From a child star on EastEnders, measuring bras at M&S and drowning in Hollyoaks, Gemma Bissix, 31, has had more jobs than most in a lifetime.
Her next role sees her take to the stage at Buxton Opera House in the edge-of-the-seat thriller Murderous Liaisons.
So what drives her amazing work ethic? “I’ve always been taught by my family that you have to work for every penny you earn, they’ve kept me grounded,” she said.
After leaving EastEnders in 1998 and finishing school, Gemma got a job in the lingerie department of Marks and Spencer’s. “It was odd for customers, getting measured by ‘Clare from EastEnders’ but I was earning money. I managed a pub for a while and I’m also a trained electrician as my family are electrical wholesalers. When I’m not acting I do day to day jobs like everyone else.”
Gemma had no formal acting training when she won her part in EastEnders in 1993, but her natural flair for acting won over audiences and the cast alike. “It was a fantastic experience, the cast f EastEnders are like a big family and it was just an amazing way to learn,” she said.
“One of the people who looked after me was Steve McFadden who plays Phil Mitchell. I remember when I first started, I was in the canteen with my mum and he came up to us and said ‘It can be a scary place, so if you need help come and find me and I’ll help you.’ And he really did, he used to go through scripts and give me advice. I think having someone who was so high profile and probably a little bit intimidating being a cuddly teddy bear; it was a wonderful introduction to the show.”
Gemma’s character hasn’t been killed off, could she return to the soap again? “Hopefully I’ll be able to continue returning for years and years, I’d like to be able to go back in my fifties.”
She went on to play another Clare, this time in Hollyoaks, winning her Villain of the Year Award. “I won the award in 2007 which was incredible as it was the first time that Hollyoaks had won a viewers’ vote award. Even my family were surprised as EastEnders and Coronation Street had so many more viewers. It was a particular treat as people hated me that much.’
So thinking about baddies, what can we expect from her role in Murderous Liaisons? “She is a bit of a victim and you can’t quite work her out. I don’t want to give too much away but she’s a nice person, trying to get away from this horrible abusive husband. She has a plan to steal his money and make a run for it. The show itself has a brilliant script, there are lots of twists and turns, surprising even me
and I’m quite a veteran of murder mystery.”
Murderous Liaisons is at Buxton Opera House from June 2 to June 6 at 8pm, with matinees on Thursday and Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets £16-19. Contact 01298 72190 or www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk