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tucky streak BBC Hope Street's Rachel Tucker is reaping benefits of her busiest year yet

Belfast actress is in huge demand both on and off the stage

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Rachel stars in Broadway HD's John and Jen

Rachel stars in Broadway HD's John and Jen

Rachel stars in Broadway HD's John and Jen

Broadway star Rachel Tucker has had a dream year, and she's not finished yet.

The singer and actor has a central role in new BBC drama Hope Street, she's the toast of New York, and has been filmed for Broadway HD in hit play John and Jen.

Rachel, who started her singing career with dad Tucker and sister Margaret in clubs around Belfast, also notched up another bucket list wish when she appeared in Holby City before the series ended.

Now settled in Jersey City with director husband Guy Retallack and son Ben, she says the uncertainty of Covid is never far away but she's reaping the benefits of her busiest year yet.

In 2022 she'll be on Broadway as pilot Beverley in the hit musical Come From Away, on TV on Britbox North America as Siobhan O'Hare in the cop drama filmed in Donaghadee, and on-demand for five years as Jen on Broadway HD.

"I've come from Belfast via Donaghadee to Broadway," says Rachel, who was centre stage at a September concert in the Big Apple's Times Square to mark the reopening of theatres.

"There isn't a day when I'm not grateful. We were so complacent that nothing would close the theatres, and now we know that's not true.

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Rachel Tucker, husband Guy and son Ben

Rachel Tucker, husband Guy and son Ben

Rachel Tucker, husband Guy and son Ben

"We are literally thankful to be on stage."

Rachel won the heart of Andrew Lloyd Webber in TV talent show I'd Do Anything, before making her mark on London's West End in We Will Rock You and Wicked.

She made her Broadway debut in 2014 in Sting's musical The Last Ship, and was nominated for an Olivier Award for Come From Away, the story of a tiny Canadian community which had to make a home for 5,000 passengers and crew redirected from American airspace after 9/11.

All of her theatre work ground to a halt because of the pandemic but after a week working on Holby City Rachel, who also starred with Paddy Considine in TV drama Informer in 2018, landed her biggest TV role yet as Siobhan in Hope Street.

She's the wife of local police chief Finn in fictional Port Devine, who's had to leave after having a fling. In an explosive episode next week Siobhan returns to save her marriage, not knowing that Finn's already falling for a cop colleague.

"I couldn't believe it when I got the call to say I was playing her," says Rachel.

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"I had auditioned for another part, and I didn't even read for Siobhan.

"I loved that she's a very nuanced character. I was asking if she's the bitch or is she the woman scorned, and she's none of it and all of it. She's made a mistake, and she wants to come back into the fold.

"Donaghadee looks gorgeous and it's such a great wee spot. It was in beautiful weather and I had a 20-minute walk to work through palms trees next to the crystal blue water."

The ten-part series has been left open for Siobhan to return and Rachel (40) says she'll make it work if there's a second series.

"It's left on an exciting cliffhanger about what Finn will decide to do, and no one knows, including myself.

"I'll see how work opens up for Guy and me in America. If you had asked me five years ago when we got our green cards where we'd be, I'd have said America, but now it's post-Trump and post-pandemic we are hedging our bets.

"The minute I got my green card for here I got TV work at home, where television production is off the charts at the minute.

"It's like I got the ball and they moved the goalposts. But I'll be looking for TV roles here too. They love getting the theatre people in for shows like Law and Order."

Before relocating to New York Rachel did a four-week run of John and Jen in London, a two-hander with young Book of Mormon actor Lewis Corney about the family dynamics of a brother and sister, and mother and son.

It was directed by husband Guy and the pair were bowled over when Broadway HD asked to film it for their pay-to-view channel, which released it last week.

"The reviews were stellar, and Lewis is a rare find. We were so compatible and there was a great chemistry between us.

"Broadway HD produce it if they think it's going to do well, and it costs thousands of pounds to film with a five-camera set up.

"It's a platform to watch musical theatre on and it's going to be on there for five years."

Rachel says it was a big decision to relocate the family for the year-long contract with Come From Away for her role as a fearless pilot - when they moved to New York for The Last Ship Ben was a baby.

"There's a queue out the door to play Beverley, it's a gift of a role," she says.

"At first I asked myself if we were doing the right thing, but we're settled now, Ben's in school, and we'll stay and see if it all works out."

It's a tough eight shows a week schedule, including Christmas Day, in a city that's been hit hard by Covid.

But she plans to bring a little of the New York spirit to home with Christmas Showstoppers on Radio Ulster on Christmas Eve at 9pm.

Rachel has picked her favourite festive tracks and recorded her introductions to them on famous locations like the Rockefeller Center and Time Square.

"I really wanted to capture the atmosphere of New York at Christmas," she says.

"I'll be missing my family back home in Belfast, especially as we're a wee bit farther away this year.

"But I look around me here and I'm grateful I'm singing on Broadway and I've got Hope Street on TV in Northern Ireland.

"My dad used to tell me it's not just luck, it's hard work too, and the harder you work the luckier you get.

"I will never not be grateful for what I have," says Rachel.

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com

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