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Emmerdale star Eden Taylor-Draper tells TV Times she’s ready for Belle Dingle’s challenging new storyline in the ITV soap…

Are you looking forward to what the future has in store for your character in Emmerdale?

“This is the start of a big storyline for me. It is such an honour to be given it and I want to make sure I do it justice. At first, I was very nervous, but now I have done some research, I feel that I can play it. It is definitely the most challenging thing I have done at Emmerdale and something I can get my teeth into.”

Are you pleased that your GCSEs are out of the way and that you are going to do your A Levels online at your own pace?

“When you are a child actor, you have to have three hours of tutoring for every day you miss off school. Now I have left school, I don’t have to think about tutoring and Emmerdale can be my main focus. I can completely get into this story as I have a lot of time.”

Your idea of ‘time’ no doubt differs from other girls of your own age. As the schedule at Emmerdale can be so intense do you have room for socialising?

“There is no time for me to go off the rails like Belle. I go home and learn my lines and I am in bed by 9pm – my mum and dad love it! I don’t feel like I have missed out though. I see my friends at weekends – my favourite thing to do is hang out with them for a sleepover and go to bed at 7pm watching Netflix with a Chinese takeway.”

You’ve played Belle since you were six; did you ever imagine you would still be in Emmerdale 11 years later?

“I didn’t really see it as a job. It’s was just something that was fun to do. When I first arrived, they were like ‘Right, you are going to fall down this well and then we are flying you to Spain’ and I was like ‘This is great!’ But acting has become my passion and although I haven’t been to drama school, I have learned so much from all the brilliant actors I’ve worked with at Emmerdale. Jane Cox [Lisa Dingle] and Steve Halliwell [Zak Dingle] have taught me so much. I have grown up with them so they’re a bit like real parents.”

Does your mum still accompany you to work as your chaperone?

“My mum is best friends with everyone. They all love her – she is mental and hilarious. As soon as I can drive, I won’t need a chaperone any more. I’m about to start lessons, which I am excited about. It will be great to feel like I am a grown-up, but it will be quite sad too. I think Mum will miss it. “

You live with your parents and five younger siblings, so life at home must be busy?

“I love being at home. I am quite a bossy big sister, but I adore my siblings. I couldn’t imagine not having them wake me up at silly o’clock in the morning”

Dark circles around your eyes aren’t a problem for your character though as Belle is supposed to look drained isn’t she?

“At the minute, she looks really rough. I don’t put any make up on; they put black circles around my eyes and pale my lips. I love it! It’s so much fun being something you’re not. What I like most is an injury. If I see that Belle has hurt herself in the script, I am like ‘More blood. Brilliant!’ I was a bit nervous about dying my hair though. I have never dyed or highlighted my hair and when I found out that Belle was going to colour hers, I was like ‘Oh my word!’ But now it’s done, I feel I can be a lot more adventurous about doing things with my hair.”

Do fans still recognise you in real life with the new hair colour?

“Nobody has approached me since it was dyed. Usually people come up and chat and it is never a problem as people are really nice. My friends don’t ask me about Emmerdale though. It’s not something that interests them and I wouldn’t want it any other way.’

You’re only 17… are you happy to stay at Emmerdale for the time being?

“‘I don’t really know what lies ahead. Right now, I know that I love this. I have been at Emmerdale for so long that I can’t imagine my life without it.’