Former Emmerdale actress Charlie talks about her heart-wrenching departure, meeting Val Pollard’s ‘love rival’ and why she’s now singing for pop star Sting!

Actress Charlie Hardwicke’s Emmerdale character Val Pollard was so missed from the soap that Val returned from the dead for a surprise guest appearance last Christmas! But now Charlie is starring on stage in a new musical The Last Ship, set in the North East’s historic shipyards – and written by rock royalty, Sting.

“Both Sting and I come from a town near Newcastle called Wallsend, which for many years was home to one of the biggest shipyards in the world,” Charlie revealed in an interview with Soaplife. “The role has such resonance for me because it’s set in my hometown. But all my family also worked at the shipyard. It’s part of who I am”

Ex Emmerdale star Charlie Hardwick talks to Soaplife…

Soaplife: When is the musical set?

Charlie Hardwick: “It’s set in the 1980s when the shipyards and so many other industries like them were being decimated by Margaret Thatcher. I play a character who’s a nurse called Peggy White. She’s married to a man called Jackie White, who’s the very well-respected but tough foreman of the Yard. Jackie and Peggy are pillars of the community.”

S: Is it based on a real-life couple?

CH: “No. It’s what could have happened, what might have happened or maybe what still might happen. You never know…”

S: Do you get to sing?

CH: “Yes – a lot. I love singing, though. It’s what I set out wanting to do. I’ve sung in bands since I was a teenager and I currently sing in a band called Kissed with four other female musicians who live in the North East, like me.”

S: Does Sting have much input with the regards to this production?

CH: “Loads and loads. There’s a lot of music in the show and he’s been with us all through rehearsals, helping us, changing and suggesting different things to suit our voices. He’s going to try and come to every opening night on the tour. We’ll be opening each week in a different town.”

S: Did you ever imagine you’d get to work with an international superstar?

CH: “But I’ve worked with Chris Chittell [Emmerdale’s Eric Pollard]! Seriously, it’s fantastic to be working with someone whose records I bought back in the day. I loved The Police and I loved – still love – Sting as a solo artist.”

S: Do you miss Chris Chittell and all the other Emmerdale folk?

CH: “So, so much. Chris and I are very good friends and we both cried our eyes out on my last day of filming. I miss playing Val Pollard, too. In my mind, she’s still around. I guess that’s not surprising when I’m constantly being stopped and asked when Val’s coming back. Not that easy when she passed away…”

S: But she came back at Christmas as an apparition!

CH: “That was such good fun to do! I found it so emotional going back to the village – so much so that when I went home that evening, I got on the wrong train by mistake! Now that never happened all the time I was in Emmerdale. I was so discombobulated about being back – in a nice way, of course.”

S: Remind us again, why did you leave?

CH: “It was by no means an easy decision and I thought about it for about 18 months. But the bottom line was that I wanted to go home – and, by that, I mean I wanted to be back in the North East. There comes a moment when you start to think, ‘I’m not spending enough time with the people I love’. I think it’s vital to do that. You have to get the balance right and I hadn’t. But I was very sad to go.”

S: It sounds like it was a very emotional decision…

CH: “I cried when I told Kate Oates, the then producer at Emmerdale, that it was time for me to go. Kate cried, too. It was the right decision for me, though. I see Chris and the others when I can. In fact, the other night I met my love rival for the first time!”

S: Who do you mean?

CH: “I met Sally Dexter, who plays Eric’s new love interest, Faith Dingle. We had a lovely chat, but, you know, I think Pollard loves Val the most. Sally and I had a photo taken together, which I then sent to Chris. I asked him, ‘So who do you love the most?’ He replied, ‘Me, of course! Eric Pollard!’”

For more details on The Last Ship, please visit: www.thelastshipmusical.co.uk

Main pic: Can Nguyen/REX/Shutterstock. The Last Ship pic: PA Wire/PA Images