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Tricia Penrose plays Gina Ward

Tricia Penrose plays Gina WardThis year Tricia Penrose celebrates ten years behind the bar of the Aidensfield Arms playing one of Britain's favourite barmaids, Gina Ward.

"Gina was just a little girl when she first landed in Aidensfield and now she's a grown mature woman", says Tricia. "She's responsible - a landlady and the licensee of the pub. I never thought that would happen when I first started playing her."

When we first saw Gina she was on probation for receiving stolen goods.

"She's come a long way since she was the waif who turned up to work with her uncle to save her from a life of crime," Tricia laughs. "When I landed the part I thought she could go one of two ways. She'd either become a bit of a rogue and, like Greengrass, be a thorn in the side of the police or she'd mend her ways and buckle down to work in the pub. I'm pleased she's taken the right road - she's sweet and innocent and in the midst of all the goings on in the village I think the viewers are pleased she's there. When you're in the pub you know there'll be a bit of light relief from that episode's criminal activity."

Not that the Aidensfield Arms hasn't had its fair share of dealings with the criminal fraternity.

"In all long running series the pub is often the hub of activity", says Tricia. "The Aidensfield Arms has probably seen more villains through the doors than Wormwood Scrubs! There's often two ways of working out who the villain is in an episode - whether they're staying in the pub and whether Gina fancies them or not!"

Gina's ability to fall for the wrong men has been her biggest weakness and, in the last series nearly landed her in serious trouble after she was framed for a hit and run accident.

"Bless her, she always falls for them!" Tricia says. "I wish she'd settle down with a nice bloke but there's something that attracts her to danger like a moth to the flame. Her brush with the law last series really woke her up though. It was terrible for her and I think she'll be more cautious in the future."

Rhea about Gina Ward:

"The bubbly barmaid, Gina, does not appear in my early books but everyone, including me, loves her. She came into the series having been sent to live with Uncle George at the Aidensfield Arms because she had committed a petty crime in Liverpool and had been placed on probation. Her new life in Aidensfield offered a challenge to which she responded, and when George became ill, she took over the running of the pub with great charm and efficiency. Tricia Penrose's portrayal of Gina is excellent and we all hope Gina finds true happiness in the future."

Tricia would like to see Gina get on with her career as well as finding a more permanent love.

"I think it's great that Oscar is her boss", she says. "They have a love hate relationship but are really like a father and daughter. Despite this I would like to see her take over the pub completely in the near future. I'd also like to see her with a man! I can't believe she let Phil Bellamy slip through her fingers!"

As well as seeing Gina grow up over the last ten years, Tricia feels she's grown up alongside her.

"Heartbeat has been a great learning curve for me; I couldn't have wished for a more fantastic job," she says. "I know, like Gina, that I've grown up too. I couldn't believe it when I got the role - and thinking back I don't know how I did it. Little me amongst all those huge name actors ten years ago. It was so daunting I think I just shut my eyes on the first read through day and got on with it!"

As well as getting the chance to work with the regular cast of the series Tricia has particularly enjoyed meeting the guest artists who have become such a major part of the history of the show.

"I get unbelievably excited when they tell us who's coming in!" she confesses. "It's been fantastic working with Lulu this year as I'd just done her Audience With a few days before she filmed her episode. I loved David Essex - and he brought his mum up to watch the filming because she's such a big fan. My favourite though had to be Gary Barlow. I was just the biggest Take That fan. When I heard he was coming on I was just overwhelmed - like a kid at one of their concerts!".

Tricia's first television role was in Brookside as Damon Grant's girl friend. Away from Heartbeat Tricia is a regular team captain on Channel 5's popular entertainment show Night Fever. This Christmas she's been Aladdin in pantomime in Nottingham.

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