To leave a primetime soap is a risky business, especially when it’s been your sole employer for the last 14 years. But Sammy Winward – who exited Emmerdale in February – is making big leaps forwards…into the past.
The 29-year-old Bolton-born actress has penned Princess Phoebe Meets the Tudors, a children’s story that sees Winward writing about her big passion: history.
“I am a history geek,” she says. “I have been since I was a little girl. And even now, I’m forever reading history books. My favourite writer is Alison Weir, who also does historical novels. I also adore CJ Sansom’s Shardlake mysteries. And I have to admit – I do like David Starkey. I know he’s a bit Marmite and people either love him or hate him. But his style is what I want in a history teacher. Authoritative and full of knowledge.”
Winward may have spent her teenage years and 20s playing the ultimately ill-fated Katie Sugden, but it sounds as though she’d have relished the opportunity to study at university. Did she miss out by sticking with Emmerdale for so long?
“I would love to have had that experience, definitely,” she admits. “But there was just no way it was possible. When you’re filming 12 hours a day, six days a week, there’s no time to study. And I always wanted to just enjoy history as opposed to panicking about getting an essay in on time. But maybe, in the future, I’d love to do something like university.”
She has though managed to put her to knowledge to good use with Princess Phoebe, a book that she’s dedicated to her own ten-year-old daughter Mia, who seems to have embraced her mum’s interests.
“I didn’t force it on her,” she insists. “But I’ve always told her stories about, say, the Tudors. And I try to do it in quite a magical and enchanting way. After all, those real-life events do sound like fairy tales. A king who had six wives? It all sounds so far-fetched anyway. So, yes, she has definitely got that love of history too.”
Sammy Winward as Katie alongside Kelvin Fletcher as Andy in Emmerdale
As well as the writing, Winward is also continuing to act, having secured a role in the second series of hit ITV drama Prey. But she has no intention of going down the reality TV route, shunning the idea of taking part in such shows as Strictly Come Dancing or I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!
“Reality TV is just not for me,” she says. “It really isn’t. It’s too much stress. I just can’t imagine hundreds of thousands of people watching my every move. If you mess up, it’s career over. But the other side of it is that I came into this business to act. I love it and that’s what I want to continue doing. And I don’t care if I have times where I’m not working. I’m OK with that. I’d prefer being at home spending time with Mia than doing I’m a Celebrity or whatever just to stay on screen.”
Looking back at her time on Emmerdale, Winward says that life on the ITV soap provided brilliant training for roles that may come her way in the future. After all, in her decade and a half in the Dales, Katie was involved in everything from affairs to falls down disused mine shafts.
“Such a lot happened to her in such a short space of time,” she laughs. “Emotionally, I pretty much did everything. Emmerdale certainly stood me in good stead and it was the best thing for me in terms of learning and gaining experience. Doing 10 to 12 scenes a day can be a very hard thing to get your head around. So being on Prey is a whole different ball game. There is actually rehearsal time.”
And did she mourn Katie when she was killed off earlier this year? “Emmerdale was the best place to work. Anyone who comes on, even just for a bit part, will tell you that it’s nicest set. I do miss it, but by the time I left, I was ready to do other work.”
After she finishes on Prey in July, Winward intends to take a holiday before auditioning for new roles. So surely – what with her love of history – a period drama must be on her wishlist? “Well, I did hear a rumour that they were thinking about doing the CJ Sansom books for TV, which I think is a brilliant idea. So a part in that would be nice. I would make for a good murder victim!”
Princess Phoebe Meets the Tudors by Sammy Winward is published by Candy Jar Books. It retails at £6.99 and is available from Amazon, www.candyjarbooks.co.uk and all good bookshops
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