Claire King has known about her 'Emmerdale' return for "about a year."

Claire King as Kim Tate

Claire King as Kim Tate

The 55-year-old actress will reprise her role as the evil Kim Tate - a role she hasn't played for over 20 years - in the long-running soap for seven days next week and, although it was a huge shock to fans when the news was announced last month, she has admitted she's been keeping her return a secret for ages.

Speaking to the Radio Times magazine, she said: "Because there was a Tate name back in Home Farm it made it smoother for the continuity. I still know some people here and thought it would be good fun.

"Plus I'd done 'Corrie' and didn't fancy driving the four or five hours across the Pennines to Manchester from Yorkshire anymore!

"Chris Chittell, who plays Eric Pollard, texted me saying 'Don't worry, Kingy, it's still the same great place with the same good work ethic' - it sounds cheesy but it really is a family here and it's lovely to be back.

"I left 'Corrie' in 2017 and had to wait until things settled down a bit as I needed some time in between, but I've known I was coming back to 'Emmerdale' for about a year. It's been really hard to stay quiet - I did tell my parents and my partner, but no one else. Now it's out friends are furiously texting me!"

However, although fans are counting down the days until Kim is back on screen, Claire has admitted she was really nervous because she's such a "big character."

She explained: "There was pressure because she'd been such a big character and I didn't want to spoil the memories people had. I'd left on such a high and it could all go horrible wrong. And there was the thought of 'Can I still do this?!' But I was eased back in as my first few days were mainly with Andrew Scarborough [Graham Foster] away from the main set. By the time I shot the scene of her pulling up in the sports car at Home Farm, Kim was well and truly back!"