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'Hollyoaks': Claire Cooper teases Jacqui McQueen exit

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Claire Cooper plays Jacqui McQueen

© Lime Pictures

Claire Cooper



Hollyoaks fans see one of the show's most popular characters bow out next week as Jacqui McQueen makes her departure from the village.

When Jacqui resorts to desperate measures to secure her sister Mercy's safe return, the target left on her back is so big that she has to leave the village behind.

Digital Spy recently caught up with Claire Cooper, who played Jacqui, for the inside scoop on her character's exit and why it was the right time to leave.

Were you pleased with Jacqui's exit storyline?
"I was! I think there were lots of different options and choices that they were coming up with for Jacqui's exit, but then I had a meeting with Bryan [Kirkwood] and he told me what he was thinking.

"Funnily enough, I'd had a similar idea for Jacqui's exit, so I was really, really pleased. It's funny that we both thought the same thing, and it was also a bit surreal. It was great to see all of that manifest itself, so I was very pleased indeed with my exit!"

Had you made any suggestions?
"To be honest, I'm not one to do that! I'd only ever intervene if I felt that a storyline was completely wrong. Generally I just like the stories to play out, so throughout my time at Hollyoaks, I'd get my scripts and I'd play out what was there.

"I always trusted that the writers and the story team knew the character, and if anyone knows Jacqui McQueen, Bryan Kirkwood does. He knows how to write for Jacqui and knows what situations to put her in. Knowing that Bryan was back as executive producer, I definitely didn't need to worry!"

What can the viewers expect from Jacqui's final week on screen?
"It's going to be emotional. Well, I hope it's going to be emotional, as it certainly was when we filmed it! On her last day in the village, the clock is ticking a little bit as Jacqui knows that she has to get things sorted once and for all - so I hope that sense of pressure will come across.

"Jacqui is trying to get money together to pay the ransom money and get Mercedes back, but things keep going wrong. Every time she thinks she gets it right, something else happens. There's so many parts to this Jacqui exit saga, that it's almost exhausting!

"There are a few times where it seems that Jacqui's going to be fine and she'll be able to stay in the village. But it's just one thing after another, so in the end she can't!"

Jacqui and Phoebe are met by immigrants in the van.

© Lime Pictures

Jacqui hatches a plan in her final week on screen.



Part of that is because of a dangerous character called Trevor, who Jacqui tries to con. What can you tell us about that?
"Jacqui pretends to be Trudy, so there's a phoney Cockney accent that she uses! Jacqui finds that amusing at first, but then it turns quite serious as they're talking about a lot of money.

"Trevor is definitely dangerous. At 6.30pm, it's very difficult in terms of what we can show. If Hollyoaks was on later, it would be a lot more brutal, a lot more violent, and probably a lot more frightening. But I think our younger viewers and even some of our older ones will find this scary.

"As a character, Trevor is aggressive and a bad egg. He could kill Jacqui, due to the situation that she puts him in. He might kill Jacqui!"

Were you pleased to see the Jacqui and Tony pairing revisited in the build-up to your exit?
"I thought that was really nice. When they broke us up years ago, I was not happy! (Laughs.) You just have to roll with it, but I was sad because I loved working with Nick Pickard and we had a really good time.

"It was really good for us to touch base again, and it really was like nothing had changed. Nick is very professional, we know how to work together and we're on the same page. I was really lucky. Having Bryan back, he knew that this part of the storyline needed to be concluded in one way or another. That's why the Jacqui and Tony saga has been re-opened again."

Do you think they're soul mates?
"Yeah, I think you have soul mates who come into your life at different points. Some stay forever, while others are just there for certain times in your life. I think Jacqui and Tony have always been soul mates. I also think that Rhys and Jacqui were soul mates at the point they were together.

"Jacqui and Tony have a really strong connection and they've always had a lot of respect for each other. They're there for each other as friends, but when they allow it, they also allow feelings in.

"I don't think Jacqui would ever have cheated on Rhys with Tony as she's not that type of girl, but now that the opportunity has been there again, she's let Tony back in."

Tony sweeps Jacqui off her feet.

© Lime Pictures

Tony and Jacqui



What's your take on the Jacqui and Trudy scenario?
"I think there was a friendship there between them initially when they were in prison together, but Trudy is a hard woman. Jacqui is too, so they're very similar in that respect. Trudy is a lot more manipulative, though!

"Jacqui has got an incredible heart that's just full of compassion - almost too much compassion, which is why she gets into so many tricky situations when she's trying to help people.

"Jacqui is as fierce as Trudy, but Trudy can be very manipulative and cruel with what she subjects people to. However, they definitely have a friendship deep down."

How did you find working with Danniella Westbrook?
"Danniella is awesome with a capital A! She's brilliant and I really mean that - she's a wonderful friend and a fantastic actress. We had the best time working together.

"It was just perfect that Danniella came in for my exit, as it was exactly what I needed. I'd finished my stories with certain people, but then Trudy brought in a new energy. Danniella is good fun and we've got a really good friendship. I like real people and people who are sincere, which is exactly what Danniella is."

How does Jacqui feel about saying goodbye to Phoebe?
"This is one of the difficult things, as Jacqui is put in a position where she has no other choice. If she could have it any other way, she would take Phoebe with her, but it's too much of a risk. She has to think of the greater good a little bit here.

