In her three years as Jo Stiles on ‘Emmerdale’, Roxanne Pallett moved the character from a “little minx” who upset everyone while working as the vet’s receptionist to a much loved girl at the heart of one of the soap’s most memorable storylines – an intense and moving domestic abuse saga with Andy Sugden. Here, she relives her time on the soap and tells us about what happened next.
So how did you get the role…?
I went for the part of a Dingle and didn’t get it but the producers were watching me in auditions and told me they were writing a new role that I was perfect for. So I got a role that didn’t exist. It was weird because I was living in Carlisle on the dole, driving my mum’s Nissan Micra around. I’d been auditioning for five years – just buying The Stage and turning up and people were looking at me thinking I was a mad daydreamer. It was like winning the lottery and not being able to tell anyone.
It must have been tough to keep quiet…
In some ways. But I had had so many near misses. I had a record deal that fell apart, I got a part on a massive budget show that got within days of being made and then fell apart, so in the end I stopped telling people anything. God, I can still remember hearing the thud of the contract through the door and running down and dropping to my knees and reading it. I really didn’t care how much I was being paid.
And what are your memories of ‘Emmerdale’?
It was an honour, really. It felt like I’d been working towards that storyline about the abuse my whole life. To be nominated as Best Actor at the Soap Awards was just amazing. It really felt like I was playing a part that mattered. It was incredibly draining though. I was crying and being yelled at non-stop for 10 months.
You must have learnt a lot too?
Oh, yes. You pick up so much from other people. Patsy Kensit taught me a lot. The older cast too. You learn from each other, feed off each other in an environment like that.
So was it hard to leave then?
I could have stayed there the rest of my life. I got a script every week and that’s what I need. But I knew that if I wanted to grow as an actor I had to leave. I felt I owed it to myself to leave.
Are you still friends with anyone?
Oh, yes. And with loads of people on ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘EastEnders’. You don’t stick to your own soap.
So who were your best pals?
I’m not picking one! I’ll get told off if I leave anyone out. You can’t make me do that. I love everyone. I can’t do that!
Did you have something lined up when you left?
‘Dancing On Ice’ approached me as I was filming my final scene. After so much crying and screaming I thought it was a nice refreshing thing to do. But as far as acting roles, I have never planned ahead. You can’t. You never know what is going to come up when.
And after ‘Dancing on Ice’?
I didn’t work for six months. Weeks became months and it was horrible. I couldn’t go anywhere without people asking what I was up to. And I hated it. I felt worthless. It was horrible. I used to sit in my car outside Tescos dreading going in. I’d sit there, plucking up courage to go in. I was certain people were pulling me apart by asking why I wasn’t working. It was really difficult. I bought a house and did it up and tried to occupy myself. It was a horrible year in a lot of ways. I went from ‘Emmerdale’ to ‘Dancing On Ice’ at the start of the year to having no work and my best friend died. I was low.
But you came back.
Yeah. I felt like I had to start again. And I did. I started working on different projects. 2010 was interesting because it whet people’s appetites again. It felt like the clock was ticking in my head. I went on tour with ‘The Vagina Monologues’, I did ‘Casualty’ and a film. It was a good year. Then earlier this year I was in 'Waterloo Road'.
So I don’t want to ask you what you’re doing now…
I can’t tell you! I don’t know!
So what do you want to do next?
I want to play a gritty role. I wish casting directors would take a risk on me. Just because I wear a posh frock to a premiere doesn’t mean I can’t get real. That’s what I want.
Well, I hope you get it. Thanks Roxanne.
Lovely talking to you.