Worlds have collided in an unexpected way for actress Vanessa Hehir. Her Waterloo Road character, married science teacher Sue Lowsley, is currently battling her growing attraction to womanising PE teacher Hector Reid (Leon Ockenden). The spark finally catches fire in the coming week, when the illicit couple teeter on the brink of a full-blown affair.
If the chemistry between them appears genuine, it’s because it is. Off screen, Vanessa has been married to Leon since 2010 and they have a two-year-old daughter, Lyla.
“I was sick to the pit of my stomach when we had intimate scenes together,” Vanessa, 33, told the Daily Express. “It just somehow feels different with my actual husband, even a bit weirder than with an actor you don’t know.
“On the one hand, I was thinking, ‘I hope my child never sees this’, but on the other hand it was kind of fun. And I never thought we’d have the opportunity to work together on a storyline like that. It’s a dream come true.”
But Vanessa had a big hand in making the dream reality. While filming, she heard that producers were having trouble casting the role of Hector and she thought Leon would be perfect. Using the sort of ingenuity that would make Mary Berry proud, Vanessa asked Leon, who had been a baker before he became an actor, to whip up his best cake.
“I took it into work and was about to give it to the producers when I said to them, ‘Wait a second. You’ve got to watch this as you eat the cake’,” explains Vanessa.
She promptly handed the producers a tape of Leon’s best performances.
“Two days later they asked him to audition. It was good teamwork, but at the time I had no idea that Sue would do the dirty on her husband Simon [Richard Mylan] and embark on an affair with Hector!”
Waterloo Road continues on BBC1, Wednesday, November 5, 8.00pm