As fans of Emmerdale will probably know, Natalie Anderson – who plays feisty barmaid Alicia Gallagher – is expecting her first baby, a boy, later this year…
However, though she’ll disappear from our screens during her maternity leave, Alicia has told the Daily Mail that she intends to be back on the show by Christmas.
Her exit storyline begins in tonight’s episode, when we see Alicia thumping Val Pollard (Charlie Hardwick) in the face after she interrupts a pivotal moment in the budding romance between Alicia and David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden).
And when Val calls in the police to report the assault, it emerges that Alicia has a criminal record for a previous assault on one of her mum’s carers. So, as she’s broken the conditions of her suspended sentence – by committing another crime – she could face a prison sentence…
And although Alicia’s fate is being kept under wraps, we might assume she will indeed be off to prison, given she’s going to be away from the show for a few months.
Of her exit storyline, Natalie, who’s also starred in Wire in the Blood, Holby City and Dalziel and Pascoe, said, “I really thought they would say, ‘She’s gone off in a taxi to see her sister’, something really normal, and that would be that.
“Then this elaborate story came about with a previous conviction and I was going, ‘Thank you’. I just thought it was brilliant. I felt privileged they had thought of it that way.
“The producers have been amazing in the fact they have said I can take as long as I want to. I am not under any pressure.
“Personally, I love my job, and I am thinking maybe I want to come back towards the back end of the year.
”My husband works from home so the baby will only be with his dad. But obviously it is not set in stone yet, because my feelings could well completely change.
”First and foremost my priorities are my baby, then Emmerdale. Whatever they need me for I’m there, absolutely.”
I can’t wait to see her back! In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at tonight’s Alicia Vs Val’s Face action…