Emmerdale star Paige Sandhu opens up about struggle to find work before landing Meena Jutla role and anxiety battle

Actress Paige Sandhu is relatively new to Emmerdale but her portrayal of evil nurse homicidal nurse Meena Jutla has won her an expected army of fans.

The star first appeared on our screens as Meena in September 2020, however, when Paige auditioned for the role within the ITV soap she wasn’t aware she was about to be cast as a delusional murderer.

TV bosses even phoned Paige to double check she was still up for the role, worried she wouldn’t want the part once she knew the evil nature of her on-screen character, The Mirror reports.

READ MORE: Emmerdale’s Charley Webb opens up on dream career away from acting, pregnancy cravings and a potential fourth child

Speaking of her audition, Paige said: “I could tell that she wasn’t a good-hearted soul, but it was never mentioned that she was a killer. So when they phoned to tell me that I’d got the part they wanted to know if it was OK with me.”

However, producer’s needn’t have worried.

Paige recalls: “I went ‘That sounds really great!’ She’s such an amazing character. She excites me. She goes to such dark places and she’s so different from me. It’s fun, I’m having the best time.”

Prior to joining Emmerdale last September as the estranged younger sister of Manpreet Sharma, Paige’s only TV work was an episode of Endeavour and two of Doctors. Her life now is a far cry from her early days an actress, when she battled anxiety for three years after struggling to find work.

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She says: “When I left drama school I was a very anxious person. I wasn’t getting any jobs and I was struggling.

“The anxiety took the form of insomnia. Life was hard and a struggle.”

Meena has so far pushed Leanna Cavanagh off a bridge and confessed to killing her best friend Nadine.

The murders were such a closely guarded secret that Paige and her mum were even forced to hide it from her dad.

Paige says: “When my agent told me, my mum and my sister found out because I was on speakerphone.

“My agent then called back and said: ‘Paige, apparently it’s a secret.’

“It was too late with my mum and my sister, but I thought I would be in big trouble if it came out, so I didn’t tell my dad or my other siblings. I’m still not sure whether my dad knows my mum knew about it all that time!”

Paige, who lives with her partner in London, was also told to hide her character’s nature from the rest of the cast, including Matthew Wolfenden, who plays love interest David Metcalfe.

“He would get really annoyed,” Paige laughs. “He’d say: ‘Do you know what’s going to happen with your character?’ I’d say: ‘Yes, but I can’t say.’”

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Sickened viewers have seen Meena lock Andrea Nightingale’s dog in a car on a hot day to try to kill it, in scenes that prompted complaints to the RSPCA.

She has also taken trophies from Leanna’s dead body and her grave. Then, seething with jealousy over the fact that David was growing close to Victoria Sugden, she kidnapped his baby son Theo while he was in Victoria’s care to get her in trouble with David.

Now Meena is creepily homing in on Victoria. After press-ganging her into a girls’ day out, Meena menacingly promises David that she will take care of Victoria while they are away.

“She has no empathy for anyone,” Paige says. “If killing again was the best way for her she would do it in the blink of an eye. She’s only just begun her reign of terror in the village and she could certainly kill again.”

When Paige suffered from anxiety, she turned to tapping therapy for help, sometimes known as Emotional Freedom Technique.

Users believe tapping pressure points on the head and face creates a balance in the body’s energy system and eases emotional distress.

She says: “I read a couple of books on it and found it really helpful.

“I’d tap on the train or bus on the way to auditions. People would give me the weirdest looks.”

Today Paige is much happier but still believes strongly in the importance of looking after mental health.

She writes down her thoughts and fears, meditates and does Pilates and yoga. “Just syncing my breath with the movement of my body and getting away from my thoughts can be really useful,” she explains.

“I also read a lot of self-help books. I’ve trained my brain to focus on the positive rather than the negative.

“So before the Emmerdale audition I didn’t let my brain think it was going to go badly. I just had this feeling that Meena was meant for me.”

To try to get inside Meena’s head, Paige watched every episode of Killing Eve, Killer Women with Piers Morgan and films including American Psycho and Nightcrawler. She also read several books about psychopaths.

“It wasn’t fun, but it’s been really helpful for me to understand how she thinks and how she feels,” she says.

But Paige has been surprised at how many people actually like Meena.

She says: “I purposely avoid Twitter and Instagram comments, because I thought I was going to get a lot of people who were angry at me… instead I’ve just had people loving her.

“They say: ‘I know I shouldn’t root for you but I’m rooting for you!’” Paige’s parents, brother and two sisters are shaken by Meena’s unhing-ed behaviour. She adds: “My Nan watched Emmerdale before I got the job, so she was more excited than me.

“When I joined she kept saying to my Mum: ‘I love how light-hearted Paige’s character is.’ When all the bad stuff happened she went: ‘Oh! OK…’ She wouldn’t have chosen for her granddaughter to be a killer!”

Emmerdale is on ITV on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 7pm, and Thursday at 7pm and 8pm.

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