After four years of laughter and tears, it's time for Hollyoaks fans to bid farewell to Cheryl Brady next week as actress Bronagh Waugh bows out from the role.
Exact details of how Cheryl leaves the village are still being kept under wraps, but her exit comes as part of an explosive week for Hollyoaks which sees the Brady family's storylines reach a shocking climax.
Digital Spy recently caught up with Bronagh to hear about her soap departure and her future plans.
Why did you decide to leave Hollyoaks at this point?
"I made my decision a while ago. It was just after I started filming The Fall, but when I spoke to the producers about it, I told them that it was a really, really difficult decision to make. I knew where the storyline was heading, so I said that I'd stay for as long as it took to get this story told. I was very passionate about telling it and I really wanted to do Cheryl justice.
"It's tough because I've been in Hollyoaks for four years, so it is like my home. It's given me such incredible opportunities, and I've had the chance to tell some amazing stories. Cheryl is so dear to my heart and she's one of my favourite characters that I've played. I wouldn't have stayed with the show for so long if I wasn't having so much fun.
"But I just think the opportunity to do The Fall gave me the hunger to try out other things again. It's quite unusual as an actor to stay in one role for so long. I think some people are built to do soaps and stay there for 20 years, but I love taking on different roles, absorbing them and throwing myself into the research.
"I'm really grateful to Hollyoaks because I learned everything on the job, and that's the best way to be. It's an amazing training ground and I learned all of my television skills there. I'm immensely proud of Hollyoaks and a huge supporter of it - I always will be."
We've heard quite a bit about next week's episodes from Brendan's point of view, but what can the Cheryl fans expect?
"Everything seems to be coming together for Cheryl at the moment, and that's fantastic. I think anyone who's been a fan of Cheryl will know that she's always been so unlucky in love, but now it feels like everything is finally coming together for her. I've always wanted her to fall in love with the right guy and it's within grasp with Nate at the moment.
"But in typical Brady fashion, nothing ever goes to plan! It's going to be a massive week for Cheryl, because her happy ending is so close and in reach - but then it's thrown into jeopardy.
"The most important man in Cheryl's life, even beyond Nate, is Brendan. Those two characters are so inextricably linked and they have such a beautiful relationship. Their whole world is about to come crashing down, and nothing for Cheryl will ever be the same again. Everything that's about to happen will leave her with massive life questions. Everything that she knew and trusted in life is going to be turned upside down."
What was your final day on set like?
"There were lots of tears! Emmett [Scanlan] finished filming the week before me, so there were tears at that point. Then when I left the following week, I was a mess!
"All of these people at Hollyoaks are like my family, because I'm very far away from my home in Northern Ireland. It was very emotional moving away from my Hollyoaks family and leaving them. So there were tears, but they were happy tears because it's the start of a new era for me and that's exciting."
We've heard you had two leaving parties!
"Yes, it's a bit of an in-joke in Hollyoaks that only Bronagh could have two leaving parties! I did one for everyone when Emmett was still there. Because we'd made the decision to leave together, we wanted a joint leaving party, so we had it in the canteen at work.
"We wanted to do something really different and pay for it all, so lots of the cast and crew and their kids could attend. We very much wanted to make it a family affair, so the kids were allowed to come. The party the week after was more for the grown-ups, so we all went out together at that point."
Who will you be staying in touch with?
"Well, I've already been talking to Kieron [Richardson] and Jess Fox on the phone every day. They're two of my best friends, so I've been finding out what's going on from them!
"One thing that's really weird is that Carley Stenson has just moved back up to Liverpool because she's finished in Shrek, but now I've moved down south, so we can't believe that we're missing each other again! Carley came as a surprise to my second leaving party and so did Andy Moss, so that was lovely.
"I'm also really close to PJ [Brennan], and it's been weird not having Emmett in the country. I keep messaging Emmett to say that it feels like my right arm is missing and asking him to please come home from LA now! (Laughs.)
"Ashley Taylor Dawson is also amazing. He's so talented and he even wrote a song for me called 'Bronagh' and got all the cast to sing it at my leaving party. It was just amazing and I cried my eyes out. Ashley is such a thoughtful guy and I thought that was really special."
You had a real mix of comedic and dramatic storylines as Cheryl. Which were your favourites?
"One of the beauties of a character like Cheryl is that you get to do such a wide variety of material. I came in to Hollyoaks as a real comedy character, but then I was given the opportunity to do Malachy and Steph's deaths. That came unexpectedly and I don't think the writers or the producer at the time were really expecting me to be able to handle the more meatier stuff.
