Since 2012, Anna Passey has entertained and captivated the viewers of Hollyoaks as the deliciously evil soap vixen Sienna Blake. I was lucky enough to sit down and speak to Ms. Passey and reflect on her time on the show, the character she “almost” played, she discusses one of her major other projects, and look into the future as her character Sienna is set to once again shake the canvas to its core.
When Anna Passey joined the cast of Hollyoaks little did she know the wild ride her character would embark on. From gas lighting one of the viewers favorite heroines and stealing her man, to the startling revelation that she had a daughter with her twin brother Dodger, all the way to faking her own death and transforming into one of the most rootable characters on the canvas Sienna has done it all. It is however, Ms. Passey’s remarkable layered performances that have garnered her the respect and admiration of viewers around the world, and keeps us wanting more of this delicious soap Vixen.
We had an amazing time talking to Anna and cannot wait to talk with her again.
Before we jump into all the fun and salacious stories that your Hollyoaks character Sienna has gotten into, let’s first start by talking about you! Prior to joining Hollyoaks what was your exposure to Oaks or rather soaps in general?
We weren’t really a soapie household, the only person in my family that religiously watched one was my grandma Pam and I remember being children and being sent out of the room when it was Coronation Street time, so that was definitely a huge thing but my family sort of didn’t directly watch any. Hollyoaks I think the first time I came into contact with that was when I was at university and I was housed with five girls and every single one of them apart from me watched it and they all took it seriously then. They tried to fill me in, but when I started at Hollyoaks I didn’t really know who anyone was and all my friends were going crazy like oh my gosh Tony and Mercedes and I was like you’re going to have to give me a cheat sheet because I didn’t know who anyone is because I hadn’t really watched it.
So now has your family become Hollyoaks fans?
Yeah so, my dad pretends that he doesn’t watch it and yet every once in a while I’ll be having dinner or something and he’ll say “oh that Ste” and I’ll be like “wait a minute oh you watch it” and my brother watches it and all my friends that did watch it still massive fans and even more so now that I’m in it of course.
You’ve had other acting experiences prior to and since joining Hollyoaks, what would you say is the biggest difference in the way you prepare for your scenes in Hollyoaks as opposed to the way you prepared for your scenes in other projects?
Good question, I think the major difference is the speed at which we work at Hollyoaks. Normally if you’re doing film or something you have a lot of time to plan the kind of arc of what the story will be but whereas with Hollyoaks the stories are on-going so you literally never know what you are going to find in your scripts until you pick them up. Also, we tend to only really know what we’re shooting for the next few days, normally it’s the night before preparation rather than three weeks in advance. So you have to get very quick at knowing your character very well and knowing your lines really well and preparing that would be the main difference but also I’ve never played a character like Sienna so there’s a lot that goes into the kind of mental state that Sienna’s always in, she’s not really like any other character I’ve experienced so I have to take the time to read my scripts and I kind of note down when I first read them my reactions to them because you don’t get that opportunity again and often it’s being really quiet on set and going through the case history files in my brain and make sure I’m in the right state.
In addition to Hollyoaks you’ve recently been a part of the Netflix original series Free Rein. For those who might not know about the show can you describe it for us.
It’s a really wholesome family show it’s centered around a riding stable on an island in the UK and the lead actress is American and she’s come over to England with her family and she started season one feeling very misplaced and unhappy that she’s had to move away from her friends because she’s a teenager and change schools and she discovers this riding center and she falls in love with this horse and makes all these lovely friends and it’s this really wholesome family show.
Let’s discuss your role as Felicity, your character is kind of pivotal to the plot for a few characters, and in a few scenes, you made me love and hate her at the same time, what interested you the most about the character?
It was something so different than Sienna so I couldn’t say no to it really. She’s kind of been a woman that all of the kids look up to, and I had someone like that, my babysitter, her daughter who was much older than me was sort of champion show jumper when I was a kid and she would compete and get all these ribbons and I used to look up to her and think oh my gosh she’s the best horse jumper so it was kind of fun to play that character. Felicity is in charge of the board of judges for the under 18 team so she goes around and she reviews one of the characters whose trying to review one of the characters riding school and then she in charge of who is going to be the newest member of the team. When we shot it all of the kids in the show looked up to her because who she is and her riding skills and they want to be like that and I knew someone like that so it was someone I really knew from real life so it was nice to play.
As a fan of the show yourself, was there any characters you wished your character would’ve interacted more with? And would you be open to returning in the future? I mean I saw a bit of a spark between Felicity and Elliot that would always be nice to see explored!
Yeah maybe, I’d love to go back, I don’t know what they’re plans are for another series, but it’s nice to have scenes with him, he’s Mia’s father, brilliant actor, and Mia the girl, is really sweet so it would be nice to be involved in that and it would be nice to have a bit more with the younger kids on the show they’re really funny on the show and I didn’t get to interact with them so it would be nice to do more with them.
