Hollyoaks‘ Sienna Blake is out of prison and back in the village tonight, determined to put the past behind her – but when that packed past involves numerous manipulative schemes, murdering your serial killer daughter in self-defence, faking your own death, battling cancer and seeing your twin babies kidnapped by their gangster father, turning over a new leaf may be easier said than done for the flawed fan favourite.
“She wants to be a better person and do some good in the world,” Anna Passey tells RadioTimes.com, as her character makes her first appearance on screen since June in tonight’s E4 edition (Wednesday 26 September). “Losing Nico and her twins made Sienna realise if she doesn’t change her ways she’ll never break the cycle of tragedy she’s in, so it’s a case of doing the opposite of what she’d normally do. It’s her last chance to get out of the bad loop that stems right back to her dad Patrick’s treatment of her as a child. It’s time to draw a line under the last few years and look to the future.”
Passey herself is honest about the demands of her alter ego’s marathon run of high-octane storylines and the toll it took. “From playing the cancer story onwards it just snowballed and was really exhausting,” she admits. “When Nico died it felt like a natural break for Sienna to take a backseat for a bit having been at the forefront for so long. It was great but it took it out of me and I was really tired. Sienna is the kind of character who is always hysterical and crying, there wasn’t much of a break from that.
“Our producer Bryan Kirkwood outlined ideas for a slightly different version of Sienna once that arc had wrapped up which meant I got to have a very welcome few months off and regroup. You need to keep characters fresh and now I’m back with more energy, and it’s really exciting. She’s going in a whole new direction, and I hope viewers like it.”
Despite her many misdeeds, fans always root for the troubled Sienna who has turned from husband-stealing arch-villainess to sympathetic heroine, shaped by her heartbreaking family backstory. “The audience want her to be happy and for things to work out. Seeing her take control and building herself back from the foundations is important for her now.”
With Sienna so defined by tragedy, Passey admits she was concerned avoiding drama would rob the character of what makes her so compelling. “I did have those thoughts of ‘Who is Sienna if she’s not this crazed woman running around creating chaos?’ But it’s exciting to keep hold of the character we know and love in different kinds of stories. As ever we see what’s behind Sienna’s actions, and hopefully fans will understand why she needs to steer clear of the drama – for now at least – and want her to succeed.”
Among the new developments ahead are bonding with long-lost sister Liberty Savage (they share the same mother, Anna Blake) who is the only relative Sienna has left. “They are so different, Liberty is basically Sienna’s worst nightmare!” laughs Passey. “But she tries to accept her as she’s her only family now, and Liberty is such an infectious, positive character they end up having a sweet relationship, painting their nails and bonding over girly things. Stuff we wouldn’t imagine seeing Sienna doing!”
Threatening the sisterly love-in is Sienna’s attraction to Liberty’s on/off fella Brody Hudson… “At first she gives him a hard time for treating Liberty badly but as Sienna learns about the abuse he’s been through with Buster, she gets a better understanding of why he’s acting in certain ways. Sienna can empathise, she has been through trauma and knows what it does to you. Brody is a kindred spirit and she wants to help him – they are drawn to each other as two lost souls, but is it a good idea to start something when they are both dealing with so many things? Probably not…”
Also part of Sienna’s pro-active plan is embarking on a new career – as a teacher of all things. “Her dad Patrick was a headmaster so she’s been around the profession and there is an element of following in his footsteps. She genuinely feels she could have a positive impact on students’ lives and is determined to get stuck in, but there will be obstacles. I think she’d actually be quite good at it, maybe not the most traditional kind of teacher but I can see her making a difference. It is weird being called ‘Miss Blake’, and I’m channelling Michelle Pfeiffer in Dangerous Minds quite a lot!”
New life is certainly being breathed into the character, but Passey acknowledges the pain of the past is still there beneath the surface. “Focusing on teaching, bonding with Liberty – it’s all a distraction from what she’s been through and her way of blocking it out. She can’t bring herself to confront losing the babies so she’s going the other way. But Warren and the twins are still out there. And who knows how long Sienna can stay out of trouble in the long run?”
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