Having started her regular role of Nico Blake in Hollyoaks in 2014, Persephone Swales-Dawson continued in the show until 2016 seeing her win Best Bad Girl at The Inside Soap Awards that year with the character making a surprise return in 2018 which led to Nico’s death. It was announced recently that Persephone would be returning to Hollyoaks once again as Nico for their 25th Anniversary. Last year, Persephone toured the UK as Jade in The House on Cold Hill, with the production marking her professional stage debut. Taking time to chat with us, Persephone tells us about playing Nico Blake in Hollyoaks, winning Best Bad Girl at The Inside Soap Awards and making her professional stage debut in The House on Cold Hill.
You play Nico Blake in Hollyoaks, what is she like to play and can you tell us about the character?
Nico Blake has been a great character to play over the years, if a little challenging at times. She’s complex and very troubled and while there have been some opportunities to explore a lighter side and bring some humour to the show, most of my storylines have been more morbid.
You’re returning to the show, what are you enjoying most about being on set of the show again?
I’ve loved being back at Hollyoaks working with familiar faces again. The Lime Pictures staff are so welcoming so I always enjoy coming onto set to work with them. Reuniting with old castmates has been fun and there are some characters that Nico hasn’t met before which has provided some good material.
How was it seeing the response to your return to the show in 2018 and what do you think the response will be like this time?
I was so pleased and also quite surprised at the audience’s response to Nico’s return in 2018. I hadn’t realised what an impact we’d made with some of our storylines so when I became aware of the buzz surrounding her resurrection, it was definitely rewarding. I hope we can get a similar reception from the fans this time although they can be expecting a largely contrasting return.
How have you found getting back into the character of Nico and how did you prepare for your return?
Nico feels so familiar to me having spent so much of my time playing her so getting back into character comes easily. In terms of preparation, I did watch some recent clips from the show to get a feel of where it’s at. A lot can change in a soap in a couple of years.
Do you remember how you felt when you originally booked the role and what your first day on set was like?
Hollyoaks was the first job I auditioned for and the first job I booked so I feel like I was given a false expectation of the typical life of a jobbing actor! I was so happy to have been successful and it was a wonderful introduction to the industry. I vaguely remember my first day on set and the prevailing emotion was probably fear. Fortunately, I had a lovely First AD, Colin, who explained the basic terminology to me and the rest must have been ok because I’m still here.
When finding out you’d, once again, be coming back to Hollyoaks, what were your immediate thoughts?
My immediate thoughts regarding another return to the Hollyoaks village were ‘great’ and then ‘how?’. Last time we saw Nico she’d been killed a second time, so I was looking forward to finding out how she’d be making a comeback.
Can you tell us about the experience attending award ceremonies with the cast and winning Best Bad Girl at the Inside Soap Awards?
I have mixed feelings when it comes to awards ceremonies. I do enjoy being able to dress up and celebrate the work my peers and myself have done but I’m not exactly in my element on a red carpet! Maybe one day it’ll come to me. The 2016 Inside Soap Awards however were a personal highlight for me as winning Best Bad Girl came after some gruelling night shoots with Nico at the height of her distress.
Last year, you toured as Jade in The House on Cold Hill, how did this go?
The House on Cold Hill was my first tour and a great one. Jade was so different from any character I’d played before. For starters she was from Brighton so I got to perform with a new accent. I always find when a character you’re playing has characteristics that you don’t, it helps with getting into the role as you no longer feel like yourself. You can start with one small aspect and use that to build on your characterisation.
What was it like making your professional stage debut with the show and what was it like being part of the cast?
Making my professional stage debut was always going to feel special. My first taste of acting came from youth theatre so the stage is where my love of the arts originated. I was really excited when I booked The House on Cold Hill because it meant that not only was I going to get back into dissecting a play but also, I would be on tour visiting multiple theatres across the country.
What did you know about the show before booking the role?
I honestly didn’t know much about the show before booking the role. I did some research before my audition so I knew the basics and I read all of the material I was sent as I always do. I do believe that there is such a thing as too much homework sometimes because you can end up over-preparing and psyching yourself out.
What did you enjoy most about touring with the production?
The best thing about touring with the production was the people. Rita Simons played my mum and that in itself was worth six months on the road, she’s hilarious. Hannah Lindsey and Zoe Hickson were our respective understudies and they were a joy to work with. I’ve kept in touch with all of them since.
How did you first get into acting and had you always wanted an acting career?
I loved drama lessons in high school and felt so comfortable performing. I knew that I wanted more and joined Hebden Bridge Little Theatre’s youth group which was on my doorstep. It’s amazing that so many communities have amateur theatre groups that people can get involved with because it means any young person can experiment with acting and nurture their skills right at home. Somewhere along the line I realised how much I loved what I was doing and that I couldn’t imagine a different path for myself.
Can you tell us about your training?
After a year of classes in a small town theatre, I wanted to expand my theatrical eduction and try something new. I auditioned for the Lowry Young Actor’s Company at the Lowry Theatre in Salford and was successful. The year I spent there before booking Hollyoaks was an incredible one. I worked with so many talented performers and directors and it really helped to prepare me for the professional world of acting.
Do you have any favourite TV shows/films to watch and have you seen any recently that you’d recommend?
I don’t stick to specific genres when it comes to film and television. I recently finished Watchmen and that was fantastic and quite difficult to watch in parts. I loved Top Boy and am looking forward to a new season and Gentleman Jack is next on my watchlist.
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