You’d have thought that it would be daunting to arrive on Emmerdale and threaten the marriage of one of its best-loved couples. But Nicola Stephenson is thrilled to be putting Paddy and Rhona’s relationship at risk.
Asked whether she’s worried about the prospect, she replies: “Not worried. Worried is the wrong word. I’m excited. Paddy’s a well-loved, long-running character so, hopefully, everyone will be crying out, ‘no! Not Paddy!’. It’s all really high drama.”
This evening”s ‘rewind’ episode of Emmerdale saw teaching assistant Tess get up close and personal with Paddy after he came to her rescue during a stand-off at a nightclub. A heart-to-heart in Tess’s car ended up with the pair of them on the back seat sharing more than just their feelings.
Producer Kate Oates has already promised that Tess will be “mixing things up in the village”, all of which suggests that tonight’s tryst might not be the final time that Paddy strays. So do the pair of them feel any guilt about their actions?
“At first, she comes across as a nice woman. She’s married. But she’s found that she has this connection with Paddy. And what you’ve seen is that they both got carried away and then immediately regretted it,” says Stephenson. “But the storyline does develop – its not just over in a second. It is explored.”
The actress is, of course, no stranger to high-profile soap plotlines, thanks to her Brookside character Margaret Clemence’s on-screen kiss with Anna Friel’s Beth Jordache in 1994.
It was the first pre-watershed lesbian kiss to be broadcast on British television and a moment shown again to over five billion people when it was included as part of the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, directed by Danny Boyle.
Explaining how the clip came to be part of that worldwide TV event, Stephenson says: “I got an email from Danny Boyle asking for permission, so I knew it was going to be on there.
“It was fantastic – and I read in the papers that it was shown in countries where you just don’t see girls kissing other girls. I’m really proud of Brookside and everything it stood for. There were so many groundbreaking stories.
“Even before I was in it, I watched it and it inspired me to be an actress and do the shows I like doing – gritty northern dramas.”
As for how long she’ll be sticking around on Emmerdale, Stephenson says that the future is yet to be decided. But it seems that she’s enjoying embedding herself in village life.
“I’ve got loads of mates in the show that I’ve worked with before. And I went to school with Jeff Hordley, who plays Cain. So I knew I’d be coming here to have a nice time as well as having a good part to play.”
Whether Rhona, though, will be happy to see Tess being a part of life in Emmerdale remains to be seen…
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Emmerdale below.
And visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.