How Hollyoaks catapulted stars like James Corden and Emma Rigby to top films and US fame

STARRING in a soap is a way for actors to get their break onto TV – but for some it leads to even greater things.

Channel 4’s Hollyoaks launched the career of Wallis Day, who is now set to star as Batwoman in DC’s series, taking over from Ruby Rose.

Wallis Day played Holly Cunningham in the soap for years before leaving

And she’s not the only star who’s made it big since leaving the village.

Here we reveal the Hollyoaks soap stars turned film royalty.

Nathalie Emmanuel

She spent four years in the soap as Calvin Valentine’s sister

Nathalie appeared in Hollyoaks from 2006 to 2010 as Sasha Valentine in her television debut.

During her stint on the show her character battled heroin addiction, became a prostitute, and dealt with endless family issues.

She clearly left industry bosses impressed as shortly after leaving she was cast as Missandei in Game Of Thrones.

Nathalie played Daenerys Targaryen’s interpreter and proved popular with fans leading to being promoted to a regular character after her first series.

She’s also starred in The Maze Runner films, The Fate of the Furious and Holly Slept Over.

James Corden

James played a caretaker in the early days of the soap

If you blinked, you might have missed James appearing in Hollyoaks as a school caretaker in the early days of the show.

But the American TV host doesn’t have much positive to say about his time on the soap, claiming it was “hell on earth.”

Since his short-lived time on the show he has gone on to bigger things including smash hit comedy Gavin and Stacey.

He’s also starred in starred in films like The History Boys, Begin Again, and Into the Woods, and now he lives in LA, where he hosts The Late Late Show.

It seems like his tough start in Hollyoaks set him up for greatness.

Rachel Shenton

Since leaving the soap Rachel has won an Oscar for a short film she wrote

Rachel joined the soap as Mitzeee Minniver, an aspiring glamour model in 2010.

She spent two years on the show, during which time her character was sent to prison, got pregnant and had a number of romantic affairs.

Since leaving the soap she has won an Oscar for best live action short film, The Silent Child. 

Rachel has also starred in White Gold and All Creatures Great and Small.

Emmett J. Scanlan

Emmett played gangster turned anti-hero Brendan Brady

The Irish actor proved to be a chilling villain when he arrived in the village as gangster Brendan Brady.

Emmett played the love interest of Steve Hayes, with their romance delighting fans until it turned violent.

While on the soap he was also involved in drug dealing, murder and questions over his sexuality.

Since his departure Emmett has appeared in Peaky Blinders, The Fall, Gangs of London and even appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy.

Emma Rigby

Emma’s eating disorder storyline was the first of it’s kind on TV

Emma joined the cast of Hollyoaks when she was 15, joining one of the main families as Hannah Ahsworth.

She gained critical praise for her portrayal of anorexia and bulimia.

The storyline also saw her best friend in the soap, Melissa, pass away from the condition.

Emma’s other storylines included being caught in a fire, gangland drug dealing and running away.

Since leaving the soap in 2010 she has gone on to star in ABCs Once Upon a Time in Wonderland as the Red Queen.

Other roles include guest appearances in Death In Paradise, Ripper Street and Fresh Meat.

Nico Mirallegro

Since the soap Nico has gone on to star in numerous TV series

Nico got his big break with Hollyoaks starring as emo Barry ‘Newt’ Newton.

He credited the soap as teaching him a huge amount. He said: “Hollyoaks is where I learnt a lot of the craft, being in front of a camera six days a week. That’s certainly an experience you don’t get in drama school.”

Nico’s main storyline in the soap was developing schizophrenia which culminated in a suicide pact.

He left the soap in 2010 and went on to star in My Mad Fat Diary, Our Girl, Rillington Place, The Ark and Common, Penance, as well as the Mike Leigh movie Peterloo.

He was nominated for a BAFTA for his role in period drama The Village.

Claire Cooper

Since appearing on the Channel 4 series, Claire has gone on to star in American shows

Claire was one of the most familiar faces in Hollyoaks, spending seven years playing Jacqui McQueen.

The feisty character never shied away from a fight and would do anything to protect her chaotic family.

During her time on the show she helped cover up a murder, was left unable to conceive following a miscarriage and reported a rape.

When she left in 2013, her character moved to Spain leaving the door open for her to come back.

Since exiting the Channel 4 soap she has star in the NBC drama A.D. The Bible Continues.

Claire has also appeared in TV series Strike Back, Knightfall and 12 Monkeys, as well as In The Club back here in the UK.

Ricky Whittle

Ricky used Hollyoaks as a stepping stone to break America

Ricky played one of the soap’s resident hunks, Calvin Valentine, from 2006 to 2011 – when he was killed off at his wedding.

He had a long-running romance with Carmel McQueen despite conflict between their two families.

Other storylines saw Calvin deal with his sisters drug abuse and cheating on Carmel with her sister and cousin.

After leaving the soap Ricky has cracked America starring in teen drama The 100 and America Gods.

He also appeared in Strictly Come Dancing in 2009.

Carley Stenson

Carley didn’t find just fame on the show, but her husband Danny Mac too

Carley joined the soap as Steph Cunningham when she was 18-years-old.

She stayed in Hollyoaks for 11 years and had a series of failed romances before finding love with Max.

Carley opted to leave to pursue other projects in 2011 and has since moved into theatre starring in West End shows Legally Blonde, Shrek The Musical and Spamalot.

But she hasn’t left the soap too far behind her as she is married to former Hollyoaks heartthrob Danny Mac.

Warren Brown

Warren was killed off in the soap which lead him to a job on Luther

Shameless’s Warren joined Hollyoaks in 2005 for a year as evil Andy Holt.

His stint on the show consisted of date rape storylines and also saw him convince another character to join him in the crime spree, before eventually being killed off.

After leaving Hollyoaks, Warren became a big hitter in TV playing DS Justin Ripley in Luther, as well as major roles in a number of dramas including Liar, The Responder, Homefront and Good Cop.

Barry Sloane 

Barry played a villain in the soap but has since found himself playing the law

Barry joined the cast of Hollyoaks as serial killer Niall Rafferty in 2007.

Shortly after he arrived, it was revealed that he was the son of McQueen matriarch Maya.

During his attempts to harm his biological family he accidentally kills Max Cunningham and eventually kills himself after kidnapping his love interest’s son.

Since leaving Hollyoaks Barry has starred in ITV crime series DCI Banks, along with a spot as Aiden Mathis in ABC drama Revenge and Whispers.

His last TV project was Bluff City Law as Jake Reilly, but the show was cancelled after just one series.


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