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Look!: FAMILY FORTUNE; Dawn Collinson meets a familiar mum in Hollyoaks.

Byline: Dawn Collinson

SHE'S been rebellious on Albert Square and tarty in the Dales. But now actress Helen Pearson is facing her biggest soap challenge to date - as an instant mum of four tearaway teenagers.

``They're four terrors, but four beautiful terrors,'' says Helen, laughing. ``They're stunning - it must be genetic!''

Given their looks it's no surprise that the family, headed by Helen's character Frankie Dean, are the latest new arrivals in TV's sexiest soap - Hollyoaks.

Fans are already familiar with her on-screen daughter Steph - played by Merseyside actress Carly Stenson - the bad girl who has tormented classmates in between bedding Christian virgin Brian and soccer lothario Scott.

This week they'll see the rest of the Dean clan and actress Helen, who has no children herself, admits they're a bit of a handful.

``The first thing you can say about the family is they're all absolutely mad,'' she says. ``But they're still very functional because although they live in this chaos, actually they're really supportive of each other. They're quite solid, like an old-fashioned family unit.''

Like her kids, Frankie is fiercely independent and strong-willed. By day she's a mobile hairdresser and nail technician and at night she sings in clubs with her husband Johnny.

``She loves her kids to bits but she doesn't spend much time in the kitchen, it's a bit of a Pot Noodle situation,'' jokes Helen.

``And they're not a rich family so they're all doing various scams to keep body and soul together.''

Frankie's singingbrought back memories for Helen, who began her career on the cabaret circuit.

``When I first went into the business, it was the best way to get an Equity card so at 18 I was singing show songs like You'll Never Walk Alone around the clubs,'' she recalls. ``I was as green as grass and going into those smoke-filled dens of iniquity where the audience was mostly quite hostile blokes.

``It was terrifying, looking back, and if I'm ever doing something now that I think is scary I remember that - and it just doesn't compare.''

Helen made her first brief appearance in Hollyoaks this summer, but now she's about to become a regular character which means weekly commuting from her London home.

As her third stint in a soap, though, she's likely to already be a familiar face to many viewers.

``I was in EastEnders back in 1989/90, with my haberdashery stall,'' she laughs. ``They were trying to close the market down and Pete Beale and me were spearheading a campaign to save it. I was this quite militant old bag, really, except I was a young bag then.''

But it's as Emmerdale's Carol Wareing that most viewers are likely to remember Helen. She made an impact last year during a 12-month run in the Yorkshire soap, as Viv Windsor's friend.

``First she had a relationship with Terry, who ran the Woolpack, then she gazumped Viv over buying the B & B,'' says Helen.

``But mostly she didn't do anything except spend her husband's money, drink champagne and flirt with every single man in Emmerdale.

``She was basically a bit of a money-grabbing old slapper!''

CAPTION(S):

Helen wears black marl cardigan (pounds 85) and blue scarf (pounds 35) From Reiss
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 30, 2002
Words:540
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