Former Emmerdale actress Charlie Hardwick, who played the incomparable Val Pollard, has swapped soap for the stage as she appears in the original musical The Last Ship, writen by music legend Sting.

Charlie Hardwick with the stars of The Last Ship

Set in her beloved North East, actress Charlie Hardwick plays Peggy White in the brand new musical The Last Ship, which also stars former soap star turned musician Richard Fleeshman.

The musical inspired by Sting’s own childhood experiences, shows the collective defiance of a community facing the demise of the shipbuilding industry alongside a poignant and moving romantic tale of childhood sweethearts and the adults they grew up to become.

It’s a dream role for Charlie, who left Emmerdale in 2015 as part of the ‘Summer Fate’ helicopter crash when Val was killed in the Hall of Mirrors. She explains more to Inside Soap magazine…

When is the musical set?
It’s set in the 1980s when the shipyards and so many other industries like them were being decimated by Margaret Thatcher.  It’s about a whole community and a way of life just being thrown on the scrapheap.  I play a character who’s a nurse called Peggy White.  She’s seen and she’s also treated the kind of injuries that shipbuilding can inflict.  She’s married to a man called Jackie White, played by Joe McGann, who’s the very well respected but tough foreman of the yard.  Jackie and Peggy are pillars of the community.

Is it based on a real-life couple?
No. It’s a tale, not a documentary. It’s what could have happened, what might have happened or maybe what still might happen. You never know…

Do you get to sing?
Yes, a lot. I love singing, though. I’ve sung in bands since I was a teenager and I currently sing in a band called Kissed with four other female musicians who live in the North East, like me. They’re my saviours and we’re very, very good friends.

Charlie Hardwick who plays Peggy White in The Last Ship

Does Sting have much input with the regards to this production?
Loads and loads. There’s a lot of music in the show and he’s been with us all through rehearsals, helping us, changing and suggesting difference things to suit our voices. He’s going to try and come to every opening night on the tour. We’ll be opening each week in a different town.

Did you ever imagine you’d get to work with an international superstar?
But I’ve already worked with Chris Chittell! Seriously, it’s fantastic to be working with someone whose records I bought back in the day. I loved The Police and I loved – and I still do love – Sting as a solo artist.

You mention Chris Chittell, who plays Eric Pollard. Do you miss him and all the other Emmerdale folk?
So, so much. Chris and I are very good friends and we both cried our eyes out on set on my last day of filming. I miss playing Val Pollard, too. In my mind, she’s still around. I guess that’s not surprising when I’m constantly being stopped and asked when Val’s coming back. Not that easy when she passed away.

But she came back at Christmas as an apparition in Robert Sugden’s dream!
Oh, that was such good fun to do. I found it so emotional going back to the village – so much so that when I went home that evening, I got on the wrong train by mistake! Now that never happened all the time I was in Emmerdale! I was so discombobulated about being back. In a nice way, of course.

Remind us again, why did you leave?
It was by no means an easy decision and I thought about it for nearly 18 months. But the bottom line was that I wanted to go home – and, by that, I mean I wanted to be back in the North East. There comes a moment when you start to think, ‘I’m not spending enough time with the people that I love.’  I think that its vital to do that. You have to get the balance right and I hadn’t.  but I was very sad to go.

It sounds like it was a very emotional decision…
I cried when I told Kate Oates, the then producer at Emmerdale, that it was time for me to go. Kate cried too. It was the right decision for me, though. I see Chris and the others when I can. In fact, the other night I met my ‘love rival’ for the first time!

Who do you mean?
I met Sally Dexter, who plays Eric’s new love interest, Faith Dingle. We had a lovely chat. But, you know, I think Pollard loves Val the most. Sally and I had a photo taken together, which I then sent to Chris. I asked him ‘So, who do you love the most?’ He replied ‘Me, of course, Eric Pollard!’


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