Michelle Keegan gives new Emmerdale star Simon Lennon advice on being in a soap

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From the sweltering heat of South Africa to the chilly Yorkshire Dales, Simon Lennon’s new role in Emmerdale is a little different from playing Private Brains in BBC army drama Our Girl.

“In this industry, you never know where you’re going to be. One moment you’re on the other side of the world in a jungle and the next you’re on a farm in Leeds!” laughs the 26-year-old.

Simon has joined the cast as Ben Tucker, a figure from Aaron Dingle’s (Danny Miller) past who Aaron bullied at school for being gay.

The actor says the storyline is one that comes with a “weight of responsibility”, and with viewers seeing Ben reliving his past traumas, Simon reveals that he was thankful to have his real-life pal Danny by his side.

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Here, Simon talks about joining the ITV soap during a pandemic and getting advice from his Our Girl co-star Michelle Keegan …

Did you ask your Our Girl co-stars Michelle Keegan and Sean Ward for any advice on joining a soap after their roles on Coronation Street?

They both said to just enjoy it and have a great time. Our Girl was my first professional gig. Michelle was so involved in Corrie for years and she was such a huge character. I think that’s the lovely thing about shows like Emmerdale and Coronation Street, everyone speaks so highly of working on them.

I genuinely felt from the moment I arrived on my first day to film in the village that I was part of the Emmerdale family. I was nervous. I kept going the wrong way on the one-way system, but every single person I came across was so welcoming.

Have you met your Our Girl co-star Sean Sagar’s girlfriend Jesy Nelson?

I haven’t yet. I haven’t seen Sean much because of lockdown. We usually see each other a lot as we play football together. Sean is one of the most fun people you will ever meet in your life.

Had you auditioned for Emmerdale before?

Yeah, a couple of years ago. As an actor, you go to so many auditions and for so much of the time it doesn’t come off. But it’s always a lovely feeling to be brought back in for a different part by the same casting team because it shows that people have faith in your ability. Thankfully, this time I got the part. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but it’s been great. I feel so lucky to be working at the moment with everything going on, and to be on such a great show with such an amazing storyline.

You knew Danny before joining Emmerdale. Did that make your first few days easier?

Definitely. It’s not as daunting. He’s taken me under his wing at Emmerdale and helped show me the ropes because working on a soap is a whole new world for me. When we have to play those scenes where there’s much more drama and tension, we have to step outside of our friendship and find the characters again. Danny is brilliant to work with and a total professional.

Are things going to turn romantic between Ben and Aaron?

It’s a bit of a wait and see, especially with the world we’re in right now. Within the show we’re observing the two-metre distance and we’re coming in and out of shots wearing masks. I think that just adds to the relationship because there’s that distance and tension. They can’t be intimate or close whether they want to or not. Everyone is working so hard on the show at the moment to still put out a brilliant bit of drama despite everything. Maybe I’m just a bit of a hopeless romantic, but I think a relationship has to be built with a friendship behind it, so they need to resolve their issues from the past first. Ben was subject to a lot of trauma at the hands of his classmates, but Aaron doesn’t remember Ben in the way that Ben remembers Aaron.

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Will you watch yourself back on the show?

I don’t mind watching myself. Maybe that’s a bit vain, but I enjoy it because I never work on things that I don’t think have credit and are really brilliant. So I’m not scared to watch myself, I'm actually excited!

How have you found lockdown?

I found it quite difficult at first because I’m a people’s person. I missed my family and even having a pint at the pub. I’m from Liverpool originally and I spend a lot of time there, so being in London and not being able to see my family was challenging. I started eating really well and I was on Zoom every day doing workouts or Pilates. But now I’ve gone the other way and all I’m doing is eating carbs!

Emmerdale is on ITV every weekday at 7pm with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursday.

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