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I had a narrow escape from a TV killer and the press; Dawn Collinson talks to the soap star who is up for a major award next month.

Byline: Dawn Collinson

HOLLYOAKS actress Karen Hassan knew she'd landed the gritty soap role she so desperately wanted when she took two phone calls from back home in Belfast.

One congratulated her on being given such a major storyline ... the other asked if she was about to meet a grisly end at the hands of a serial killer!

"My mum rang me up when I told her my character Lynsey was getting a big story to say how excited she was. Then when it all started to happen she rang again and said 'ooh, are you going to die'?" she laughs.

"But I wouldn't tell her. I said 'you'll have to wait and see'. My family have got really into it and I like to sit and get their reactions to things. I didn't want to ruin the suspense for them."

And suspense there's been, nail-biting hour after hour of it.

Last autumn saw Lynsey involved in a potentially fatal game of cat and mouse with psychopathic Silas, who had already murdered before and was intent on making her his next victim.

As the plot progressed, Lynsey set out to prove his guilt, although along the way she lost most of her friends, her job, her home and almost her life.

It was gripping stuff, and a performance which has earned 30-year-old Karen a Best Actress nomination in the British Soap Awards.

She's up against Alison King who plays Carla in Coronation Street and EastEnders' Jo Joyner and Nina Wadia.

The final shortlist was announced three weeks ago, but Karen is still trying to get the news to sink in.

"It's an amazing feeling," she smiles, "I'm just genuinely really, really happy to be shortlisted. The other actresses are phenomenal and my mum is so excited. It's great for me to see my family so proud."

For Karen, the awards nod is the culmination of a Hollyoaks story which nearly never was.

Having studied drama at university, she first joined the soap on a five-episode contract back in 2008 to appear in the Later spin-off as a childhood friend of Cheryl, played by fellow Belfast girl Bronagh Waugh.

"Once those five were done and dusted I was off back home," she recalls. "I had a year-and-a-half out, doing theatre and a couple of TV dramas, and then I got a call from Bronagh one day.

"She gave me the heads up that they were going to ask me back, but I didn't want to get my hopes up until it was all signed. Then they phoned me and all of a sudden I was back and living in Liverpool full-time."

Her reintroduction, though, was low-key at first; so much so that Karen wondered if her character was doomed to stay in the background.

"I remember thinking I was kind of plodding along, so I went to see the producer and said 'are you not happy with me?' But it turned out he'd been thinking like I had, that it was time for me to do something more, and that's when he told me about the Silas storyline. That was brilliant news and I couldn't wait to throw myself into it."

Once the intensity of the story started to kick in, she admits it was draining.

"Absolutely," she says, "but I wanted that, I really did. I wanted to be in the thick of everything, and going home late at night complaining how tired I was - not that I did ever complain because I was so happy when I was working.

"I was virtually living on the set, though, and I used to joke that I should just bring a sleeping bag in and stay in the green room. But to be honest, because you're stressed and tired it actually makes it easier to act those scenes because your emotions are all a bit heightened."

With Lynsey's tormentor now behind bars, Karen is looking to her next on-screen challenge. She's giving nothing away, but there is a tangled romance on the horizon.

In the meantime, there's the little matter of the biggest soap night of the year ahead.

So, is she ready for her close-up? "Oh it can be quite nerve-racking, I remember the first time I went to an awards my heart was in my mouth," she smiles. "I look back at photos and all I can see is fear on my face. Now I do enjoy it a bit more, but when you're in the car and you see all the flashes going off and you hear this huge white noise, you do still get a bit angsty about it.

"At least this time, I'll be sure about the dress because I'm having it made by a designer back home. Last year my dress was see-through and I didn't realise it until the last minute. I got on the red carpet and just ran down there as quick as I could, covering myself up with my handbag!"? Voting for the Soap Awards closes on Friday, April 27. To vote for Karen visit


TERRIFYING: Karen with serial killer Silas, played by Jeff Rawle EXCITED: Karen Hassan, who is up for a soap award for her role as Lynsey in Hollyoaks
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2012
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