Gemma Atkinson left Emmerdale in 2017 but reckons her character, Carly Hope, made a big mistake in leaving boyfriend Marlon Dingle behind – so much so that the actress has created her own scenario for a potential return.
“I’d love for Carly to come back to the village realising she made a mistake and Marlon was the love of her life,” she tells RadioTimes.com. “But then she’d find out he’s moved on! That would give her a taste of her own medicine!”
Unlikely couple Marlon and Carly’s sweet friendship blossomed into full-on romance after she opened up about the tragic death of her baby boy a few years earlier. They were on the verge of getting hitched but, sadly, the incident cast too long a shadow – Carly left the village after reuniting with old flame Matt, her dead son’s father, to make a fresh start.
“I loved Emmerdale and working with Mark Charnock, who played Marlon,” smiles Atkinson. “He’s hilarious! I’d happily return for a short time, due to my other work commitments and i dont want to sacrifice my time at home with my daughter Mia.”
Atkinson was already an established TV star when she joined Emmerdale in 2015 having shot to fame in Hollyoaks as troubled teen Lisa Hunter in 2001, before playing Tamzin Bayle in Casualty between 2011-2014.
Post-Dales the actress appeared on the 2017 season of Strictly Come Dancing where she found love with professional dancer Gorka Marquez, father of one-year-old Mia. Atkinson reached the semi-final with pro partner Aljaz Skorjanec in the year Joe McFadden and Katya Jones won the Glitterball trophy.
As part of this week’s Hollyoaks@25, which looks back at memorable moments from the soap’s archives, E4 are rerunning Atkinson’s groundbreaking storyline from 2002 in which her character Lisa battled self-harm.
“It was so intense,” she recalls. “I was nervous about portraying it in the right way. The team were extremely conscious that it was seen in the right light so I felt a bit of pressure. We did so much research, even down to how the cuts on my arms should look.
“I met a young girl who used to self-harm and she opened up to me about why she did it and how she felt, which was a massive help in playing the storyline. Lisa’s dad was accused of hurting her because of how she was behaving, and she had to come clean to stop her dad being blamed for her scars. I remember lots of the scenes were very difficult.”
Along with Luke Morgan’s rape in 2000, Lisa’s self-harm became one of Hollyoaks’ most powerful, iconic storylines that earned the soap a reputation for tackling taboo topics. “The reaction at the time was brilliant,” says Atkinson. “And that was without all the social media we have now. A lot of people approached me in the street, and we got lots of letters sent in which were always lovely to read.”
Hollyoaks returned to the subject matter in 2017 with the award-winning plot on group self-harming among teenage girls, honouring Lisa’s legacy. “I’m so glad they tackled it again,” comments Atkinson. “It’s always good to keep drilling awareness into people about it because it’s happening, and if a TV show can help people struggling then that’s a great thing.”