Double trouble; Hollyoaks clocks up its 1,000th episode this week, but co-stars Elize du Toit and Laila Rouass reveal that being a soap babe is no guarantee of a happy love life. In fact, they reckon it makes men run a mile.
ELIZE DU TOIT (IZZY CORNWELL)
In her three years as Hollyoaks' upper class barmaid Izzy, South Africa-born Elize du Toit has become one of our hottest soap stars. She has been voted the sexiest female on the telly and has graced the cover of various lads' mags. But she is genuinely bemused by all the attention, especially since she is currently single.
"I don't know what this babe thing is all about," says Elize, 23. "Men don't even chat me up. Perhaps they are scared of me. I'd love to go out on dates, meet people for dinner and get to know them, but it doesn't happen. Perhaps dating like that is old-fashioned now, because anyone I've ever been out with I've met through friends or work."
Elize has been on her own since her romance with former co-star Ben Hull - who now plays Brookside's Dr Parr - ended last year after nine months. Gossips had a field day when she was then seen out with co-star Nick Pickard (Tony), who is a friend of Ben's.
"I was only 22 when my relationship with Ben finished," says Elize. "He is a lovely guy and we had a great time together. Neither of us called it off, it just came to a natural end. But the story about Nick and I having a thing together was totally untrue."
In the soap, she is experiencing love troubles of a different kind now that Izzy's on-off boyfriend, also called Ben, played by Marcus Patric, has caught the eye of cunning cop Dale (Laila Rouass).
For the moment, Elize is happy spending time alone in her 200-year-old stone cottage in a leafy suburb of Liverpool. Her life has changed a lot since the summer of 2000, when she beat 5,000 other girls in an open audition for Hollyoaks in Edinburgh, where she was studying history. For starters, it meant giving up her degree. But she has never looked back.
"When I see myself on magazine covers I feel as if I don't know the person looking back at me," she says. "Hollyoaks hasn't changed me at all. I never thought I'd be here three years on and still enjoying myself, but I am and it's still a surprise."
LAILA ROUASS (DALE JACKSON)
Laila Rouass only joined Hollyoaks five months ago, but already her sizzling performances have set the screen alight.
As ruthless cop Dale, she has seduced Izzy's fireman boyfriend Ben. She is also at the heart of one of the teen soap's most dramatic storylines as she gets closer to nailing the serial killer who has been terrifying residents. The murderer, who claims another victim this week, is finally unmasked in Hollyoaks' 1,000th episode.
"As a newcomer it's great to be involved in such a big plot," says Laila, 27. "I'm loving every minute of it."
Born in London to Indian-Moroccan parents, Laila grew up in Tangiers as one of a family of six. After a stint as a model, she won parts in several films, including The Four Feathers in which she kissed Aussie heartthrob Heath Ledger. She has also presented the Miss India contest and hosted shows on MTV. But she came back to Britain two years ago in search of new challenges.
"Hollyoaks immediately caught my eye because it's so different - it's young, glamorous and exciting," says Laila, who beat 70 other girls to the part of Dale and moved from London to Liverpool to start work last December. "It was unbelievable. I don't know how I got it. I didn't even flash my boobs!"
But as a single girl who recently came out of a long-term relationship, her sexy TV image has done nothing to boost her off-screen love life.
"I'm surprised about being labelled a soap babe, but I don't mind," she grins. "I get quite a bit of attention from men when I go out, but nothing ever comes of it. They tend to huddle in a corner talking about me rather than to me. British and Indian men are fairly reserved and don't want to make the first move. It's weird. I feel like telling them to come over and chat me up.
"I'd like to settle down and have children one day - but not yet. I'm having too much of a good time."
l Hollyoaks 1,000th episode, Easter Monday, C4, 6.30pm.
CHOPPY WATERS: Izzy and Ben at the pool; FATAL ATTRACTION: Dale seduces Ben; LONELY HEARTS: Elize (left) and Laila; Picture: JOHN FERGUSON