Emmerdales Samantha Giles admits husband doesn’t get her spirituality and thinks it’s nonsense
We’re used to seeing her on the small screen playing Bernice Blackstock in Emmerdale, but Samantha Giles has more than one talent up her sleeve.
Her debut children’s novel about a family of witches was a best-seller and has been translated into other languages – and she’s just released the second instalment, Rosemary And The Book Of The Dead.
Like the characters in her books, the actress, 50, identifies as a Wiccan – a follower of a modern pagan religion – and she confesses that she even cast a spell to help meet her husband, Sean Pritchard. But while their daughters – Eve, 13, and Olivia, nine – get involved in her beliefs, she admits her husband thinks it’s “nonsense”.
In her exclusive interview with OK! she told us about her Halloween rituals, what she loves about writing children’s books and why she’s excited to be playing Bernice once more…
Hi Samantha! Tell us about your books…
I’ve been bowled over by the response to my first, Rosemary And The Witches Of Pendle Hill, and I’m thrilled and overwhelmed to be published overseas. The new book is set a few months after the last one and is all about the Book Of The Dead being stolen from the British Museum.
The characters assume the baddie from the first book has taken it as he’s still looking for world domination and wants to release beasts from the underworld. The story follows how the children find the Book Of The Dead and return it to the British Museum.
Are there any themes in it?
It’s all about the fact that we should celebrate being ourselves and that we’re all diverse, unique people, and nobody should have to hide their light under a bushel.
Would you ever turn your hand to adult fiction?
Not at the moment, but I’m sure I probably will at some point. I love the freedom of children’s books. I think you’d have to be a bit more sensible with adult books, whereas I can be a bit wacky with children’s fiction.
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You identify as a Wiccan. What exactly does that mean?
The characters in the book follow Wicca too. It’s really a form of paganism, where you embrace nature and the natural cycles of the Earth. Within that, you can practise magic.
There are things all Wiccans would do, like using herbs and things like lavender to treat minor ailments, but some people take it further and make magic concoctions or spells. Not everyone does the magic side.
You’ve talked about how you cast a spell to meet your husband, Sean…
I did – it was a long time ago. I don’t often do it now, but I do make spell kits for other people – you can buy them on my website. I still do the herb stuff. I keep rosemary outside the front door because it’s lucky.
And you’ve helped out friends and co-stars with things, too?
Yeah, lots of people have tried different things like charms to change their luck. Sharon Marshall on This Morning used that when she was trying to conceive through IVF and credited that spell with being able to get pregnant and have her baby. People have bought love spells and phoenix spells for transformation. They are all things I deal with and put in the books.
What reaction do you get when people find out you’re a Wiccan?
A lot of people think all that stuff is nonsense – my husband thinks it’s all nonsense – so I’m kind of used to people thinking it’s a bit strange.
But I think it’s just whatever works for you. It’s not like I’m running around with a pair of pants on my head or anything. I’m quite boring really. Most people are interested in finding out about it, especially if they have a very positive outlook on life.
Does it come into your marriage at all?
Not really. Sean will sometimes laugh if I say something he thinks is a bit daft, but he totally accepts me. He won’t let me do reiki (hands-on healing) on him because he doesn’t believe in it, which I think is sad as I think if he opened his mind a bit he’d really benefit from it. But he certainly isn’t obstructive in any way.
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Do your girls get involved with it?
They do. They’ve both got rose quartz pieces in their bedrooms, which are calming. My eldest daughter struggles with sleep and she’s at a teenage anxiety stage, so I make little things for her and she has certain crystals. Sometimes I’ll do reiki on her if she’s having trouble sleeping.
At Halloween, do you do anything special to celebrate?
Halloween is known as Samhain to Wiccans. We believe this is the time the veil between this life and the next life is very thin. One of the things you might do is lay an extra place on your table for somebody who has passed over and you really miss.
It’s almost like saying to them that we acknowledge they are here and we’d invite them to sit with us. You’re not asking them to appear as a ghost, you’re just acknowledging them and can light candles.
Moving on, you’ve spoken about having trouble with sciatica. How are you now?
We were away on holiday and I really blasted it with loads of yoga and stretches. Thank God it only lasted a couple of days. I was lucky as it was horrendous. I think yoga and stretches massively help – as does a massage.
You returned to Emmerdale this year. What was that like?
I’m like a boomerang! It’s been really weird due to Covid. It’s nice to see the people you work with, but we’re still social distancing so it’s been quite difficult.
We’re still doing our own make-up. I have someone blow-dry my hair, which is something, but it’s very different as there are some people I haven’t seen at all since I’ve been back. It’s a very strange time to be working on a soap. We’re testing twice a week and that’s important. We have to keep going, as infections could wipe out filming.
What are your hopes for Bernice’s future?
It would be interesting to bring in Charlie, her ex-husband who’s in Australia. She went and looked after him after his car accident and it all went wrong. We could do with a few more men in the show, so that would be great.
Can you tell us anything about Emmerdale that viewers might not know?
It’s not as glamorous as it looks! If you’re on location you have to take your own cup for tea or coffee, or it’s just little cardboard ones. Since Covid we have to take our coats, umbrellas and make-up around ourselves.
We’re in charge of everything, which makes it easy to forget things. We’ve probably all got big bags under our eyes as we’re not make-up artists. I’m just praying that everyone can come back really soon.
What’s your favourite thing about the Dales?
When you’re in the village, you look around and think how lucky you are that you can be outside in this beautiful setting. All the other soaps are pretty much studio-bound or the outside bits are still part of the set. You can’t get much better than coming to work in the glorious countryside.
What’s your dream role?
I’d love it if my books got adapted for film or TV. I think they’d work well. I’d like to do a horror film. I’d love to play something more gritty and do more theatre.
Hopefully, things are opening up a bit more and there will be the opportunity to do these things in the next year or two. I still see myself as an actor who wants to play lots of different roles. You have to appreciate that as you can’t plan as an actor, you have no idea what’s around the corner.
What else is coming up for you?
I’m writing a third book and I’ve been doing some other writing stuff. I’m doing some book signings, too, which fans can check out on my website.
Rosemary and the Book of the Dead, Published by Agora Books, is available in paperback and ebook.
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