Gemma Merna, the award winning actress who rise to fame beginning in 2006 with her portrayal of lovable Carmel McQueen on Hollyoaks, has now become a feature of the evening television screens of huge numbers of students. She visited Walkabout in Nottingham’s City Centre to launch Singshack Karaoke, a brand new, state of the art private-booth karaoke concept that was launched exclusively in our fair city. Impact’s Adam Dawes and Elouise Smith got the chance to sit down and chat with Gemma about singing, acting and what she likes to do on a night out!
Aside from just loving a good sing-song, why are you launching Singshack Karaoke at Walkabout?
I really think that karaoke is one of the most enjoyable things you can do on a night out, especially when you’re with close friends. The great thing about Singshack Karaoke is that you don’t have to feel embarrassed about singing in front of strangers because you have your own private booth! Also, you can fit up to 14 people in a booth, so its great for birthdays, or even a big post-exams blow-out!
You’re on a night out with the girls. You have the mic. What is your song?
Wow, that is a toughie, just one? I have to say the song I know the most, and have the most fun with my friends is Dancing Queen by Abba. That is a truly great karaoke song!
As you said earlier, one of the great things about the booths is that you can sing with just your friends. What is your guilty pleasure song?
The one I sing when I’m in the shower, or on my own? Maybe something by Shaggy? Oh, actually, Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-A-Lot, I love it in Friends when Ross and Rachel sing that to their baby!
Is there anything you could add to Singshack Karaoke with your personal stylistic touch?
I think it looks pretty great in here, and the costumes you can wear are hilarious! (Looks round) I can’t see Dannii Minogue in here, I’d have her up, and Harold Bishop for the rapping too! Karl Kennedy would be good too; he’s got a really successful band. I remember at my first Soap Awards he walked past me and all I could think was, “Oh my God, that’s Karl Kennedy! I used to watch him every day when I got back from school.” and he was right there!
What is your singing background?
I was classically trained in singing, dancing and acting, and was really lucky to be with such talented people throughout my entire career. All the people on Hollyoaks are very talented people!
Speaking of Hollyoaks, is it a singer friendly set?
Everyone loves a good sing on the set! Nicole Barber-Lane [Myra McQueen] and I are constantly singing Barbara Streisand songs, we love a bit of Babs! Ricky Whittle [Calvin Valentine] and I had such great chemistry because we always used to sing together, it was so funny! When I got to sing Holding Out For A Hero and I had Bonnie Tyler with me, that was one of those huge moments in life – scary but absolutely fabulous!
Hollyoaks is incredibly popular with students, so what would you say that the rest of the McQueen family would sing?
Well Jen [Metcalfe, Mercedes] wouldn’t sing, no matter whether it was as her or Mercedes, she’s really shy! I think Myra would grab the mic and blast out some Tom Jones, and Tina [Leah Hackett] would probably try and sing Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush or something crazy like that.
Would you like to see Carmel sing more on Hollyoaks?
I’m really happy with how things are with my character right now on the show. To get into Hollyoaks, the audition process was huge, and they were after a stereotypical blonde bimbo type of character, so I turned up in fishnets, all covered in glitter! My acting teacher told me I did a good “dumb blonde” character, which isn’t like me at all, so I’m really happy that as an actress I’ve been able to add lots to the original idea – she’s much more of a comedic character than I think the team envisioned at the beginning. Because of that, I know the writers can write what’s best for Carmel and I can help bring in new characters, which is really thrilling to be able to do.
In terms of going out, what sort of bars and clubs do you like visiting?
Walkabout of course! (laughs). Seriously, it is a fun night out, and now with Singshack here, you have everything under one roof. Aside from that, we are a really close cast, so we tend to go out in big groups to either parties or to really nice, chilled out bars that we can just relax and have a really good time in.
What sort of restaurants do you like eating out at?
We actually went for a curry at a place called Taj Mahal on Chapel Bar in Nottingham. It was fantastic! I love really nice Indian food, and that was great. I also love going to The Living Room, Nando’s and just relaxing at home with a nice Domino’s. Just normal, nice food really.
Where are your shoes from?
(Laughs) They are Christian Louboutin. I love shoes so much, I have so many pairs! My top is from Zara, my jeans True Religion, and I found this gorgeous belt in TK Maxx. Bargain!
To book a Singshack Karaoke booth, either head to Walkabout Bar in Friary Lane, or go online to www.walkaboutbars.com.
Adam Dawes & Elly Smith