In her TV roles, Gaynor Faye has most often played strong, confident women, and her new role in Emmerdale as Megan Macey – half sister of Declan Macey, who’s played by Jason Merrells – is no different.
And in an interview with the Daily Mirror, Gaynor has revealed that when she was relentlessly bullied as a child, she had to make a “sink or swim” decision on how to deal with it, and she chose to stand up to her tormentors by not letting them get to her.
Now aged 40, Gaynor – who’s the daughter of famed screenwriter Kay Mellor – said of her experiences of playground bullying, “It was sink or swim. I remember thinking ‘I’m not going to let them get the better of me’.”
Gaynor went on to say that she believes it was having to be strong willed as a child that’s made her who she is today.
She said, “I became an actress because I loved acting but also part of me thought ‘I’m going to make something of my life, I’m not going to let you damage me…’
“The bullies ruined my school life from day one, they made me grow up very quickly.
“A gang of girls hung out at the gate and decided as you walked through who they were going to bully.
“And as I walked through on the first day they went, ‘slag, bitch, cow’ and that was it, they made my life hell for the next few years.
“There are some nasty people around but then you don’t know what’s made them be like that.
“When you’re an adult you get that but when you’re a kid you don’t know where it’s coming from, why it’s happening to you.
“It was mental abuse the whole time. You lived with this fear something might happen.
“My friend was at a party one time and one of the bullies knocked her front teeth out.
“It’s weird because I still live in Leeds and I’ll see some of them now and they say, ‘Hiya, do you remember me from school?’ I’m like, ‘What?’
“Maybe they don’t realise or maybe they’ve brainwashed themselves into believing they didn’t do anything wrong.”
But in her adult life, Gaynor has had to face yet more difficult situations, such as some people suggesting that she only made it as an actor because of her famous mum. Kay of course wrote Fat Friends, in which Gaynor starred.
Of that, she said, “I made a choice that I wasn’t going to be in my mum’s stuff any more.
“I did it so people couldn’t just say I’d only got the part because of my mum.
“Lots of writers, directors and producers work with the same actresses all the time but you don’t connect them because they’re not related to each other.
“It was a hard decision and my mum and lots of people I know say they can’t understand it.
“They say I shouldn’t care what other people think but I do, I can’t help it, so I decided to walk away.
“There have been times when I’ve not been working and I’ve had to see other people playing parts I know I could have done, which is really hard for me and upsets my mum even more, but I’ve had to stand by my decision.”
However, she lightheartedly added, “My mum’s got nothing at all to do with Emmerdale so we’re safe – this is all me.”
And of playing Megan Macey, Gaynor – who’s also starred in Coronation Street – said, “It’s fantastic. I can’t wait to be a baddie and start being mean.
“Everyone is so used to seeing me as ‘nice’ characters, mums and girl-next-door types.
“Even if the people I play don’t start out lovely, they usually end up that way. Look at Judy Mallet in Corrie or Lauren in Fat Friends.
“So being Megan is going to be really good fun. She’s a bit of a Kim Tate – bad but with glimmers of vulnerability.
“She’ll burst in and cause mayhem. She’s going to stir up the men and rile the women.”
We’ll see Gaynor as Megan in forthcoming episodes.