Actress Verity Rushworth, who started out as a child star in Emmerdale, is returning to the Yorkshire soap – with a bombshell.
Verity, who went to Footsteps Theatre School in Eccleshill and had her first theatre role at Bradford Alhambra, is stepping back into the shoes of her character Donna Windsor, who survived a stable fire, a tractor crash, a gas explosion and a failed marriage before leaving the soap in 2009.
Viewers last saw Donna, a policewoman, transferring to Essex after cheating on husband Marlon Dingle. She returns to Emmerdale with the shocking news that she has since given birth to Marlon’s daughter.
“Everything has gone wrong for Donna,” said Verity, reprising the role after five years in musical theatre. “She’s a single mum, struggling with a daughter who’s starting to ask questions about who her daddy is.”
Verity, 28, of Rawdon, had no hesitations about returning to Emmerdale for a five-month stint.
“It’s a really juicy storyline with lots of twists and turns,” she said, adding that she was nervous about returning.
“I was petrified. I was in the car, driving into the village and it all came flooding back. Thank God my first scene was with Mark Charnock, who plays Marlon. It was like I’d never been away.”
A former pupil at St Mary’s School in Menston, Verity landed her first stage role aged three, as a Sunbeam in an Alhambra pantomime. Aged nine, she played one of the Von Trapp children in The Sound of Music at Yeadon Town Hall.
While at Scala performing arts school in Horsforth, she joined Emmerdale, aged 12.
“It was a great experience and I learned loads,” she said. “I was constantly busy – filming, keeping up with my schoolwork and doing Scala – but I wouldn’t have swapped it for the world.”
As a trained singer, she appeared on TV’s Soapstar Superstar, following in the footsteps of her grandmother, a jazz singer performing in Bradford clubs.
Verity’s first post-Emmerdale role was in the West End production of Hairspray, where she met associate director Dominic Shaw.
They married last year in the Yorkshire Dales. Verity also played Maria in The Sound of Music, opposite Jason Donovan, and more recently played murderess Velma Kelly in Chicago.
“I wanted to feel what it was like to perform live in front of an audience and feel the adrenaline,” she said.
“You get adrenaline on set, but you know if it goes wrong it’s going to be okay. On stage, if it goes wrong, you’ve got 2,000 people to entertain and you don’t want to hear the seats flipping up as they leave the theatre.”
Having just bought a house in London, she admitted she’d “have to sleep on it” if asked to return to Emmerdale permanently.
But for now, she’s delighted to be back on the set which was once her second home. “Since I’ve been out I’ve done some great roles and ticked some really big boxes,” she said. “It feels like now is as good a time as any to come back. It’s like coming full circle.”