Animal attraction’s key to soap actress Carley

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Carley Stenson will be instantly recognisable to fans of Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.

She spent more than 10 years in the show as Steph Cunningham before her tragic exit, fondly remembered as a bubbly blonde.

And she’ll certainly be making the most of her natural charms, when the Northern lass returns to her roots this week, in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at Manchester’s Opera House.

“It’s just my type of show,” she said. “And I loved the film and adored Steve Martin in his 1980s prime.

“The cast are wonderful. It’s classy and elegant too.

“The shows I’ve done, like Legally Blonde and Shrek, I’m used to seeing little kids at stage door, so this is grown up and a completely different audience.”

Carley is relishing the chance to play the glamorous female lead Christine Colgate.

“She wraps them round her little finger,” the St Helens-born star giggles, keen not to give away too much of the story for those who’ve not seen the film.

And while ‘blondes’ – ‘legal’ or otherwise – have been key stage roles so far, in reality Carley’s a long way off that stereotype.

When not acting, she studies animal psychology and has set up a blog to write about and promote animal rescue charities and centres up and down the country while on this tour.

It’s a passion she shares with boyfriend Danny Mac – also an ex-Hollyoaks actor, whose character Dodger left Blackpool-born Nikki Sanderson’s character Maxine in the lurch when he sailed off into the Mersey sunset earlier this year.

Such is their dedication, they spent a two-week holiday at the Na’ankuse park in Namibia last year, caring for animals.

“We wanted to make sure we were going somewhere that really got the money and our support for the animals,” she said.

“We didn’t actually meet through Hollyoaks,” Carley explained as an aside.

“He came to see Legally Blonde on the day of the royal wedding, and while I usually go straight home after a show, I went to the pub that night and we became friends. We got together a few months later.

“We do both love animals – our dog lives with his mum and our home will be a farm with a million rescue dogs – he had on his bucket list looking after a baboon.

“I don’t think he anticipated changing a nappy on one though, which was one of our jobs at Na’ankuse.”

* Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Opera House, Manchester, tonight, until Saturday, May 30. Call 0844 871 3018.