Emmerdale legend has extra job on ITV set and unexpected nickname from co-stars

Lisa Riley is known as "Nan" when she's walking around on the set of Emmerdale.

The 47-year-old actress has played Mandy Dingle on the ITV soap since 2001, but it seems like she's got an additional job away from the cameras. Lisa said her castmates come to her for support and advice when they're going through tough times.

And she's the best Emmerdale star to talk to when it comes to grief, because the actress has lost both of her parents, meaning she knows a thing or two about how to cope with the pain. Lisa, who is promoting Sue Ryder's A Sense of Grief campaign, says they seek her out because anything they tell her will "go to the grave.

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Asked if she helps her castmates when they've lost someone they love, she replied: "Yeah constantly. They all call me nan. The young ones all come to me, and the older ones. They know that they've got loyalty, they know that they've got trust with me.

"Whatever they tell me will go to the grave. And also, I will advise them that it's okay that when people at work have lost loved ones. Even recently, someone lost a pet. If it's a pet, it can be sheer agony.

"People go 'it's an animal', well no it's not. If that's the only contact you have in your home, it's enormous."

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The soap star also revealed that she channels real "agony" into Mandy's scenes and that sometimes her scripts remind her of mum Cath. She said: "When you work on a continuing drama [Emmerdale] like we do, and there's 61 regular cast members, there's inevitably going to be storylines are a trigger to us. We're portraying these constant array of stories, a constant array of emotions.

"Sometimes it's really good to either use it in your performance, play that agony for real, address it and go 'No, this is good, because I'm helping people.' By playing Mandy Dingle, and also by being Lisa Riley, I'm helping other people deal with whatever emotion they might be [feeling]. That's why we tell stories."

Lisa is a Celebrity Ambassador for Sue Ryder's A Sense of Grief campaign. The campaign was launched to raise awareness of the huge impact our senses have on the grieving process.

She said: "I often have sensory memories of my wonderful mum which can trigger feelings of grief and Sue Ryder's research shows that this is far from uncommon in the bereavement process. I want to encourage people caught in these moments to be able to talk about them and acknowledge how tough they can be. I hope that this campaign will not only help those who are grieving, but also provide a framework of understanding for those who are supporting the bereaved."

Lisa, who lost her mum Cath in 2012, says there are multiple sensory triggers that remind her of her mum. She said: "My mum used to make me veggie toad in the hole, but she'd often burn it. She'd always say, ‘if you ate normal sausages, I wouldn't burn them!’”

Another is the colour yellow. “My mum always wore yellow, and she had a yellow aura which is associated with happy and sociable people. Everyone at her funeral wore yellow, hankies, ties, fascinators – whenever I see it, I think of her and feel her with me.”

Lisa Riley is supporting Sue Ryder’s new campaign, A Sense of Grief. To find out more, please visit sueryder.org/senses.

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