"Once I did those scenes, they gave me a lot more dramatic material, so since then I've had a lovely balance between comedy and drama. I was touched by that, because it was my first signal that they were trusting me to handle the meatier stuff.
"Also, when they told me they were bringing my brother in, I was so excited. It's always a good sign when they bring some of your family into the show. Emmett and I just became so close and we really are like brother and sister. We love each other unconditionally, so I've loved all of the storylines that I've done with him.
"We really enjoyed it when Cheryl discovered that Brendan was gay. It was starting to become a bit of a joke that Cheryl just wasn't seeing it, but when she found out, it signalled a change in Cheryl's character. She started to grow up and see that everything wasn't always as it seemed."
The Bradys were extended further after that…
"Yes, we always said that we wanted to mould the Bradys on The Sopranos! We wanted to be like the Irish Sopranos! We had this empire with Chez Chez and Brendan buying properties in the village. I felt like Cheryl was like the Mama Irish part of the clan, and we kept getting lots of waifs and strays in like Joel, who I could look after. I really enjoyed that, because it felt like our own little mafia family!
"Especially when Seamus came in - it was like having the Don of the family! We always thought that it'd be great to have a late-night Brady spinoff, just with our family and the gangster stuff!"
Do you think Hollyoaks will bounce back from so many popular cast members leaving?
"Of course - Hollyoaks is the king of bounce back! I think with the different characters that are leaving, it's signalling the end of a certain style of Hollyoaks. In the format of television, you have to be ever-changing and ahead of the times, otherwise people get bored.
"Our time has been quite dark throughout the last two years, so I think it's important for Hollyoaks to evolve and change. In times of recession, we all need something to cheer us up and give us hope. The Bradys killing and swindling people all the time doesn't always help with that!
"I've met some of the new cast they're bringing in and they're fantastic. I'm sure the show will go from strength to strength. It's ironic that we're leaving now, because it's a really exciting time for the show with some great things in the pipeline. Hopefully we can stop being the underdog and start coming out on top!"
What are your future career ambitions?
"Even before Downton Abbey came out, I always wanted to do a period drama. That would be my absolute goal, as I think it'd be such a change from Cheryl, and it'd also be different to the role I did in The Fall. I'd love to put a corset on because I think I've got the assets and the lungs for it! I'd love to do something like Downton Abbey, a Dickens adaptation, or an adaptation of one of the Brontes' books."
Would you ever go over to the US?
"At the moment I'm concentrating on the UK because I think that's where my strengths lie. Having said that, I went to an American high school and my father's Canadian, so I do hope there's the potential to work globally. As an actor, you have to be able to move around like that and be up for it.
"I'm applying for my Canadian citizenship at the moment, because there's a lot of stuff happening in Vancouver. I've also always wanted to live in New York, so it's there that appeals to me more so than LA. I think it must be the bright lights of Broadway!
"A lot of actors go over to America just to see if they can get meetings, but I'd prefer to line something up first. It must be scary! I don't know whether I'd be accepted there, because I'm not a size zero and I'm so different. I'm so confident in my own skin here, so I don't know whether LA would break me! I'd definitely consider it, though - we'll just have to see."
Would you like Hollyoaks to bring in more Irish characters?
"I don't know how I'd feel about that, as it'd be weird for me to watch, but it'll probably happen in the future! (Laughs.) I'm so proud that we've had such a massive Irish contingency in the village. No other soap or continuing drama has ever really had that before.
"I'm so glad that they took a chance on Gerard McCarthy's character Kris, who was just fantastic, and Glen Wallace's character Malachy. Then they brought Cheryl, Lynsey and Brendan in, too. That all stemmed from Kris and Malachy, and I know there'll be a big Irish-shaped hole in the village now.
"Britain is so diverse - there's so many different types of cultures that make up our world here, so I think other avenues could be explored. I'd like to see a new black or Asian family - I think that would be amazing. If they did another Irish clan, maybe they could do travellers because nobody's really explored that before."
How would you like Cheryl to be remembered?
"I hope the viewers remember her for being bubbly, big and vivacious with a heart of gold. She was like a 100-mile-an-hour Tasmanian devil, but she had an absolute bursting heart.
"Cheryl made lots of mistakes along the way but was ultimately a loveable character. I think she's daft and crazy, but you can't help but love her. She means well with everything that she did."
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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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