Alright now let’s move on to some Hollyoaks talk, what was the casting process for Hollyoaks like?
Funnily enough I’d already been up for another character before I got the part of Sienna, I came up for a really intensive round of casting for a different part of Annalise and she was one of the students a few years previous, and it was a really big deal there were so many people and they put us into groups a few girls and a few guys and we’d run scenes and then we’d get separated and put in different combinations and see who as a group of friends worked with who and it was quite intense then my first round I got on the train to go home and they said we wanted to see you again tomorrow and I got down to the last group of people and in the end they went with a different group of friends and none of the people in my group were chosen and it was really sad and at the time they said don’t worry we loved what you did and we’ll get you something else and as an actor you hear that and you think that’s nice but you never believe in it so when I got the phone call for the Sienna it was me and one other girl and they had a much clearer idea of what they wanted for that and it was a much different experience it was a one read through with Danny Mac and that was that.
Your character, Sienna Blake, has pretty much done it all, from wrecking marriages to kidnapping and being redeemed and transitioning into one of the show’s most profound heroines. What has been your most fulfilling story to play?
I think personally the storyline that I did alongside Jamie Lomas who played Warren Fox that I did with the twin babies when she discovered she had cancer and was pregnant and the kind of choice she had to make there. For me it was the most fulfilling. For me It was the first time that I did a storyline that was issue based and it was quite nice as an actor to get your teeth into the research part and be provided with the resources to ask the right kind of questions and I hadn’t done that before and the effect that had and we have received a lot of messages that saying this is something people didn’t think about being diagnosed with cancer while pregnant and a lot of the signs that you wouldn’t know with the cancer get tied into the signs of early pregnancy so it was nice to do something that felt like we were having some kind of impact on raising awareness for something. The story was brilliant and as an actor there were tons of really emotional scenes so that for me was a big achievement of a storyline.
In contrast, Sienna has obviously had some over the top moments from the Twincest revelation to nearly killing some of our favorites, what was one of your favorite OMG moments for Sienna?
Well I think finding out that the twin brother was also the father of the child was kind of Bruncle Dodger – because he was kind of brother uncle- was kind of like the most jaw dropping but I also have a mega soft spot for the revelation that Sienna wasn’t pregnant I see those memes from time to time as they pop up on social media and I watch that when Nancy punches her and rips the dress off and she’s stood there with that big fake pregnant belly and its ridiculous but I loved it and at the time it was ridiculous and I loved it and people loved it.
I also really love Sienna’s Christmas kind of once yearly meltdown when she throws turkey at people.
What is it about Sienna that you think has allowed her to go on such a fantastic journey from crazy villain to one of the shows leading heroines and aspiring schoolteacher and continue to be someone the viewers want to see?
Honestly I don’t know I get asked this question and I’m so thankful for it but I don’t know there’s some weird magic in there, I don’t know what it is, it shouldn’t be okay, like you say she’s a school teacher now and like she’s kidnapped 18 people and she shouldn’t be allowed to watch them but there’s something in the writing something in the backstory with Patrick and I think there’s something with the audience of soap that people invest in the characters and the longer you stay in one the more you feel that and people get really protective and you see new characters come in and you see them ask what can they do and you really have to give it some time and get to know the character and once they do they go on such a journey with you that they kind of breath with you and I think with Sienna the journey is so crazy that there’s been so many roles she’s been through that the audience feels like they’ve been through all of that with her that they just can’t help but side with her even when she’s so clearly in the wrong.
Sienna is set to have an exciting Summer, as we saw in the Summer Trailer, what can you tease about what’s coming up for her?
So Sienna lost her twins Warren stole them away from her about a year and a half ago and it was so traumatic for her and since then we’ve seen kind of a reboot of Sienna where she’s a teacher and she’s tried to pick what’s left of her life and she’s met lovely handsome Brody whose a really good guy and we see her in a lovely place and in the midst of the Summer craziness she sees the twins and she sees them with her eyes and they’re there and it kind of shocks all of the past back into her and we see old sly Sienna back at her best as she plots to take her children back so it will be kind of a return for people who have been watching more than this year to the kind of classic Sienna that they know so well and everyone liked that Sienna I think and this time we will have the battle between Old Sienna and new Sienna because does she want to throw away everything she’s worked for to have her children? Yes, she does. It’s all going to be kid based and the audience is going to be guessing if those children are hers or if she’s lost the plot again.
Do you have any other projects in the works that fans can look forward to?
No so Free Rein just came out and its TBD if there will be another series or special or if Felicity will return so if that happens that would be my next project but otherwise, I’m very heavily invested in the Hollyoaks storyline.
Free Reign is streaming now on Netflix
Hollyoaks airs weeknights at 6:30 on Channel 4, with first look screenings at 7 pm on E4 in the U.K.. Episodes air on a two-week delay on Hulu in the United States. For more on Hollyoaks, visit their official website.