Pauline Quirke tells TV Times magazine about waving goodbye to Emmerdale and losing eight stone…

You’ve played Hazel Rhodes in Emmerdale for 18 months. Will you be sad to say goodbye to Emmerdale?

“I will be very, very sad to go and there have been lots of tears. This has been the happiest 18-months of my life and if my family weren’t 200 miles away in Buckinghamshire, you’d never have got me out of here.”

Did you find it tough coping with being so far away from your family?

“The reality of being away from home didn’t kick in for a couple of months. I was used to going home every night and cooking and being with my family. But I had a lot of support from the girls – Charley Webb (Debbie), Lucy Pargeter (Chas) and Zoe Henry (Rhona). We have got very close and have just had a great weekend in the lakes. They’ve been so good to me. I fell over last Christmas and broke my arm. Immediately, Lucy was on the phone saying, ‘What can I get you?’ Us girls will never lose touch. And of course, Danny Miller who plays Aaron, will always be my surrogate son.”

Last January saw you embarking on the LighterLife weight loss regime, and you lost an amazing eight stone in weight…

“I weighed 19st 6lb when I started, and losing the weight was tough. But all the gang at Emmerdale were so supportive, helping me and paying me compliments. At first I thought losing weight was making me look older, but they all said it didn’t and kept encouraging me. Their support helped me get through each day – they wouldn’t eat their sandwiches in front of me. I didn’t do LighterLife initially. I just had good intentions, but I was being a bit rubbish. Yorkshire has got more Michelin star restaurants than anywhere else I’ve been and I also happened to live above one of the best Indian restaurants in Leeds! It was all conspiring against me!”

Has the weight loss made you feel better?

“Physically and mentally I feel so much better for losing the weight. There are lots of little things – I’ve noticed that there are bones I never knew I had. I also have much more energy. I’ve joined a gym and I’ve bought a bicycle. The trick now is going to be keeping the weight off – we’ve all come across those celeb DVDs and then watched it all go back on again.”

You’re leaving Emmerdale to go on tour with the stage version of Birds of A Feather…

“I’ve never done anything like it before. I’m really looking forward to us all working together, but I am nervous too!”

Do you think we’ll be seeing you in Emmerdale again in the future?

“Hazel disappears off into the Hotten mists, but they have left the door open for me. I would love to return.”