Claire King is loving being back on Emmerdale – because her superb*tch Kim Tate is one of the best characters on the box.
And Claire admits she no longer gets surprised by Kim’s shocking storylines because she reckons the much-loved character can “literally get away with murder”.
The actress, who has played Kim on and off for 32 years, recently made a return to the Dales after five months away shielding due to her rheumatoid arthritis and lowered immune system.
And Claire, 58, says: “I think Kim Tate is one of the best characters on telly.
“I know it’s camp and OTT sometimes and not totally realistic, but it’s fun playing her because you get to say and do things to people you’d never dream of in real life.
“That’s half the fun of playing this character, you literally get away with murder.”
Kim Tate regularly ranks highly on lists of the best soap villains and long-term fans will remember the chilling scenes where she watched her first husband Frank Tate die while calmly applying her lipstick.
“Whatever they throw at me, I go ‘that’s strange’, but I’ll get on and do it,” says Claire.
“I used to get surprised by Kim’s storylines 20 years ago, but now I’m beyond that point.”
Despite Kim’s devious nature, the star believes she does have a “soft side”.
“She has mellowed in the past – over her family and people she cares about and loves,” says Claire.
“Kim does have a soft side and she does get hurt, but she is very good at not showing it.
“She keeps up this strong plate of armour, and that’s why she seems to have a tough front. She feels things inside, but she doesn’t give it away because she sees doing that as a weakness.”
In real life Claire reckons she’s a lot warmer than cold-hearted Kim. “We share a love of horses and we’re both very organised and business-minded, but I’m a lot softer than Kim,” she says.
“I think I’ve got a better sense of humour, too. She has got one but it’s quite sharp at times.”
Kim’s latest storyline sees her take Gabby Thomas (Rosie Bentham) under her wing in what Emmerdale producers have dubbed “the battle for Home Farm”.
And her conniving character sees the potential in convincing Gabby to do her dirty work for her.
Claire explains: “She sees the potential in Gabby and wants to give her lots of other little dirty jobs to do.
“Kim thinks Gabby could be manipulated into being quite a useful accomplice for her. She sees that Gabby has this edge to her – she’s not just smart, but she’s got a little dangerous side and I think Kim likes that.
“She also needs Gabby on side to be an ally because as we all know, they are few and far between for Kim Tate.”
But Kim may need to watch her back, as scheming Gabby could be there to take the crown as Emmerdale’s top female villain.
“She could take her place,” says Claire. “This wouldn’t be the first time Kim has been booted out of Home Farm and had to move into the village and live a very humble life with everyone laughing at her.
“I could imagine it happening again – but Kim Tate always fights back.”
Claire sees this storyline running for a few months, and “possibly even years”.
“Theres so many people involved in it, and there’s a lot of history there,” she adds.
“You can expect a few clashes with the various families and the dynasty and the power involved with it, and there’s some quite emotional scenes coming up.”
The latest storyline has also given her the chance to work more closely with 19-year-old Rosie, who Claire describes as a “true professional”.
But she admits she was very different to Rosie when she was in her late teens. “I had pink hair and was running around in a punk band,” she laughs.
Kim’s return has also seen the businesswoman strike up an affair with Will Taylor (Dean Andrews).
But while they’ve enjoyed passionate scenes, including a New Year’s Eve episode where viewers were left “flustered” by Kim’s vampy appearance in a figure-hugging black gown as she attempted to seduce Will, all is not as it seems.
In classic Kim Tate style Claire says her character is actually “using him”.
“She’s not serious at all about Will,” says Claire. “She likes him because it’s uncomplicated.
“Kim has so much to sort out at Home Farm that she’s using him as a bit of a deflection. He’s a bit of a play toy really.
“But there’s a back story to him having buried a body on Kim’s grounds, so he’s needing to keep her sweet and on side so she doesn’t discover it.
“They both have their reasons for a bit of fun.”
- Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV