Genuinely nice soap characters are pretty scarce. Since Hayley Cropper shuffled off this mortal coil, soapland has had a major shortage of down to earth, kind females who aren’t schemers, love cheats or killers, or, as in Tracy Barlow’s case, all three. Thank heavens then, for Emmerdale’s Ruby, now one of my firm village favourites, played by former Bad Girls actress Alicya Eyo.
Based in one of the social hubs of the metropolis that is Emmerdale village, aka the cafe, Ruby interacts with most of the village and, as far as my memory serves me, has never had an unpleasant thing to say. In soaps which thrive on characters being sneaky and dishonest and acting with ulterior motives; the nice guys and girls really do balance things out in a very necessary way and the character of Ruby is one that the Emmerdale audience root for. An openly lesbian character, with a strong mind, human emotions and an endearing personality, Ruby has also proven to be a role model for viewers young and old, as was proven last week when Alicya Eyo was presented with the Stonewall UK award for ‘Entertainer Of The Year’.
It was an award well deserved, and came at a time when Ruby’s story was central to the drama in Emmerdale. Having just discovered her soulmate Ali had been unfaithful with her ex, Dopey Dan, Alicya delivered heartbreaking and very real, underrated performances of a woman in love who has been hurt. There were no motives for revenge, acts of violence or anything contrived; this was a story about a woman who had given her all to a relationship and was left feeling vulnerable and betrayed after a regrettable action. Alicya nailed it.
Since it was announced a few years back that Alicya was joining Emmerdale; I have been dying for the character to be given an opportunity for something meaty. Having watched Alicya in Bad Girls, I knew she was capable of hauntingly good performances (who could forget Denny’s grief at losing Shaz in the Larkhall fire or her vulnerabilities exposed after she was let down by her alcoholic mum?) Ruby is now a staple of Emmerdale and I was lucky enough to catch a chat with the down to earth star that is Alicya Eyo herself recently.
Her passion for her role and her character were obvious from the outset of our conversation.
“It’s an absolute joy!” she enthused when I brought up Emmerdale. “The cast and crew are all amazing. I know it’s a stereotypical thing to say, but they really are like a family. You get challenged all the time in Emmerdale; the way it works keeps you on your toes, you can never get complacent which is a great way to work.”
Her adoration for the show is matched only by her love for her alter ego, Ruby.
“She’s down to earth and just gets on with everybody,” Alicya explained. “She’s just a nice character. I like the scenes in the cafe as Ruby gets to interact with so many different characters.”
“I’d like to see them stick together,” she said, without hesitation. “Every relationship has it’s problems and this was a real test but I think they’ll get through it. I’d like to see them move forward and maybe grow as a family.”
Alicya’s other memorable role of course, is that of Denny Blood in cult prison drama Bad Girls which ran for 8 series. Denny started out as a vicious bully of a character, following the orders of psychotic Shell Dockley but soon developed into a warmer, more relatable character; a transition that was only possible due to Alicya’s performances of Denny’s vulnerabilities. Alicya has fond memories of her time on the show.
“It was incredible; some of the best years of my life,” she told me. “I grew up on that show and I made a lot of friendships. I’m so glad that it’s still out there. I still get letters from young people about how Denny helped them. I’m so proud of it.”
Alicya often uses her platform as a high profile actress to help young people and members of the LGBT community; her outside work includes conferences and education workshops and meetings for young people. As a role model; she evidently makes a massive difference as proven through her winning of the Stonewall UK award, but it is something that Alicya is modest about.
“I don’t really think about it until I face it,” she admits. “I am so lucky to be in such an amazing position. Winning the award has not sank in- it’s overwhelming and honouring and there were such amazing people on the list.”
Alicya is a very grounded actress; she is easy to speak to and is even warmer than Ruby. And she couldn’t be more grateful to her fans.
“It’s because of fans that I am in this really lucky position; thank you to everybody,” she beamed. “I’d love for people to keep a lookout; come and say hello if you ever see me.”
In amongst her acting, her endless time for fans and her dedication to education, Alicya does find time to wind down on rare occasions.
“I colour in!” she revealed. “I love it, it’s therapeutic. I also go running and watch films to relax. Not all at the same time, though I could try it and let you know how I get on.”
Whilst we wait in anticipation for Alicya’s work of art; she can be found brightening up the cafe in Emmerdale every weeknight.
What do you think of Emmerdale’s Ruby? Are you glad that Alicya’s work was commended by Stonewall UK? Give us your thoughts using the comments box below.
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Written By Our Man In The North