Emmerdale: “Emma knows it’s all over, and blames Moira for everything…” Gillian Kearney interview

The actress teases next week's dramatic fire episodes

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Emmerdale are pulling out all the stops next week as Emma Barton’s murderous secret is finally exposed and a ferocious fire rips through the farm and puts lives in danger.

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With the truth she pushed husband James off that bridge last year about to become public knowledge, the nutty nurse tracks down love rival Moira Dingle for a showdown over her fling with her late spouse that she believes kicked off the chain of events that ultimately led to his death.

Trapping Moira in a barn late one night, fragile Emma wants answers about her relationship with James – but it’s not a very calm conversation, as Gillian Kearney, who plays Mrs Barton, reveals…

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“Emma seeks Moira out to make her answer for what she’s done,” begins the actress. “She blames Moira for having an affair with James in the first place and making Emma lose her temper to the point where she pushed him off a bridge!

“She believed James loved Moira more than Emma, and is terribly bitter about it. Emma thinks if Moira had left her family alone they could’ve been happy, but the tragedy is James did love Emma – it was her insecurity and jealousy that convinced her he preferred Moira.

“Emma tells Moira that she killed James, but that she’s got to share the blame as Emma holds her partly responsible for pushing her into it!”

Having spent a year covering her killer tracks, the game is up for Emma just before that point thanks to Gabby Thomas finding the footage of her cruel manipulation of her late dad Ashley when he revealed he’d seen her on the bridge the day James died. As Ashley was in the throes of vascular dementia at the time, evil Emma deliberately bamboozled the beloved vicar to keep her secret buried – and now the evidence is there for all to see…

“Finn has seen the footage,” sighs Kearney, “and threatens to tell his brothers. Emma can’t have that, she doesn’t want her boys to stop loving her – that is the root of all her insecurity. For the family she missed out on for all those years to reject her would be too much.

“She knows it’s all over and if Finn doesn’t tell the others, she will have to. That’s when she goes to find Moira. Emma is feeling very fragile and disappointed. She’d turned to religion as a coping mechanism and has been hoping that if she atones and becomes a better person through her faith, she can make up for what she’s done.”

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The barnyard barney with Moira leads to a light being knocked out by a pitchfork being used as a weapon, which starts a fire that rips through the structure with both characters trapped. Emmerdale always deliver when it comes to stunts and special effects – last year’s motorway pile-up caused by James’s fall from the bridge won numerous awards – and Kearney explains how much is invested in these epic stunt set pieces.

“It was fun, fantastic and nerve-wracking to film,” she smiles. “It’s a privilege to be part of such a big story with all the effects. When we rehearsed we obviously had to imagine a big explosion behind us, but on the take real adrenaline takes over and when I heard the explosion for real my heart started pounding!

“It really adds to the performance. I said to Natalie (J Robb, aka Moira) it’s like we didn’t have to act as we genuinely jumped out of our skin!

“We did a certain amount of standing in the flames. The director and the crew kept us safe at all times, we had to wear a few layers of flameproof clothing. It looks like thermal underwear! You also get sprayed with a special gel on your clothes and hair and skin which cools you down, and protects you from the extreme heat emanating from the flames.”

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With at least one death confirmed for next week’s epic episodes, the moralistic soap gods may have decided evil Emma’s time is up – but Kearney is giving nothing away about her character’s future beyond the fire.

“Brace yourselves, is all I’ll say. I don’t think there’s any let-up or a minute where you won’t be on the edge of your seats. There are plenty of surprises you won’t be expecting – so much happens to Emma throughout the week she could completely crack. I think fans are going to love it, they can’t wait for her to get her comeuppance. I was on holiday a few weeks ago and someone came up to me saying, ‘I can’t believe you keep getting away with it!’

But for how much longer? That’s the big question…

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