Hollyoaks bids farewell to one of its most popular characters next week as Rachel Shenton bows out from her role as Mitzeee Minniver.
Show bosses have lined up a dramatic final storyline for the village's glamour girl, who is left with a massive decision to make when vengeful Carl Costello (Paul Opacic) asks her to be part of a plan to get rid of Walker once and for all.
It's certainly been a tough 12 months for Mitzeee, but with the stakes now higher than ever, is there any hope of a happy ending?
Digital Spy recently caught up with Rachel to hear more about Mitzeee's exit and her decision to leave Hollyoaks.
How are you feeling now that your time on Hollyoaks has come to an end?
"It's a little bit surreal, actually. I don't feel like I've left yet, because I'm still on screen and I'm still doing interviews concerning my storyline. I think I'll have to wait and see how I feel next week once the final scenes have aired!"
You've left the show of your own accord, so was that a difficult choice to make?
"Yeah, I kind of think it's harder when it's your own choice! Hollyoaks really is such a great place to work, and there was nothing bad whatsoever about my time there. I loved my job, I loved everybody that I worked with, and I was blessed with great storylines. Career-wise, it's probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make so far."
How long ago did you make the decision to bow out?
"I've known that I was leaving for quite a long time. I sort of knew that I was going to leave this time last year, but decided for definite a good six months before."
What was your last day on set like? Were there any tears shed?
"There were so many tears shed, mainly from me! The scenes that we were doing were quite intense anyway, which was great. But then some of them really didn't require tears, so those were more tricky to film! For example, there was one scene where I had to say goodbye to Jess Fox's character Nancy. I've lived with Jess and I got so upset that we couldn't even do the scene. It was an overload of emotions!
"I also had the most amazing send-off from Hollyoaks. I was filming my last scene and then all of a sudden, our lovely producer Bryan Kirkwood, everybody upstairs from management and lots of cast gave me a lovely send-off with flowers and stuff like that. It was just so overwhelming - that was probably the best bit."
Who are you hoping to stay in touch with?
"There's so many people! Definitely Jess Fox, Bronagh Waugh and Jen Metcalfe. They're probably the three that I've been closest to during my time on Hollyoaks. I'll definitely be staying in touch with Nikki Sanderson too. She's quite a new addition to the show and we've only worked together for about three months, but we became very close.
"There isn't really anybody who you don't get along with at Hollyoaks, though. As clichéd as it sounds, it is genuinely like one big family. It's actually really difficult to tear yourself away from that!"
Were you pleased with Mitzeee's exit story?
"So pleased! I hadn't pitched anything to the writers - I left it completely up to them. Because I'd told them quite a while ago that I was thinking of leaving, I just wanted to see how Mitzeee's journey went for myself.
"When I finally heard what it was, I thought it was just perfect. Her departure storyline is just so fitting and I managed to cram every single emotion into that last week. It's going to be a great one to watch, and I'm very excited to see it for myself!"
Were you glad they brought back Paul Opacic as Carl Costello for Mitzeee's exit?
"I thought that was great - especially because myself and Paul both started on Hollyoaks on the same day. It was really fitting that he would be there for my last day - it just made it feel quite perfect. Paul and I are very good friends, so we had a laugh on those last few days."
How does Mitzeee feel when Carl tells her that he wants to have Walker killed?
"At first, she's just in total shock. It's the last thing that she'd expect from Carl. There's a big question mark over why Carl is back, but I don't think Mitzeee would ever suspect it would be because of this!
"A tragedy like Riley's death could lead to irrational thoughts in a person's head, but even so, Mitzeee is shocked by just how serious Carl is about this plan. At first she says, 'Absolutely not - I don't want blood on my hands and this is not my fight'. You'll have to wait and see whether she changes her mind."
Mitzeee's final week also sees her make an appearance on Sky News with Eamonn Holmes. What were those scenes like to film?
"Eamonn really was so much fun and such a good sport. I was quite nervous, actually, because Eamonn's a little bit of a legend and I grew up watching him on TV. But he was so cool and really threw himself into it, actually. He was asking lots of questions and really wanted to do a good job, and he did!"
How did you feel about Mitzeee's pregnancy?
"I was really shocked when I first heard about that. I'd heard that Mitzeee and Maxine would both think they were pregnant and both take tests, but I was thinking, 'Surely it's going to be Maxine's kid?'
"When I found out that Mitzeee would be the pregnant one, I thought, 'Oh my God, this is amazing - what more can this girl have to deal with?!' I was really interested to see how she would handle it."
Are there any final scenes between Mitzeee and Brendan in her final week?
"Yes, there are! There's a little twist and Brendan is involved in Mitzeee's final week in an indirect way, so he's definitely there."
Do you think Hollyoaks is going to bounce back from the loss of popular characters like Mitzeee, Brendan and Cheryl?
"Yes, of course I do. The show is going to be absolutely fine, because we're following Bryan Kirkwood's lead. I feel very confident about Bryan's decisions because he definitely knows what he's doing.
"Hollyoaks will just get stronger and stronger. There will be more characters and more exciting stories. I think it's going to go from strength to strength and I have every faith in it."
Do you think Maxine has a strong future in the village even with Mitzeee gone?
"I don't see why not! That's absolutely not my decision to make, but she definitely has a place in the village and she's already causing trouble! I think she's made her mark, so I certainly hope so."
What kind of projects would you like to take on next?
"I've got a few things that I'd like to do. I think I'd really enjoy doing some more theatre, because that's where I started off.
"It's just about the role for me, as cheesy as it sounds. I'd like to do something that's a huge departure from Mitzeee, because I've played this character for a couple of years now. That'd be great, but we'll have to see what happens."
Mitzeee became far more popular than people might have imagined when she first joined. Are you proud of the impact she's had?
"I try not to think too much about it, but I am immensely proud. It's strange, because Mitzeee almost feels like a very good friend, as odd as that sounds! I really cared about her, and I think her two-year journey has been so full of different emotions.
"That's something I'm proud of, but I'm very proud of everybody there at Hollyoaks, because it's definitely a team effort and the people I worked alongside are very talented."
Which Mitzeee storylines were your favourites?
"I really liked the prison one, because I really felt like everyone was so invested in that. I had people sending me 'Free Mitzeee' t-shirts, which was the coolest thing ever!
"When I first joined the show, my first Hollyoaks Later series was great too - when Mitzeee was out to get a footballer and she did 'The School of Mitzeee' with Nancy and Theresa! Those three were a really unlikely trio, and I loved that.
"I couldn't single one storyline out, but those are definitely two in my top ten. There's so many!"
How would you like Mitzeee to be remembered?
"I'd like her to be remembered for everything that she is. I think she's definitely proved three-dimensional, and she's now a different person to who she was in the first few episodes. I actually watched my first few episodes back a few months ago and I thought, 'Wow - this is a different girl'.
"How else would I like her to be remembered? Maybe on the back of a horse naked, I think! She was on the top of her modelling game then!"
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Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.
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