Despite her abusive husband Patrick Blake putting her through hell, Hollyoaks’ Nikki Sanderson says her character, Maxine, can’t help but feel for the terminally ill teacher.

Nikki chatted to What’s on TV at the British Soap Awards and said: “I think with Maxine she’s a compassionate person, she’s a caring person, so as much as he’s done what he’s done to her she’s still going to feel for him. Not necessarily feel sorry for him, because of what he’s down to her, but she’s only human, she still feels for him.”

She added: “Like you say he is terminally ill, you can’t not feel sorry for someone that way.”

Nikki’s year of intense drama earned her a Best Actress nomination at the British Soap Awards (the honour was taken on the night by EastEnders’ Kellie Bright), and she was stoic about being able to leave Maxine’s emotions behind at the end of a day’s filming.

“Yeah, it is difficult because you have to take yourself mentally and emotionally to a place that’s quite dark, so it is hard to switch off. But we have a fantastic group of people around us, not just the cast, but everyone who works at Lime Pictures and Hollyoaks, so at the end of the day they really do lift our spirits, so it’s lovely.”

The British Soap Awards screen tonight (May 21) at 8pm on ITV.