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familiar face Fair City fans in for a surprise when blast from the past Cleo Collins returns

Jenny Kavanagh speaks of getting in touch with homeless charities to research her role

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Jenny as Cleo in her return to Fair City

Jenny as Cleo in her return to Fair City

Jenny as Cleo in her return to Fair City

Fair City viewers are in for a surprise tonight when blast from the past Cleo Collins makes a return after an absence of over a decade.

Dubliner Jenny Kavanagh was just a teenager when she was parachuted into the soap as troubled Cleo, who was taken under the wing of Dolores Molloy (Martina Stanley).

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Shocked: Dolores gets a big surprise

Shocked: Dolores gets a big surprise

Shocked: Dolores gets a big surprise

And she revealed how she was almost left in tears while playing the formerly homeless waif when she got caught up in a real life encounter with a destitute girl.

“It’s been 11 years since we last saw Cleo,” Jenny, who hails from Clondalkin, tells the Sunday World.

“She came from a family of kind of alcohol problems and difficulties or whatever and arrived in Carrigstown maybe 15 years ago and Dolores basically helped her, sorted her out and got her jobs.”

Jenny remembers how she had to dramatically change her appearance to play the role.

“Cleo was shown as homeless in the very beginning and I will never forget it, because I got the role of Cleo having been for auditions for other characters,” she reveals.

“I had been auditioning for a girlfriend character, a kind of girl next door, and I had a lovely hairdo, make-up and nails done.

“The I went for the role of Cleo shortly afterwards and read was a description of what Cleo looked like.

“My very first scene was sitting on the edge of the road begging for spare change. I came into make-up and they removed all the nail varnish, they painted the roots of my hair, so it was completely different to the previous look.”

Jenny admits her character’s experience of homelessness hit her hard.

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Cleo with Dolores

Cleo with Dolores

Cleo with Dolores

“It’s a big problem in this country,” she says. “It’s that idea, which was lovely about Cleo at the time, it really struck people that you never know what’s behind an individual.

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“That idea that we don’t engage with that exterior, but there’s a really good person behind that.”

Jenny researched her role by getting in touch with charities helping homeless people.

“I was about 15 when I came into the show and I was probably about 17 or 18 and I was walking in Dublin city centre and I heard a girl behind me,” she recalls.

“I’m getting chills now talking about it.

“A homeless girl walked behind me and said ‘sorry, have you got spare change?’ I turned around and I said to myself ‘that’s Cleo’. I felt so conflicted about the whole thing. The best thing I could do was try and portray the story as honestly and educated as I possibly could.

“But at the same time I had this image in my head that I was getting paid to play and live this sort of my dream of being an actor and yet I’m portraying pure life, and that’s hard.”

In real life, after Fair City Jenny (33) moved to London and then ventured to the south of France with her ex-boyfriend.

She has lived there for the past six years and concentrated on businesses involving health and fitness and a digital marketing agency.

Now she’s thrilled to be back on Fair City.

“There’s been times I’ve been back in here where it has helped me find different parts of me,” she says. “The people are gorgeous here.

“It really is a family.”

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