Emmerdale actress Samantha Giles on why she loves Yorkshire - despite being from the 'other side' of the Pennines

Actress Samantha Giles is preparing for her first pantomime at Bradford Alhambra this Christmas. Samantha’s TV successes include Emmerdale and Where the Heart Is. She is married to Sean, and they have two daughters

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

I’d have been 15 or 16 and I can recall coming over the Pennines (our family came from ‘the other side’) and we visited Haworth, which suited me perfectly, because I was wallowing in all the novels of the Bronte sisters, and I could imagine that I was Cathy to my heart’s delight.

What’s your favourite part of the county?

Samantha Giles has appeared in Emmerdale and Where The Heart IsSamantha Giles has appeared in Emmerdale and Where The Heart Is
Samantha Giles has appeared in Emmerdale and Where The Heart Is

We’re staying in that area around Haworth. I read voraciously as a youngster, and I still love reading to this day. The books that made a real impact were things like Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, both fabulous stories with characters that leap from the page. In later years, I’ve wondered how on earth it was that those young women could summon up such brilliant images – there they were, in a tiny community, with little access to a world outside, almost completely isolated and they created three-dimensional people with passions and problems who were very, very real.

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What’s your idea of a perfect day/weekend, out in Yorkshire?

It would definitely involve a long shopping trip to Leeds, and I’d also like to get over to Hebden Bridge, for exploration and to visit a shop called Spooks. Apparently, it sells all manner of wonderful objects – crystals, spiritual paraphernalia and the like, and they also do Tarot readings.

Do you have a favourite walk or view?

A walker admires the views onto Malham whilst standing on the clints and grykes at the top of Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture Tony JohnsonA walker admires the views onto Malham whilst standing on the clints and grykes at the top of Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture Tony Johnson
A walker admires the views onto Malham whilst standing on the clints and grykes at the top of Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture Tony Johnson

I’ve spent an awful lot of time here, but it’s always been work associated – Emmerdale, Where the Heart Is, drama series like that. The days are long, you’re up early in the morning, in the studio or on the set, and the cameras are rolling until the light goes. So, getting out for a break is a real luxury – when we were filming Where the Heart Is, in Marsden and Slaithwaite, I was always looking across to the rolling hills and saying to myself ‘I’ll get up there one day, and have a really good ramble around. Same with Emmerdale, because the outdoor set is on The Harewood Estate, and I’d be thinking about that glorious house, and the fact that I’d never ever been inside it. It is high time that I fulfilled all those promises to self!

Which Yorkshire sportsperson, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?

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Sport has always eluded me; however I really do admire anyone who goes above and beyond to achieve a personal goal, and the lads who spring to mind are the Brownlee Brothers, who show such grit and determination to push themselves further and further.

Which Yorkshire screen/stage star, past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

The late Keith Barron. We worked together on WTHI for many series, and there was a wonderful rapport between us – he was one of the kindest and most charming of men, and also one of the funniest, with his own very dry wit. Keith held no prisoners.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

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Well, I’m currently researching a new book which will deal, in part, with the history of those poor women of centuries ago who accumulated such amazing knowledge from the world around them – to the point where they became suspect, and were branded as ‘witches’, which was quite ludicrous. Everyone knows about the ladies from Pendle, but I want to find out a lot more about Mother Shipton, and her life in Knaresborough, so on ‘down time’ from the panto, I’ll be heading over there to experience her cave, and the history of her life.

If you could own, or have access to, one thing in Yorkshire for a single day, what would it be?

Ripley Castle, because (so I’m told) they have a quite remarkable portrait of Charles II, and I’ve always thought that my husband bears an uncanny resemblance to the Merry Monarch, and it would be fun to find out.

What do you think give Yorkshire it’s unique identity?

As a lass from the Red Rose county, I’ve always felt instantly at home on this side of the border. The people are welcoming and friendly, and the place is vast – and there’s a positive vibe to the county where-ever you go. You’re surrounded by history, right from the beginnings of time itself. As an actor, you often have to work away from home, and that’s not always a lot of fun….but when I’m told that the job is in Yorkshire, I always know that I’ll get a warm welcome. Mind you, the Wicked Stepmother may well be an exception – if I get a warm welcome with her, I’ll know that I’m not doing my job properly.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

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Brasserie Blanc in Leeds is always a joy, and there’d also The Olive Branch in Marsden. Both so welcoming, with lovely staff, and great food.

Has Yorkshire changed for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

Getting here by using the M62 hasn’t got better, for sure! And neither are the wretched train services. But I think that we are cursed with new technology, AI, whatever you like to call it, and we can’t do much about it. Being taken over by robots is not a shrewd move.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

It’s a long list, and among many others on it would be Sean Bean, one of the most powerful actors you’ll find anywhere, with a huge range of work. The late Julian Sands is a terrible loss to our profession – I saw him in A Room with a View, and I was bowled over by his talent. Parky, the best interviewer ever, and Milly Johnson, a remarkable writer and someone who has been so kind and supportive to me.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

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Most definitely, because it is a place that informs you in whatever you try to do. I had to do a Yorkshire accent in WTHI, and I think that I pulled it off. It’s something that I’d love to try again. Actors are a bit like blotting paper, you know, we soak things in at every opportunity – or at least, we ought to.

Name your favourite Yorkshire author/book/artist./CD/performer?

The Brontes gave me my love of Gothic fiction and in the present day, reading Milly Johnson is like getting a big, warm, sincere and genuine hug.

If a stranger only had time to visit one place, where would it be?

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Howarth, and Malham. History for the first, the dramatic splendour and power of nature for the second.

Samantha Giles will be appearing in Cinderella at the Alhambra, Bradford with Billy Pearce and John Whaite from December 9 to January 21.

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