Emmerdale’s Leyla Harding will do anything to protect her teenage son Jacob Gallagher, especially when she discovers that he’s fallen under the spell of Maya Stepney. Keen on revenge, will she go too far? Actress Roxy Shahidi explains all…

Emmerdale’s Leyla Harding played by Roxy Shahidi

When Leyla Harding discovered that Maya Stepney had seduced her biological son Jacob Gallagher, there was a change in her personality that no-one expected. Furious, Leyla is ready to do anything to protect Jacob – but just how far will she go? Actress Roxy Shahidi tells all…

Tell us about filming night shoots.
It’s been exciting to film. I can’t remember the last time I was away from the village for so long. Louisa, Amy, Fiona and I really supported each other through the freezing temperatures and 6am finishes. My friends and the adrenaline of the scenes got me through.

It is clear things will change after this night.  Will Leyla’s life be affected by what happened on the club night?
Leyla’s life will change massively as a result of Priya catching Maya and Jacob kissing. How could it not? To find out Maya – someone who lived in the same house as her – had been abusing her son in this way is her worst nightmare and leaves her filled with not only rage, but guilt for not knowing it was going on right under her nose. Leyla’s a feisty character so it’s safe to say she’s not going to let this lie, but initially she wants to get to Jacob to hear it from him and later, cover their tracks.

We know things go very wrong that night after this revelation. But on the night we just see Maya accept a lift home.
Once the girls get their head around what Priya told them – at the beginning they didn’t believe it was anything other than innocent – the girls go through a range of emotions and are totally conflicted about what to do. Should they call the police? Should they take matters into their own hands? Leyla wants Priya to drive them to the airport to get to Jacob initially, but something unexpected happens on the way that changes the course of the evening and things takes a very dark turn.

We know that the outcome will be revealed in a flashback episode. Are you excited for the flashback episodes that will reveal what really happened
I’m really excited for the audience to find out what really happened. Having seen the girls head back to the woods to discover Maya’s bloodied scarf – but no sign of her – they will have spent the last week wondering what it is the girls have done and what has happened to Maya.

The enormity of it all weighs especially heavy on Leyla who has not been completely honest with Priya and Tracy about what happened. Other villagers begin to suspect something is wrong as all three girls are behaving strangely. It will be a huge relief to be able to fill in the gaps and see where everyone goes from here and if David will finally find out what’s been going on.

Tues 7 May 2019: The ladies force Maya into the car so they can find out the truth.

The next day after the club night the girls are all acting very shifty and Maya seems to have gone missing.
The girls have a debate about going to the police, but Leyla is adamant they shouldn’t and instead they return to the woods to look for Maya.

Are they genuinely worried about what has happened to her?
I don’t think Leyla is particularly concerned about Maya’s welfare – she hates her for what she’s done to Jacob – she is more worried about being implicated and getting in trouble with the police. Nobody wants to do time for Maya when she’s already put them through so much.

To the viewers it seems Leyla is the most worried over what she has done. Would you agree with this?
Leyla definitely appears the most guilty on the lead up to these episodes. Even the other girls start querying things in their mind. She is the one who is so insistant they lie to DavId and cover their tracks. She’s terrified Tracy and Priya will be the weak link and blow their secret.

We see the girls burn Maya’s scarf. Tell us about that.
The girls went back the following day to re-trace their tracks but all they found was Maya’s bloodied scarf. They are well aware of how badly this could work out.  When I first heard we were telling the story in this way with the flashback I was really keen to be involved.  It hopefully will be a great method of storytelling and good viewing for the audience.

David is surely wondering where Maya is?
Since the club night Maya has been off screen and only her scarf found. David is wondering where she is. She has not turned up to teach at the school. Leyla covers her tracks by saying she’s gone to her mother’s but it’s just a question of time before the three secrets come out. Where is Maya? What did they do to her? What will happen when Maya’s abuse of Jacob is revealed to David?

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