"Jacqui wants Phoebe to grow as a person and have a family around her, but it's really hard for Jacqui to say goodbye to Phoebe. She can't protect her anymore - she can't watch her grow up and be the woman that Jacqui hopes she'll be. It's going to be emotional for both of them."

Jacqui and Phoebe are shocked when they open the van.

© Lime Pictures

Jacqui and Phoebe



Do you think Mandip Gill, who plays Phoebe, has a strong future on the show even with Jacqui gone?
"Yeah, I think Mandip is awesome - again with a capital A! She's another really good friend of mine who's very talented, very giving and she's open to learning.

"It's great that we got to do the scenes that we did together, because Mandip took risks with the performances and there's a lot more to explore there. We've seen the beginning of that, but if Hollyoaks develop the character and invest in her, the future's bright for Mandip. She's brilliant and a really nice person."

With a big storyline ahead for them, do you think Tony and Diane will be a good couple?
"I think they will make a good couple. When I heard that Nick was going to be working with Alex Fletcher, I was really pleased. Both of them are great actors and they deserve that chance to shine, because I think they've been put on the backburner for a while.

"It's time to bring out some adults and let them shine, as they're very good at what they do. I'm sure they'll do the story beautifully and I'm looking forward to watching that."

Which of your co-stars will you miss working with the most?
"I miss Andy Moss a lot. Obviously he left a few months before I did, but I did miss him when he was gone. I'll miss Mandip massively as I've done so much with her, and also Danniella, Nick and Jen Metcalfe.

"Those were the people I was closest to. I was also very close to Karen Hassan, but she left too. A lot of the people I was closest to left before I did, so I've only got a few close, close friends there. But I will obviously miss a lot of people I saw in passing in corridors and things like that!"

What was your last day on set like? Did Hollyoaks give you a good send-off?
"Well, I haven't done a leaving party or anything like that, as I had such a tight schedule on the last week. I was working 15 hours a day, and then I had to go on-location for two days. After that, I had to go straight to LA. My final week went so quickly, and I was so exhausted once I got to LA, so I slept for about two days and was like a zombie! It was just what I needed.

"Also, I'm not one to throw my own party, if I'm honest. I brought in cupcakes for every department as a little thank you to everyone, so that was about 250 mini cupcakes, which had a leopard print design in tribute to Jacqui! I love celebrating other people's achievements but I get a bit embarrassed when it's my own."

Jacqui leaves the village.

© Lime Pictures

Jacqui's exit scenes



Which storylines were your favourites?
"I loved the big church plot with Niall. That was a good story and it developed over a period of about ten months, so it could be told properly. I always think stories like that are awesome.

"I loved the rape storyline as well, because it was real and a very sensitive subject. I think we tackled that as well as we possibly could. It was very difficult to do at 6.30pm, but I think Hollyoaks and Channel 4 did it superbly, and the impact it had was amazing.

"I'm also taking away lots of fun memories of the family stuff that we've done with the McQueens, so there's so many! You can only really remember the ones that you've just done.

"I've definitely had the opportunity to explore every avenue of Jacqui, and that's part of the reason why I'm going. I handed my notice in a year ago, but that doesn't mean you want to leave at that point, it means that you're building up your storyline to leave.

"I felt like I didn't want this formidable woman to become a wallflower, so I had to protect Jacqui's legacy. They did try to make me stay a couple of times, which was very lovely and flattering. But I just felt it was something I needed to do, although it was very hard and not an easy decision."

Jacqui McQueen & Rhys Ashworth (Claire Cooper & Andrew Moss)

© Channel 4

Jacqui and late husband Rhys



How do you feel about being up for 'Best Actress' at the British Soap Awards?
"I didn't expect it at all. There's so many brilliant actresses, so to be nominated is brilliant. I'm so chuffed, and the support that I'm getting on Twitter is amazing. The fans out there for Hollyoaks are just fantastic. We've honestly got the best fans in the world and they do an incredible job. To be put out there and acknowledged really does mean the world to me. It's the icing on the cake."

Which other prizes are you hoping Hollyoaks wins this year?
"I'd love for us to win 'Best Soap'! Wouldn't that be cool? I remember one year when we won eight awards, and all the other soaps came up to us saying, 'We thought you were going to get 'Best Soap'!' It'd be amazing to get up on that stage as a united company and be acknowledged, but I know all the other soaps do incredibly well too.

"I'd love to see us get 'Best Actor', 'Best Villain' and 'Best Partnership', because I think we're very strong in those areas. Also, 'Spectacular Scene of the Year', as our stunt with the bus crash was incredible. There's also 'Best Newcomer', so I'd love to see us win quite a few.

"But it is just down to the viewers. If they like what they see and they want to see us win awards, it really is just down to placing votes as that's how it works!"

> British Soap Awards 2013 - full nominations list and how to vote
> Read more 'Hollyoaks' spoilers and news

Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.

Digital Spy Soap Scoop video - press play below to watch Amie Parker-Williams reveal gossip on Janine's EastEnders return, Jacqui's Hollyoaks exit, false allegations in Coronation Street and tragic news in Emmerdale.

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