so she thinks that George has just escaped and left her. She really needs his help, so Phoebe is feeling really betrayed.

"Phoebe now feels that the only thing she has left is her dog Thunder. But Deena then threatens to hurt Thunder, saying that if Phoebe doesn't bring George back, something will happen to her dog."

Hollyoaks 3292: George
How does Phoebe react?
"Phoebe is not a nasty person, but she can't help but feel like George has just run away and left her. So she's back to where she was before - it's just Phoebe, her dog and she's looking after number one. She comes to the village and leads George back into Deena's clutches, and then they find themselves back at Deena's house. I can't say too much about what happens next, but you'll see that Deena is holding them captive again."

It sounds like there's some more dark scenes ahead. How easy is it to switch off from those afterwards?
"I find it quite easy to switch off at the end of the day. I don't get too engrossed as it is only acting, but when I'm actually filming, I do like to consume myself in what's happening. So if we're filming dark scenes, I like to keep the mood like that - just so I know where I am emotionally. But at the end of the working day, I'm not affected and I can just say that was Phoebe, that was work and put it to one side."

How have you found working with Steven, who plays George?
"He's absolutely brilliant. I feel really privileged that I've been able to work with Steven, because he's taught me so much. When I first started, he was really, really welcoming. He hadn't been on Hollyoaks for that long when I joined, but suddenly he had this major storyline. He's a really, really nice person, and we actually live together in real life as well."

Have you formed a bond with Thunder the dog too?!
"Yes, I did eventually! I actually had a major phobia of dogs, and then on my first day on set I discovered I'd be working with a staffie! I'd been expecting a smaller dog. But I can totally see why people bond with animals. I got to know the dog and learned what kind of things Thunder liked, so that way I could keep him interested in me and make sure he did exactly what I needed him to do in the scenes."

3257: Cullum and Phoebe
You already have a lot of roles on your CV. How does Hollyoaks compare to your previous work?
"This is my first TV job, so it's very different to what I've done in the past. Phoebe is also extremely unlike the characters that I've played before. Even with the theatre production that I did before joining Hollyoaks, the character was nothing like Phoebe.

"I've never really played a gritty role before - I'm used to playing girl-next-door types. But this is a role that I can really get my teeth into. Phoebe has got loads of different sides to her, so it's really exciting."

After the first set of Deena episodes aired last month, a lot of fans were wondering whether we'd see Phoebe again. Are you pleased she made that impact?
"It's really nice. I wasn't in very many scenes, but it seems that people do want to know what happened to Phoebe, and they do care about her. But I am aware that people's opinions on Phoebe will change, because of what she does to George next week."

Are you hoping Phoebe can stick around and become a regular?
"Hopefully! I guess that's what a lot of people would want in this position - it would be ideal, especially playing such a great character.

"Moving forward, it'd be interesting to see which people she would start hanging around with. With Phoebe and George, you wouldn't expect them to be friends, but they are. So it'd be good to see which other characters she'd choose to be friends with if she did stick around."

> Hollyoaks Scarlett Bowman interview: 'Maddie will hunt for George'
> Read more Hollyoaks spoilers and news

Hollyoaks airs weekdays at 6.30pm on Channel 4 with a first look screening at 7pm on E4. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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