Emmerdale Viv Hope star now – creepy co-star rift, job U-turn and soap return

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It’s been 11 years since Emmerdale icon Viv Hope was tragically killed off in the Post Office explosion which also claimed the life of Terry Woods.

Viv, wife to Bob Hope, was a stalwart of the soap world, having appeared in the Dales from 1993 until her soap death in 2011, played by Deena Payne.

Deena appeared in a whopping 2,037 episodes of the ITV soap, with her character initially married to Reg Dawson before giving birth to children including Donna Windsor, Cathy and Heath Hope and Scott Windsor.

Viv appeared in plenty of iconic storylines over the years, heading to prison after committing conspiracy to defraud after Freddy disappears with charity money she and Bob raised.

But what is actress Deena Payne doing now? From her feud with a co-star to her career U-turn, Daily Star takes a look.

'Creepy' co-star rift

Though Viv and Bob’s chemistry throughout their romance was unrivalled by any of his subsequent beaus, Deena admits she found actor Tony Audenshaw ‘creepy’ at first.

The actress begged ITV bosses not to hire Tony to play her on-screen hubby – but things didn’t work out as she wanted them to.

Speaking on the Soap From The Box podcast, she explained: "The truth being there were six people auditioning for Bob and the producer came up to me and said, ‘Look, did you have any feelings about any of them?’

"And I said, ‘Look, just not number six because he was really creepy’, and that was Tony. Anyway, bless him, not that anyone told him, and he got the job."

She added: "In retrospect he was so right. He used to backcomb his hair like Viv did. They were too peas in pod, they really were."

Career U-turn

Keen Emmerdale fans may not be aware, but Deena was actually a singer by trade before beginning her acting career.

She toured with former Animals keyboard player Alan Price as a backing singer, before joining up to novelty girl band Cats UK – scoring a Top 30 hit in the UK with the track Luton Airport in 1979.

And after a long stint in Emmerdale, Deena has returned to her musical roots and now runs a dance school, whose lessons start from just £6 a pop.

Deena was initially taught to dance by none other than Strictly Come Dancing star Arlene Phillips, eventually ending up performing in West End shows before Emmerdale came along.

On her website Dance With Deena, Deena wrote: "My soul expression is dance! I am inspired by music, in fact, I love it!

"I’ve danced since the age of two. There's no greater gift than passing on my passion to anyone who wants to give it a go."

She is also a qualified aromatherapist, and practises Tarot and other wellness techniques.

'Secret' husband

Away from the spotlight, Deena’s love life has been a little less dramatic than Viv’s.

When she was just 24, she walked out on her first marriage to famous percussionist Frank Ricotti, who played with Elton John among others.

Speaking to The Mirror, she explained: "My husband was a lovely man, Frank Ricotti, a very well-known percussionist who played with Elton John. I just wanted my independence. It was a classic situation, really – I was too young to be settled down.

"We're still friends, but back then I wanted to be off, travelling and seeing the world, so I just shifted a gear and moved out."

In 1989, after her divorce, Deena went on to romance The Sweet musician and current partner Steve Grant, with whom she shares a son, William.

Emmerdale return

Deena admits to being "hurt" by Viv’s death in the Dales – but hasn’t ruled out a return for her character.

On the Soap From The Box podcast last year, Deena admitted: “That was a bit of a funny thing, my death.

"I wasn’t furious, I was a bit hurt I think because having ridden so many waves and really enjoyed it.

"[Producer] Steve Frost thanked me and said you’d have a really good storyline out but we can’t think of anything for the future. And I thought, hmm someone with a history, when you’re new you don’t have a history to bring things back.

"I was a bit taken aback when I got the script."

She went on: "I was waiting for a storyline to work up and I’d got pantomime because I knew I was going.

"I just went up and asked if I was in anything that week because I’m starting pantomime and she said: ‘Oh you’ve gone, you’re not in it.’

"And the script I had got – I didn’t even cry out for help. I just died."

It’s not the first time she complained about Viv’s death, as she hit out at ITV bosses back in 2011, explaining it was an "anti-climax".

She told The Mirror: "I was very disappointed with my departure. And I think the viewers will be, too. Having followed Viv for so long and travelled with her on her ups and downs, I think they’d want a better build-up so they could really get into it and give her a good send-off.

"If they had to kill me off, they could at least have given me a nice funeral befitting Viv, instead of being shunted out of the Dales. You can’t be in a soap forever. But I feel let down by the way Viv’s been written out."

However, with Viv’s dead body never seen on-screen – and her remains instead carted back down south to be with the rest of the Windsors – there is potential for her return.

She teased in 2021: "You didn’t see the body, did you?"

Rival soap stint

Since leaving Emmerdale, Deena has continued to perform in plenty of shows – mainly on stage.

Along with appearing in the hit play Calendar Girls as Cora, she also appeared in On Tidy Endings at the Tristan Bates Theatre in Covent Garden.

But she hasn’t stopped her on-screen roles, either – and has even appeared in another soap.

In 2020, Deena appears as Patricia Taymount in BBC medical soap Doctors for one episode, along with documentary-style improv show Crime Stories in 2012 as Irene Harper.

Deena was reunited with her co-stars in 2020 for The Big Quiz: Coronation Street Vs Emmerdale, and has made several other guest appearances on shows like Loose Women, Pointless Celebrities and The Wright Stuff.

Emmerdale airs weekdays at 7pm on ITV

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