Most mums can’t resist ­digging out the baby pictures to embarrass their kids on their 18th birthdays.

But actress Anna Nightingale has something just a little more dramatic in store for hers.

The Emmerdale star was five months pregnant when she filmed scenes being aired this week – and plans to share them with her baby when he or she hits adulthood.

Tomorrow marks the start of “survival week”, in which at least one Emmerdale character is killed off.

During stunt-packed episodes, viewers will see Anna’s character Andrea Tate run for her life, scramble across boulders and become trapped in a terrifying maze.

In an exclusive interview, Anna says: “There were really tough days. Then there were days I felt really empowered and thought, ‘Wow, I’m going to show these episodes to my little one on their 18th birthday’. I’m going to say, ‘Look what mummy did when she was pregnant’!”

Anna in full bloom

During big-budget scenes, which have been compared with Hollywood horror flick The Shining, evil Meena Jutla (actress Paige Sandhu) is on a mission to murder love rival Victoria Sugden, played by Isabel Hodgins.

Now seven months pregnant, Anna is gearing up for the birth of her second child and a maternity break from TV. So could it be the end for Andrea?

“When I read the script it was so much more than I had ever expected,” she teases.

“It is definitely the most dramatic storyline I’ve ever played and in terms of Andrea’s involvement, it’s next-level stuff,” she grins. “But I can’t say more.”

Anna, 30, had to mentally and physically prepare herself for the intense schedule. She admits: “Some days I’d wake and feel 110 years old. I’d think, ‘Is this the pregnancy, or just me?’

“I knew the filming was going to be demanding so I prepared myself. I started swimming daily.

“I had a consultation with the doctor before we did these scenes and I had an incredible stunt and production team around me who said, ‘We’ll take your lead on this’.

“I had a body double, a woman called Belinda. She would do the main action parts – like Andrea falling or being pushed. But she also went above and beyond. She’d look out for hazards wherever we filmed. If we were climbing, she’d make sure I got up safely.”

Four days into the month-long schedule, Anna admits her swirling pregnancy hormones took their toll.

She goes on: “I just woke up feeling absolutely exhausted and on top of that we had some serious extremes in weather. So on this day it was 27 ­degrees and we were in helmets with backpacks and waterproofs.

“At one point I had two paramedics on standby feeding me water.

“Everyone was looking out for me but I was like, ‘It’s OK!’.”

Kim Tate played by Claire King and Andrea Tate played by Anna Nightingale

This week’s drama revolves around a survival week challenge involving 12 villagers. Viewers last week saw Anna’s character and her screen partner Charles Anderson (actor Kevin Mathurin) debating whether to go.

Things take a sinister turn when Meena tampers with an abseiling harness. Then a river raft challenge heads for disaster as one character is swept towards a waterfall. It all makes for some pretty gripping viewing.

Anna arrived in Emmerdale in 2019 after appearing in Doctors, Casualty and Ashes To Ashes.

She and her fiancé Daren Dixon already have daughter Autumn, four.

Anna and her daughter (

Image:

Anna Nightingale / Instagram)

Her Dales co-star Amy Walsh, who plays Tracy Metcalfe, is also pregnant and this month they posed together, showing off their matching bumps.

Amy, 34, is expecting her first child with EastEnders star boyfriend Toby-Alexander Smith, 30.

And Anna has drawn great support from having a fellow cast member due to give birth within weeks of her.

Other stars, like Lisa Riley and Claire King, have also supported her every step of the way.

Anna as Andrea Tate

Anna adds: “It was so great when we had such heavy scenes to then be able to switch off and have a laugh in between.

“Lisa Riley has been incredible. We shared a dressing room and there have been times over the months when I was missing my family. If I was struggling with something – be it my ­performance or personally – Lisa would be there. She’s always been this very nurturing person.”

Anna feels that in the last couple of years she has matured both on and off screen. She says: “I’m 100% different since starting out at Emmerdale because my life has changed so much.

Anna with partner Daren and daughter Autumn

“I used to worry about things in my 20s, but I have grown as a person. This role on Emmerdale is the most full-on I have had but I always give everything my best and I also want to be a good role model for my daughter.

“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt from lockdown, since having Autumn, and since reaching that milestone of 30, is to take things a day at a time. Lockdown taught us to enjoy the moment. Autumn’s catchphrase is, ‘What’s our focus today?’

“I’m really enjoying the family time. We bought Autumn a bunk bed at the weekend. Her ‘big girl bed’, she calls it. Autumn is beside herself at the prospect of being a big sister and is very practical and ­already drawing up a shopping list.

“And for me, right now it’s about finding special moments in every day. We’re hoping to go away over half-term.

“That will be the last holiday, just the three of us.”

So when three become four, will a wedding be on the horizon?

Anna says: “When it happens it really depends what stage of life we are at. Daren’s family are from the Caribbean so we have this notion of doing something really small there and then having a huge party back here.

“Whatever happens, Autumn would probably be bridesmaid... or the wedding planner. She’s so organised!”

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