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'Hollyoaks' Claire Cooper talks Jacqui grief, Rhys funeral - interview

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Claire Cooper plays Jacqui McQueen

© Lime Pictures

Hollyoaks favourite Jacqui McQueen has more difficult times ahead next week as she must pay her last respects to the man who betrayed her.

As her late husband Rhys Ashworth's funeral day arrives, Jacqui has mixed emotions because she is still coming to terms with the revelation that he was cheating on her before his death.

Feeling torn between keeping up appearances and being honest, Jacqui struggles to cope and turns to an ex for comfort…

Digital Spy recently caught up with Claire Cooper, who plays Jacqui, to hear her thoughts on the aftermath of Rhys's demise.

Jacqui's had a lot of big scenes recently in the aftermath of Rhys's death. Have you enjoyed it, or do the grief scenes take their toll?
"I've really enjoyed the storyline, but it does take a toll. When we were filming the aftermath of the mini-bus crash, myself and Andy Moss had a 10-page scene to do together for Rhys's final moments, although not all of it made the cut because it was a bit too long. We decided not to rehearse that scene as we wanted it to be raw and in the moment, but it definitely does affect you.

"Since then, I've been playing a lot of drunken scenes for Jacqui as well. Because of the way we film, it's actually five or six weeks where you're having to shoot those scenes. It does exhaust you and you sometimes come home feeling quite down and not your usual self!"

Were you sad to say goodbye to Andy Moss after two years as on-screen partners?
"I was really sad to see Andy go, as he was a great actor to work with and so generous. He always supported me as an actress, but also as a friend. Andy was especially supportive throughout the rape storyline last year, and I'll be indebted to him probably for the rest of my life.

"What I really liked about working with Andy was that we'd discover new things about each other's characters all the time, and I think that's when acting is really interesting. When we did that last scene for Rhys and Jacqui, they were genuine tears for both of us. It took five hours to film, so it was exhausting!"

Rhys and Jacqui are shocked by what they see.

© Lime Pictures



Will you be staying in touch with Andy after working so closely together?
"Absolutely, we were actually texting each other last night! What a lot of people don't know about Andy is that he's so funny - he's got a wicked sense of humour and he was the funniest man in Hollyoaks. He's missed unbelievably, particularly by myself.

"It's really hard saying goodbye to a scene partner, but he's going to go on to greater and better things, so in that sense I'm delighted for him and it's bittersweet."

Do you think Jacqui was partly to blame for her marriage breaking down, or was it all Rhys's fault in your eyes?
"It's a funny one, this! In terms of character, I think yes she was partly to blame. With any relationship, we all play our role in whether it works out or doesn't. But Jacqui had a massive responsibility with the McQueen family and I think you don't throw in the towel after the first couple of hurdles, but unfortunately Rhys gave up too soon.

"As an actress, I thought the marriage problems and the affair were really just a device in order to do the stunt. We had to break down the marriage in order to re-discover that they really did love each other. It's just that their love got distorted and twisted along the way!

"That's what happens with a lot of relationships. People can often pull back from that and sort things out, but unfortunately in this case, Rhys lost his life before he got a chance to."

What kind of a reaction did you see for the stunt episodes?
"I've honestly been overwhelmed and I can't thank the fans enough. I really didn't know what to expect, because I hadn't seen the work that everybody else had done in their scenes, so I was really excited to see those. I honestly didn't anticipate the reaction that myself, Andy and Hollyoaks got.

"It was probably the best response that I've ever had. I've even had grown men tweeting me to say, 'I've been sobbing in front of my missus because of you!' and people have even stopped me in the corridors at work. I've never had that, even after the rape storyline last year. I'm in total gratitude to everyone who has supported the show as it means a lot to us all, especially myself."

What can we expect from Rhys's funeral episode next week?
"Obviously at this point, Jacqui has got the knowledge that Rhys cheated on her, but she doesn't know who with. It's very difficult for her, because she now thinks that she's grieving for someone who wasn't the man she thought he was.

"Jacqui knows in her heart that Rhys loved her, but she's still really angry and she feels like she's having to put a façade on in front of everybody else. She just wants to scream and explode with absolute rage and anger.

"The funeral is going to open a can of worms, but Jacqui asks for Tony's support. Tony understands Jacqui and how she's programmed. She needs him to do a speech for Rhys, because she doesn't feel able to do it herself, but obviously that puts Tony in a difficult position after what Rhys did.

"Unfortunately Jacqui gets drunk at the wake and finds the microphone, so we do get a moment of Jacqui starting to express her real feelings, until she's escorted out of the venue! She's in true Jacqui form there. I wish it had gone on a bit longer so I could be even more naughty, but there's only so much we can do on a 6.30pm show!"

Tony stops Jacqui.

© Lime Pictures



Before the funeral, Cindy helps out with the arrangements. Doesn't that give Jacqui any inkling that Cindy could have been Rhys's lover?
"At this point, Jacqui has no idea. She's already pointed the finger at Cindy once on the street, so she's just accepting what she was told at that point. I think you do accept things until the truth prevails, and Jacqui knows the truth will come out in the end.

"I think it's a bit twisted that Cindy is helping Jacqui. The karma that is coming towards Cindy is unbelievable. That character definitely needs to pay her dues at some point. The karma is going to be catastrophic when it eventually happens!"

Jacqui shares a kiss with Tony after he supports her at the wake. Is this going to develop further?
"At the moment, it's just a one-off as Jacqui is really drunk and Tony is reassuring her. I think Jacqui can see a flicker of what they were a long time ago, but she knows that it's wrong as soon as she does it.

"Jacqui isn't one of those women who goes after unavailable men. Through and through, she respects women, so doing this in her own head is outrageous and she's annoyed with herself. She makes it clear to Tony that it won't go anywhere. But who knows what could happen further down the line? You'll have to watch this space with Jacqui and Tony."

Do you think the fans will be rooting for a Jacqui and Tony reunion?
"I think so! I do get tweets and messages from people saying they love that pairing. I think Jacqui brings out a different side to Tony. Nick Pickard is great to work with, too - he's so professional and he makes everybody laugh all the time. I think the fans are excited for that possibility, but whether it happens, we'll have to wait and see."

Have you had many scenes with John Paul yet, as he and Jacqui were always quite close?
"At the moment, we've done a couple but I know James [Sutton] has mentioned that he'd like there to be a few more scenes between Jacqui and John Paul. Last time around, they were very, very close as Jacqui understood John Paul and they had a different type of relationship.

"I think it'd be fantastic to revisit that again, so I'm hoping they address that and bring it into the scripts. I think those two characters have an understanding which is different to the other siblings. Plus, Jacqui is the eldest so he would ultimately go to her with any problems."

Theresa and Joel get a frosty reception.

© Lime Pictures



How do you feel about Bryan Kirkwood being back as executive producer? He did create your character after all!
"It's amazing having him in the building, and I think it's had a really positive impact. He did create Jacqui and I'm so lucky that he chose me to play the part, as he certainly took a risk. If he says to me that he wants me to play Jacqui in a certain way, I'll do it straight away. Because he created her, it's like he's God - he knows more about my character than I do!

"I know that Bryan has got the most amazing ideas for next year and I think the fans are going to be really, really excited with everything that's going to happen. The McQueens are going to be part of that. We've got John Paul back, and we've got Nana McQueen in the building too. I really think that Bryan knows what the audience wants."

> Read the latest 'Hollyoaks' spoilers and news

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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