Emmerdale fans are in mourning for Frank Clayton who lost his life in the epic fire at the Sharma factory on Thursday 31st July, bringing to an end actor Michael Praed’s tenure on the soap after three years as the dodgy debonair dad of Tracy Metcalfe (Amy Walsh) and Vanessa Woodfield (Michelle Hardwick).
Speculation was rife among fans as to who would perish in the explosive stunt as it was teased someone was definitely going to die. Top of the danger list was Tracy who was trapped in the store room when the accidental fire broke out following sabotage of CCTV equipment by thieving mother/daughter duo Kerry Wyatt (Laura Norton) and Amy Wyatt (Natalie Ann Jamieson), who were looking to cover up their robbery of the factory safe.
Brave Frank burst in to save his offspring and got her to safety, but eventually died a hero as a fireball ripped through the building and killed him. RadioTimes.com spoke to Walsh about her character’s dramatic week, her journey of grief ahead, and saying goodbye to the popular Praed.
Were you worried Tracy might be killed off?
Yes! I read there was this fire at the factory and I would be involved and I was a bit worried, you don’t know which way it’s going to go. But I was told quite early on I would stay but Michael would be going, so the guilt thing in the show mirrored real life as I’ve felt a bit responsible for him having to leave, even though I know it’s not my fault! Everyone is sad to see him go, but that’s the world of soap and you have to be prepared for it.
Was it hard filming Frank’s death scenes?
Even though it’s fake, seeing him dead on the ground was quite harrowing, that whole day was really intense and boiling hot but everyone was so supportive as I had lots of screaming and crying and reacting to do. I just had to keep in the zone because otherwise I don’t think I would have been able to do it.
Will you miss working with Michael?
We’re all so sad to see him go. It feels like a big tragedy and a great loss, if you have to go it’s great to have a big exit like this but at the same time he loved it here and we loved him. Michael has been like a second dad to me, he’ll take me to the garage and pump my tires for me and bring me chicken soup when I’m ill – he’s a wonderful human.
Did you give him a good send-off?
He wanted a small affair with a few drinks but we said ‘absolutely not!’ It was lovely, the whole building was gutted to see him leave so had to do him justice. We made a video montage for him with everyone saying goodbye. It was a nice group of people having a great time with a few drinks!
What can we expect from the aftermath for Tracy?
She’s absolutely broken and is driven to prove Frank had nothing to do with why the fire started. So it becomes a massive storyline for Tracy as she tries to clear his name, plus she feels guilty as he saved her and believes it’s her fault he’s dead. She was only there to meet Billy for a quickie which just makes it worse.
Does Megan blame Tracy?
No, the blame is all on Frank quite early on because of his dodgy dealings and shifty behaviour. Megan is convinced it’s all him and there’s no other explanation. Vanessa points the blame at her sister because Frank was saving her and is actually quite horrible to Tracy, but it’s realistic as she’s in pain and dealing with this in her own way. It’s much more interesting to see the sisters play it out differently rather than just have them both crying and sad.
Are you enjoying the storyline?
It’s the most challenged I’ve ever been. I’m loving it, but it takes its toll emotionally and physically so I’m having to look after myself. I’ve had two holidays, a trip to Croatia and another to London!
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