Hollyoaks Favourites goes proper old school as it flashes back to the last century for a run of archive episodes devoted to Cindy Cunningham, the soap’s longest-serving female character.
In an exclusive chat with RadioTimes.com, Stephanie Waring recalls those heady early days as three classic Hollyoaks instalments from Christmas 1997 focus on her iconic alter ego’s first big storyline, and shares some facts about sinful Cindy. “I haven’t seen these since they aired 23 years ago,” she says. “I’ll probably watch them on my own and cringe. I won’t watch them with my kids, they’ll just talk all the way through!”
Cindy was the first character to give birth on Hollyoaks
“It’s a mantle I’m proud of!” laughs Waring. “Yes, I gave Hollyoaks their first baby, named Holly.” Future minx Cindy was a scared 16 year-old hiding her pregnancy from the world, too ashamed to admit she was up the duff. “Cindy was very naive back then, she’d only slept with her boyfriend Stan when she turned 16 because she thought it would make her more streetwise like her best friend, Mandy.
“She actually got drunk and threw up on her dress the night she slept with him. Stan then died in a car crash, and months later Cindy sneaked off to give birth in the store cupboard of a video shop on Christmas Day!
“I remember being nervous about filming the birth scenes, but we had a great director who was really hands on and talked me through it. I was only just 19 in real life, I’d never given birth.
“I pushed and screamed lot! It was a big storyline and I was honoured to be trusted with it.”
There were two other Cindys
Hard to believe, but Waring was Cindy number three. “There was one who didn’t have any lines, she was more like an extra and appeared in the background in family scenes very early on when the show started in 1995, as Cindy’s sister Dawn was a main character.
“Laura Crossley did it for six months or a year, then left to do Where The Heart Is on ITV and I took over in 1996 – and have been playing her for 24 years! I hope she’s not kicking herself too much now!
Stephanie Waring auditioned to play another part
It wasn’t shy, misfit Cindy that Waring was first in line to play, she could’ve ended up being her scheming second-eldest sister. “I actually auditioned to play Jude Cunningham first,” she reveals. “Obviously I didn’t get it! Me and Davinia Taylor, who played her, were very close.
“We spent a lot of the time being reprimanded by the producer in those days if we’d been naughty!”
She was only meant to be in four episodes
“I was 18 but looked a lot younger, about 14,” recalls Waring. “After Jude I auditioned for Cindy, I remember I was the oldest girl there and the last to go in. I messed up my lines and didn’t think it had gone well, and got on with the rest of my day.
“When I got home there was a message on my answer phone from my agent, this was before mobile phones, telling me I’d got the part. Apparently they’d called about an hour after the audition! I was only contracted for four episodes at first.”
The cast used to have epic parties
“The cast is so huge now, but there were only about 15 of us in those days,” grins Waring. “We were all youngsters living in Liverpool and hung out a lot, I remember it was always dinner after the weekly read-through.
“I had my own place, but there was a girls’ house and a boys’ house next door to each other where most of the cast stayed. There would always be a party in either house. We were all just having fun, that’s what it was all about. Hollyoaks is my family, it’s been part of my life since I was teenager and I still love it.”
Cindy was a victim of domestic violence
Shortly after having baby Holly, Cindy faced up to her responsibilities but found life as a young mum very tough.
“She wasn’t ready and really struggled,” remembers Waring. “Cindy was a child herself. It got very dark and she even tried to smother Holly at one point. Then she met Sean who she thought was the love of her life. She and Holly moved in with him but he became abusive. They were skint, living hand to mouth, it was a terrible time. Then he abandoned Cindy and Holly at the airport when they were meant to fly off to a new life in Spain.
“I remember filming at Liverpool airport, and I think they used a Backstreet Boys song on the soundtrack for the scene!”
Cindy had a drastic reinvention, based on a particular character
Waring left in 2000 and popped back for a couple of guest cameos before returning full-time in 2008, much vampier than before. “I’d been there four years and wanted to explore other things. Then in 2007 I met our current producer Bryan Kirkwood at the British Soap Awards and he asked if I’d go back, which I did the following year and have stayed ever since.
“When Cindy came back she had been through quite an evolution. Bryan and I saw it as a reinvention, and decided she’d spent eight years living with her big sister Jude in Spain who became her role model. After going through such trauma at a young age and being a bit naive and in Mandy’s shadow, Cindy began to base herself on Jude’s personality, who was a lot harder.
“Looking back at these Favourites episodes from 1997 will be interesting for the fans, especially ones who didn’t know what Cindy went through. Cindy struggled with motherhood but got strength from it eventually, and it made her who she is today. Whether you love her or hate her!”