'We've not been off air for 60 years': How soap stars are handling lockdown

And while it’s no great surprise that soaps – just like every other mainstay of British culture – now exist in a state of uncertainty, their encroaching disappearance from our screens,will no doubt be tough for those who settle down on the sofa to catch up with what’s happening in soap-land most nights of the week. “We’re like a crutch for people,” says Riley, “tuning in is like visiting your own family.” And when so many of us are separated from our loved ones, saying goodbye to another batch of familiar faces will feel an even more painful loss. Gallery: 14 Emmerdale, Coronation Street, Hollyoaks & EastEnders stars currently planning their weddings (Hello Magazine UK) Thankfully, when he turned 40 in December, Brocklebank set himself a challenge – to renovate his house into a “liveable” state. “I’ll just stick it in and hope for the best ... which seems to be agoodrule for life anyway.” When he’s not in the midst of a home makeover, Brocklebank is filling his time baking cake (from a packet), having conversations with his stomach in the shower, and entertaining/irritating his neighbours by belting out piano tunes. And after posting a jokey tweet in late March about a night out in at a fictional #DansBar in his living room (“they’re giving away a free glass ofProsecco on entry … as you can see the place is packed”) he and fellow cast and crew have been posting pictures to appreciative fans as they get drunk on Zoom together, dressing upasbunnies or togas depending on the strict dress code imposed on any given night. As episodes run thin, viewers may well increasingly turn to social media as a way of keeping in contact with soap stars and their characters, but Brocklebank hopes the show will find a way to carry on. “We’ve not been off air for 60 years,” he says, “and at the moment people want to cling onto things which feel familiar.” It’s a testament to just how strange our current circumstances are that we’re turning to soaps – exaggerated and necessarily overly-dramatised versions of everyday life – to remind us of what used to be normal. But Amanda Mealing – who has played consultant Connie Beauchamp in both Holby City and Casualty since her 2005 debut – reckons the world’s attention turningto health and hospitals is seeing more people tuning in on a Saturday night. People are fascinated to see what life is like for doctors and nurses on the frontline.” The last on set when the lockdown was called, Mealing is still in the countryside outside Cardiff close by the show’s studio. With a family full of medics, and plenty of time spent on research trips in hospitals, she hopes once this is over her real lifecounterparts will get the recognition and acknowledgement they’ve always deserved. Cast members – like Charlotte Martin who has played Susan Carter since the early 1980s – have been busy recording monologues at home which will be woven together into new episodes. “Characters thinking out loud is the best way I can describe it,” Martin says from her DIY home studio (a corner of the landing covered in duvets to cushion the sound) in Birmingham. Martin’s doing what she can to get fit by the time quarantine is over; on Friday nights at 7pm she and her neighbours dance to disco tunes(from a safe distance) out in the street.