Dallas icon Linda Gray makes a return to visit to Hollyoaks tonight as her character Tabby Maxwell-Brown arrives for the funeral of her grandson, Nathan Nightingale.
Following her much-discussed guest appearance on the soap last November, show bosses were thrilled to secure the US TV star for another stint – as was Gray herself.
“It’s been like coming back to my family,” gushes the actress, best known for playing Sue Ellen Ewing in classic supersoap Dallas. “The first time I was getting to know everybody and trying to work out where everything was, it was like the first day of school. So the second time was just very relaxed.”
For Tabby, however, the reasons for the visit are anything but relaxed. The Nightingale clan are reeling from losing Nathan, who fell to his death from a window just seconds after catching his father and fiancée in bed together – although the rest of the family are still in the dark about the last thing Nathan saw as they say their goodbyes…
“The funeral is obviously very emotional,” continues Gray. “I can only imagine what it’s like for people who have gone through this. I think of those in the audience who perhaps have lost a child and grandchild and like Tabby tells Marnie in one scene: ‘a mother should never bury a child.’”
“To play that scene with Marnie where you want be supportive as her mother, but you are also grieving yourself for the loss of your grandchild, was so emotional and I think viewers will really react to it.”
Last time Tabby was in town the family reunion quickly descended into a vicious showdown between her and son-in-law Mac. Will Tabby’s true colours emerge again on this tragic occasion? “The thing about this family is that not one character is one note. Tabby is dysfunctional and has her problems, but we all have flavours and colours and go through various things and do the best we can.
“Tabby isn’t the warmest but she still cares and deals with life the best she can – although sometimes it’s not what the rest of us would do.”
But don’t expect it to all be group hugs and happy families, as the amount of secrets and lies simmering under the surface among the clan means another explosive feud is bound to blow at any moment – meaning Gray could get a chance at round two of Tabby Vs Mac…
“That scene with the argument last time round, I had just met all these lovely new people and then had to be horrible to them! I called dear David a ‘rancid dog’, and then after the scene I just had to apologise and say I didn’t mean it!”
Gray is genuinely delighted at being asked to be a part of Hollyoaks, and is full of praise for her on-screen family: “David, Lysette (Anthony, aka Marnie) and I had lovely conversations about our families and David’s wife made me some chocolate cupcakes. I am a people person and I love the way I was treated by the team.
In a moving scene from next week’s episodes, Tabby and step grandson Alfie (Richard Linnell) share a bag of fish and chips as Alfie opens up about losing his brother so soon after the death of his girlfriend Jade – and Gray reveals the great British weather played its part in keeping it real…
“We were filming outside sitting on a bench, and by the time I actually got to eat them it was freezing and raining! Richard had worn thermals under his trousers, but I only had thin little stockings on! I had a hot water bottle on my legs, I think I was even sitting on a hot water bottle. My reaction in the episode to eating those chips was not acting!”
Catch Linda Gray’s return to Hollyoaks in Friday’s E4 episode at 7pm.