Hollyoaks' Jazmine Franks became one of our favourite soap stars this year as her character Esther Bloom took centre stage in a heartbreaking bullying storyline.
Franks's performances in the emotional plot have now been recognised in the 2013 Inside Soap Awards longlist, where she is in the running for the 'Best Actress' prize.
In the first of a series of Inside Soap Awards interviews, Digital Spy recently caught up with Jazmine to hear her reaction to the nod and what's coming up for Esther.
How do you feel about being in the running for an Inside Soap Award?
"It was completely unexpected. I never thought that I'd be up for 'Best Actress' at all, so I'm over the moon. It's pretty big, so I'm a bit giddy about it!"
How do you rate your chances?
"To be honest, I'm just pleased with the nomination - I've not even thought about winning the award. I'm up against some really tough competition, so just to get the nomination is brilliant."
You must be pleased that there are quite a few nods for the Osborne clan this year…
"Definitely. This year for the Osbornes has been completely manic. Jess Fox is absolutely brilliant, so it's overwhelming to be up against her for 'Best Actress'. It's also brilliant that the story of Sienna trying to steal Nancy's life is up for 'Best Storyline'. I'm gripped watching those scenes myself at the moment!"
Do you think Hollyoaks can continue its recent awards success at the ISAs?
"I really hope so, because the show has gone from strength to strength. We were an underdog at the British Soap Awards this year, but we came away with five prizes. We've been pumping so much effort and energy into the show, and I think that's really paying off with what's on screen. I'm really enjoying being here, and it's the same for the rest of the cast too. There's a great buzz."
Your main storyline this year has been Esther's bullying ordeal. How do you look back on the filming of those scenes?
"It was very intense. While filming it, you kind of go into autopilot. You come into work, you do what you've got to do and then you go home. However, when I watched the story on screen and read everyone's feedback, it was just phenomenal. People really bought into the storyline, and that's exactly what I wanted.
"I think bullying is such a big issue. It's everywhere - and it affects both adults and children because it can happen in the workplace as well as in schools. That's probably why the story was such a big hit."
The storyline boosted Hollyoaks' ratings and also led to an increase in the number of young people seeking help over bullying. Did the impact take you by surprise?
"It was genuinely a huge surprise. I knew that we had a few charities on board who were helping with the storyline, including BeatBullying and Samaritans, so I did expect some sort of impact but I never expected it to be so big.
"I know that a lot of young people were contacting the charities and mentioning our storyline, so we got people opening up about bullying. It was incredible to think that we did that. Still to this day, people contact me to say that the storyline helped them, which is really nice to hear."
Do you give advice to fans who are in the same situation as Esther?
"It's a massive responsibility, so I usually just point them in the direction of BeatBullying's cyber mentors or the Samaritans, as they're the experts who people should really be talking to. I always try to help, but I would never want to give someone the wrong advice, so it's best to tell people about the professionals who can help."
Are you surprised that Esther has been able to forgive her bullies?
"I think it's nice that Esther has been able to move on, as it shows people that you can grow from a situation like that. Yes it was a massive deal what they did to Esther, but she's not holding a grudge and it shows once again that she's the bigger person. Esther and Ruby have always had a love/hate relationship, and Ruby now realises that what she did was wrong. With Sinead, she always seems to be around and Esther can't get rid of her!"
Are you pleased that Esther and Tilly have finally got together?
"I am, and I think a lot of people were willing it to happen. To finally see them happy together is brilliant. Esther always had a place for Tilly in her heart and that's been going on now for two years. Now that they're together at last, I've had a lot of response from people on Twitter who are saying, 'Finally - thank God they're together!"'
Do you think they have a long-term future?
"Definitely. They're like best mates, and I think relationships should always start with two people being such good friends. With Tilly and Esther, they already know each other so well, which hopefully means they can make it work."
Tilly has now finished at sixth form, while Esther has another year there. Could that cause some problems between them?
"It could do! Esther doesn't want to be left alone and she doesn't want to be forgotten about. She certainly has some hang-ups and insecurities about it. However, deep down, I think Esther knows that Tilly would never leave her like that. Hopefully it will work out fine."
Can we expect more tension between Esther and Sienna?
"Definitely. I think Esther and Sienna rub each other up the wrong way all the time. Esther always seems to be there when Sienna doesn't want her to be, so we'll definitely see more from that. I'd love for Esther to be involved in Sienna's comeuppance. I've been screaming at the TV while watching the storyline, as it's so frustrating that so many people are fooled by Sienna!"
How do you feel about being part of Hollyoaks Later this year?
"I never, ever thought that my character would be in Hollyoaks Later, so I'm absolutely over the moon to be involved as it's so much fun. It's something completely different, which is always nice. We're filming it at the moment and it's all going well. It's a bit more fast-paced than filming the main show, although there is more time to plan when it comes to the scripts."
Is Esther's Later storyline going to be as frightening as we've heard?
"It's pretty chilling! I can't give much away, but nothing ever runs smoothly for Esther, does it?"
> Inside Soap Awards 2013 - longlist nominees in full
> Read more 'Hollyoaks' spoilers and news
Votes for the 2013 Inside Soap Awards, sponsored by Mecca, can be cast via the Inside Soap website.
Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.
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