There was a new arrival in Emmerdale at the end of Friday’s episode in the shape of Matt (surname yet to be revealed), Carly Hope’s ex and the father of her baby Billy, played by Irish actor Jack Hickey.
Landing with a bang in The Woolpack on Monday night, things instantly kick off in a confrontation with Carly when he learns that their son, Billy, has died as a result of cot-death without his knowledge.
Speaking to The Star, Jack, who moved to London from South Dublin two years ago, revealed he was floored by the reaction that exploded online yesterday morning as soon as the news emerged that he was heading to the Dales.
“It’s been easy for me to keep it under wraps up to now because nobody saw me coming, so there’s been no need to hide it.
“But this morning it’s just blown up, so-to-speak. People are calling me and there’s stuff all over Twitter; I’m a little bit nervous but it’s very exciting,” he explains, acknowledging the fact that this will be a major game changer for his career.
“This is like nothing I’ve worked on before. I’ve been involved in large projects, but probably in smaller roles or guest roles, so this has definitely come as a bit of a shock to me to realise just how big Emmerdale is. It’s definitely the biggest chunk I’ve ever bitten off and I probably didn’t fully appreciate it when I took the role but I know all about it now!”
Jack will be familiar to Irish audiences for his role as the young Braavosi in Game of Thrones, as 1916 Easter Rising leader Sean Connelly in hit RTE drama Rebellion, and as a police inspector in Penny Dreadful.
His character will be an unexpected blast from the past for Carly, played by Gemma Atkinson, as the pair have not seen each other since he allegedly left Carly high and dry (and pregnant) after meeting during their travels around Oz.
Fans got their first glimpse of the actor on Friday’s episode when Carly managed to track him down via social media.
“Matt is a grieving dad and he and Carly have a complicated and dark history,” adds Jack. “And it’s safe to say he comes back to confront her on several levels. Obviously Carly has been through this harrowing ordeal of losing a baby so his arrival causes a huge emotional storm for her.”
Asked how he prepared for the role, he explained: “To be honest, I really don’t know what could prepare you for a situation like that, but myself and Gemma worked to find a connection with each other on that level and she’s such a wonderful actress that it felt very natural.”
Given the very strong rumours of Gemma Atkinson’s departure from Emmerdale, fans were soon speculating that Matt has returned as part of Carly’s exit storyline, coming to take her away with him – and leaving smitten boyfriend Marlon Dingle heartbroken.
Emmerdale declined to confirm if Gemma is leaving the soap so only time will tell (but we’d say we’ll know if two to three weeks!).