Hollyoaks: Anna Passey interview – “It’s going to be harrowing to see Sienna go through cancer”

The actress speaks out on her most challenging storyline yet

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Hollyoaks’ Sienna Blake is facing her biggest challenge yet as she battles cervical cancer. In a devastating twist, the character’s joy at being pregnant with twins by fiancé Warren Fox was shattered as her diagnosis dealt her an impossible choice – abort her unborn children and begin treatment for her condition, or put the babies first but risk her own life as her health could rapidly detrioriate.

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This week, Sienna decided to have an operation that will give her fighting chance against her illness, but could be dangerous for the pregnancy – but there is still a long road ahead for the character, not to mention the fact she’s planning a wedding with a man cheating on her with the widow of Sienna’s former lover…

We spoke to Anna Passey about the emotional summer ahead for Sienna, and how she feels about her cursed character’s latest fight.

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How did you prepare for the cancer storyline?

The research team put me in touch with a lady who had a similar experience. She was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, and because it puts the baby at risk one of the safest options is to terminate the pregnancy. Talking to her was a massive help as you just can’t imagine going through all that. If people are willing to share their story, it’s important to be as accurate and truthful as possible when portraying it.

Are you finding it challenging?

Yes, it’s completely different to anything I’ve done before during my time on the show. We’ve seen Sienna go through some crazy situations, but this is a real thing she can’t plan or scheme her way out of. She’s pretty helpless and has never been so vulnerable.

Is the show hoping to raise awareness on the issue?

Yes, they’re working with the Macmillan support charity. Hopefully it will create some awareness for women to have regular smear tests, unfortunately it does happen that people only discover the illness while pregnant which can lead to the heartbreaking decision Sienna faces – does she protect the babies or herself?

How are fans reacting?

After losing Nico and everything else, this seems particularly cruel. Because the audience have been on this journey with Sienna, I think they’re really going to fight with her. It’s going to be really harrowing to see her get ill in that way.

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How will this affect Warren, who has been lying to her by cheating with Grace?

It’s definitely making him question his behaviour. He was cross at Sienna for scheming about secretly taking the babies, but he doesn’t stop loving her and when she’s diagnosed he realises how deeply he does cares.

Could this make him own up to her about Grace?

I don’t know if he would be truthful, I think at this stage he just wants to protect her from anything else. Warren and Sienna are generally a nightmare with each other! Jamie (Lomas, who plays him) and the writers are so good and making you see the vulnerable side of Warren, rather than just him being the baddie cheating on his vulnerable pregnant wife while she’s going through cancer. But I don’t think he’s going to be thought of too fondly…

How would Sienna react if she found out about Warren’s affair?

In a way she’s got it coming because she did the same thing to Grace with Trevor, but I don’t think she’s going to be very understanding. For me it’s brilliant because I loved all the Trevor and Sienna stuff, so this is a nice way to get back into that story. It’s almost more interesting seeing how Sienna and Grace negotiate it, especially now Grace knows about Sienna’s illness and her conscience encouraged her to convince Sienna to have the operation – it makes for an interesting scenario. 

Sienna and Warren are still planning their wedding, what can you tell us about that?

The groom is sleeping with the enemy and Sienna’s got all these health worries and is not being entirely up front with Warren about everything either. Sienna wants to go ahead with the wedding, and I’m sure you can imagine what kind of a big day they’d have… Ultimately I’d like to see Sienna and Warren stay together and for her to get a chance at being a mum again, that’s my favourite thing to play for the character.

Hollyoaks continues weeknights on E4 at 7pm and on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.

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