Tea & empathy with Emmerdale's sassiest stars: 'The female friendships here are wonderful'

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(Image credit: Andrew Boyce)

Champagne flowed and the cakes were irresistible when TV Times joined four of Emmerdale’s sassiest stars for a fun-filled afternoon tea in Leeds to talk about their roles in the ITV soap.

Zoe Henry (Rhona Goskirk), Laura Norton (Kerry Wyatt), Michelle Hardwick (Vanessa Woodfield) and Natalie Robb (Moira Barton) all love being part of Emmerdale, with Zoe declaring "I know it’s a cliché, but it really is such a happy ship."


Would you say Emmerdale is better than most when it comes to delivering decent roles for women?

Laura: "Absolutely. We were all talking about that last night. Us four play strong characters, yet they are all completely different. Look at Moira. She is solid, strong, funny and running a farm."

Natalie: "Playing a well-rounded character like Moira keeps the job interesting. Sometimes, I will get a script and think ‘I am going to play it this way’ so that I can bring out a different element to her. Moira’s gone a bit darker lately and I love that."

Zoe: "There are lots of amazing female characters in the show and I like the fact that they span the generations. You’ve got teenagers like Gabby doing a lot more now, there’s Belle who has turned into a young woman and you go right the way through to characters like Pearl. That’s life. That’s village life. It is a community of people of all ages."

Michelle: "I love the way the women aren’t just there as appendages to the men. Vanessa and Rhona are both single mums who are running the vet’s practice with no men to help them."

Do you all get along?

Laura: "It is ridiculous how we all get on. We have been on holidays together and we often go out in the evenings."

Natalie: "The women on Emmerdale really stick together. I could tell them anything."

Zoe: "The female friendship here is so wonderful. At the memorial for Shirley Stelfox [who played Edna Birch], they talked about dressing room friendships and it was really beautiful and emotional. Sometimes we spend more time with each other than we do our own families."

Michelle: "They could have picked any four women at Emmerdale to do this shoot and you’d find they’d all get on. As it happens us four in particular are really close. I share a dressing room with Zoe and Natalie, along with Jane Cox [Lisa Dingle] and Charley Webb [Debbie Barton]."


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(Image credit: Andrew Boyce)


What goes on behind closed doors in the dressing room?

Laura: "There’s a little airbed in mine where I can have a nap under the dressing table!"

Natalie: "I brought in a massive leather sofa for ours where Zoe often has a sleep."

Zoe: "I’m not the only one has a bit of shut-eye! If there is any gossip going on, Natalie is the one who knows about it. We all bring treats for one another, but they are very healthy. Lisa Cox made a delicious cake the other day that doesn’t contain any refined sugar."

Michelle: "I am always the last to know stuff. Amy Walsh [Tracy Shankley] is in my dressing room and she is so untidy, we trip over her stuff."

What do you hope to see next for your character?

Laura: "I love Kerry’s humour, but now I am really keen to do something a bit more serious. Even though she is settled with Dan, she is still damaged and I would like to see something really push her buttons."

Natalie: "I’d like to be challenged. Moira has been treading water a bit lately. However, she is about to start driving a tractor. It was always James Thornton who played John Barton who used to drive it. When I come to work, I pass this girl driving a tractor, which made me realise that Moira should be doing it. I mentioned it to the bosses and now it’s in the script."

Zoe: "I really enjoyed the story of Paddy’s affair with Tess and am interested to see how Rhona is going to go forward from here."

Michelle: "It is nice to see Vanessa back at work and I am in no hurry for her to get into another relationship. I would like to delve into her past at some point as we know very little about her."


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(Image credit: Andrew Boyce)


Which soap women do you really admire past or present?

Laura: "I thought Val Pollard was brilliant and as a child, I wanted to be Bet Lynch from Coronation Street."

Natalie: "Before I joined Emmerdale, I didn’t really watch soaps. Charity Dingle is one of my favourite characters. I love how ruthless she is and she gets some fantastic lines."

Zoe: "Bernice has made a big impression on me. I was also a massive fan of Claire King."

Michelle: "I loved Claire King, too. Kim Tate is an Emmerdale icon."

Are there any actresses you would love to see in the show?

Laura: "I am obsessed with Robin Wright at the minute. She is in House of Cards, which has changed my life. I thought the show would bamboozle me with politics, but it hasn’t. All I can think about is when I can fit the next episode in."

Natalie: "I want Joan Collins to play Moira’s mum. Wouldn’t that be brilliant?!"

Zoe: "There is an actress I know called Ann Penfold who would be great as Rhona’s mum. You would know her face, but maybe not her name. She is so funny."

Michelle: "I’d like to see Michelle Pfeiffer join the show – she was one of my first celebrity crushes!"

And finally, how are you all feeling about new producer Iain MacLeod taking over from Kate Oates?

Laura: "He seems very nice and is probably keen to put his own stamp on the show. I am excited to see where he is going to take us."

Natalie: "Me too. It is always good to have a change. It freshens things up."

Zoe: "I can’t wait to see what Iain has up his sleeve. He hasn’t been with us for long and Kate Oates’ stories are still coming to fruition."

Michelle: "It is very exciting. Everybody is saying ‘What’s going to happen?’ The show is in a good place. Kate Oates did an amazing job and Emmerdale is finally getting the recognition it deserves."