Ackley Bridge star reveals why she wanted to play a racist

Sadly, we all know a Sue Carp. The jaws of Ackley Bridge viewers often drop when the racist assertions and statements come out of the member of staff’s mouth in the popular school drama and former Emmerdale star Charlie Hardwick couldn’t be further from the role that she plays.

The actress, known for her role as Val Pollard in the ITV soap, has been at the front line of battling racism and all forms of racism and when joined her for a chat, the passion of which she spoke against her character’s bigotry and for the writing of the show which shows her attitude in its true light, was strong.

Charlie exclaimed to us: ‘Oh she’s disgusting! She’s a foul character and yet, we all know a Sue Carp sadly. There’s no point in shying away from it – there are people like her working in schools. I deplore racism in all its forms. Especially in this day and age, when it is so prevalent, we need to keep talking about it and shining a light on it. Sue comes out with some shockers of statements and they can be hard to deliver but I’d rather she has held to account and shown for the bigot that she is.

‘Many actors always try to find a way to get a justification for their character as they like to feel that it makes them more liked as an actor if there is something likeable about who they play. I don’t care about any of that – Sue is monstrous and a total racist, and a leopard rarely changes its spots so it’s not like we’re trying to redeem her. In the season finale we might just see an element of goodness in there but it would be a long journey to ever be able to show her in a positive light.’

Charlie has been involved with charity performances and plays to raise awareness of racism, including the North East based Show Racism The Red Card, and she thinks in a climate where racism is almost being normalised by people in power, that we need to expose characters like Sue.

‘We need to show the young viewers that sometimes, the people in charge of their care aren’t right and don’t always know best. I’d rather a character like Sue was in someone’s hands like mine because I couldn’t give a monkeys about people liking her. I’d rather show her for what she is – and the brilliant writers always manage to show her up and show that her attitudes are just plain abhorrent.’

Charlie is loving her time with Ackley Bridge and, were it to be recommissioned, she grinned that she would ‘bite the company’s hand off’ to sign up for another series. She mused: ‘Things are dark and pretty politically difficult at the moment so it’s nice for a show like Ackley Bridge – which is a fantastic example of diversity and representation for young people of all walks of life – act as a bit of niceness and goodness to counteract some of the hate in the world. Children are being divided and taught and interacted with separately due to culture, race and class – but what I see at Ackley is young performers from all walks of life coming together to create art.

‘There is no elitism – there are some amazing actors who I love to bits and one of my best mates is young Phoebe Tiffs-Berry who plays Rukshana. She is so gifted and there’s none of this “I’ve been acting longer and this is your first job” kind of attitude between the adults and the kids here. We are all equals with the same goals and my word, am I learning a lot from these young ‘uns. On top of that, the crew is diverse – it’s full of women and people from different cultures, and the writers aren’t middle class Eton men trying to write for young people. They are writing their own experiences from youth and it shows. That’s what makes this show something special – so I hope it does come back and I will be right there waiting for that call, I tell you!’

Charlie explained how she was bowled over by the maturity and camaraderie of the team at the wrap party and reckons it would be a shame if the series weren’t to continue. Promising wonderful scenes in the finale and powerful drama for the young cast, she also hinted that we may see a glimmer of hope for Sue to start opening her eyes. But whether or not it’s too little too late remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, the actress herself has no plans of slowing down. ‘It’s funny,’ she told us. ‘People come up to us in the shops and ask if I’m enjoying retirement. But I’m having a whale of a time, I’m touring on stage, I’m doing musicals again, I am back in me hometown, this might be the busiest I’ve been and I’m absolutely loving it.’

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