Hollyoaks actress Jennifer Metcalfe has spoken about the huge impact that her character Mercedes McQueen's tragic stillbirth story had on her and fans.
Speaking on a new episode of the Soap From The Box podcast, Jennifer, who has played Mercedes since 2006, said that the storyline which saw Mercedes lose her and Joe Roscoe's baby boy in 2015 was a very difficult plot to film, but that the impact it had on viewers was very important to her.
"It was upsetting, it was rewarding, it was gorgeous to know that I could help so many people," she said of the plot. "I've never, ever had a response about a storyline like I've had from that one.
"You're just doing a storyline, you're just doing a job, you're giving it the justice that you know it deserves. But then to realise how many people you've helped ... it was something else."
The actress also said that she has never had such a strong reaction to a Hollyoaks plot as she has to Mercedes' stillbirth storyline, praising the hard-hitting scripts to the episodes.
"I've never had that about any other storyline, and we've done all sorts," she said. "When I first got the scripts, the lady that wrote the scripts had been through it. So the emotion jumped off the page.
"Everyone was going: 'You smashed it, you did such a good job, it brought the message across that needed to be'. I was like: 'I didn't have to do F all'. Literally, I was reading them on the couch, the first drafts, and I was bawling my eyes out.
"So when I got to set, I just said: 'Can we not do a rehearsal?' Because I knew the emotions were just there. It was an overwhelming time, it was tiring because of how we film it – it may be one day on screen, but that could be filmed over two or three weeks."
Jennifer, who has a three-year-old son called Daye, added that she felt the pressure to do justice to the storyline, particularly as the scripts were "spot on".
"I hadn't had a kid by that point, so that was quite nerve-wracking because I was trying to tap into something I've never remotely had an experience with," she said. "I'd never been pregnant, I'd never had a child, I'd never lost one.
"The delicacy that you had to do it with, and the respect you had to do it with, it was the pressure of that as well. I didn't have a clue what to tap into but that's where the writer's words were that gorgeous, that spot on that I almost didn't need it."
Jennifer also suggested that the storyline could have served to educate people on stillbirths, as she herself wasn't aware of the issue until Mercedes' storyline.
"I don't think I realised the importance of it until afterwards," she said. "I remember when Bryan [Kirkwood, Hollyoaks' producer] told me that we were going to do this story, this is how naïve, young, whatever you can call it [I was], when they said they were going to do a stillbirth storyline I was like: 'What does that mean?'
"That's how clueless, ignorant, whatever you want to call it, I was of it."
Hollyoaks currently airs new episodes from Mondays to Fridays at 6.30pm on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7pm on E4.
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