EMMERDALE favourite Anna Nightingale has revealed she suffered crippling panic attacks on the set of the ITV soap after struggling to juggle her workload with motherhood.
The 30-year-old — known to millions of the show’s fans as Andrea Tate — told how she had to be consoled by fellow cast members after one attack left her in tears, saying: “It was like a nightmare.”
Her revelation comes a week after we told how Emmerdale was rocked by an explosive row between cast members including Matthew Wolfenden and Isabel Hodgins.
And Anna — whose character Andrea was killed off last month during Super Soap Week — told how filming the high-pressure scenes could have easily pushed some cast members to the edge.
Matthew and Isabel had travelled to a waterfall at Tees Barrage water park in Stockton-on-Tees to film what was billed as one of the show’s biggest stunts.
A source said: “A comment was made that unintentionally caused offence, and an argument broke out among some of the cast members.”
It led to a halt in filming while bosses made enquiries.
Asked about filming high-pressure scenes while pregnant, Anna said: “When you film scenes like that the cast, the crew, everybody, is being pushed.
"And they are pushing themselves too, because they want the work they are doing to be good.
“When you’re filming special episodes people are tired and people are emotional, because they are working so hard.
“Then they are doing stunts as well. I wasn’t aware of an argument because I wasn’t working with the cast involved, so I can’t comment on the specifics.
“But I know that under those circumstances it wouldn’t take very much for people to get to that place.
“That said, I’ve checked in with people on the show since who say things are good. And Matthew and Izzy are best mates, so I’m sure they will be supporting each other.”
Anna, who has daughter Autumn, four, with fiance Daren Dixon, recently revealed she was five months pregnant with their second child when she filmed her dramatic exit storyline.
It was the jaw-dropping climax to Super Soap Week, as serial killer Meena Jutla (Paige Sandhu) brutally beat Andrea and left her to die in a blazing maze.
Anna says she “thrived” while filming her final scenes earlier this year.
But she did admit to experiencing a dark period on Emmerdale six months after her screen debut in 2019.
She said: “Those final scenes were a different experience for me, because I knew it was the beginning of the end. I was working towards a goal, so I loved every minute.
“I had to be careful not to take any risks with mine or my baby’s health, because nothing is worth that. But the team was so brilliant with me and I really thrived, in spite of the intensity.
“It was a stark difference to where I was six months after joining the show, when my physical and mental health really began to deteriorate because I was so exhausted.
“We had to establish Andrea as a character, so I was soon on 60-hour weeks.
“I was commuting between Leeds for filming and London, and there were weeks when I didn’t see Autumn from Sunday to Friday.
“Those were some of the toughest times. I was working so hard — like everyone does on Emmerdale — and my immune system was struggling because I was so run down.
"Then my mental health went. I started to feel lonely, like I was a failure. Then social media reared its head. I had an invitation to join a Facebook group called Everything Wrong With Anna Nightingale’s Face.
“In hindsight I find that hilarious, but it hit me at the wrong time.
“I was frustrated because I didn’t feel like I was doing the best job I could or being the best mum I could be. And yet it felt like I never stopped.
“I definitely felt like I was going to burn out. And that’s when the panic attacks started.”
Anna told how her worst attack — which began while the cameras were rolling in the soap’s famous Woolpack Pub — hit her during a scene with more than 20 fellow cast members.
She said candidly: “I felt completely overwhelmed.
“I couldn’t breathe, I didn’t know what I was doing and I couldn’t remember any of my lines. It was like a nightmare because it was so public.
‘I was shaking’
“It’s a different thing when you suffer anxiety when you’re with your family, but this was in front of people I worked with and I cared about their opinions. I just couldn’t recall the script.
“Then the panic kicked in and I started sweating. I was shaking, my breathing went and I was crying.
“The worst thing was that the scene had 20 people in it and five moving parts, so we couldn’t stop. But my co-stars, Alex Lincoln and Eden Taylor-Draper, who play Jamie Tate and Belle Dingle, were brilliant.
“They helped me through it step by step. They were incredible. And almost everyone on that set told me they’d had an experience like it at some point.
“The Emmerdale bosses came to see me too, and they were very supportive, so I will always be grateful for that.
“But at the same time you are so aware of feeling like you can’t do the job.
“At the time I really was absolutely mortified.
“But in hindsight I’m grateful for the experience, because it feels like something I had to go through.”
Anna, who trained at The BRIT School in London alongside singers Adele, 33, and Katie Melua, 37, went on: “I feel like I’ve really grown as a person in the past few years, from having a baby and being a mum to going back to work.
“My mum is my role model, and watching her work so hard when I was little gave me a really strong work ethic that I wanted Autumn to have too.
“Parts of it have been daunting, but you find ways of getting through it, and I hope that I can inspire other women to do the same.
“When we all came back to work after the pandemic I felt like I’d really turned a corner, and the past year on Emmerdale has been one of the best years of my life.
"If I could have done flexible working after my next maternity leave I would have stayed even longer.
“But I know that wouldn’t have been realistic, and I’m thrilled that I got to leave on such a high.
“Emmerdale has been an incredible experience, and it has given me the confidence to pursue other projects outside of acting.
“I’d like to try writing, I have some ideas I’d like to get on paper.
“I don’t have a list of jobs I want to do. What I’m hoping for is more opportunities to do good jobs with good people. Because that’s what we all want, isn’t it?”
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