The Corrie women talk about life on the Street
Coronation Street's Debbie Rush (Anna Windass), Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw) and Julie Hesmondalgh (Hayley Cropper) talk what it is that makes a Corrie woman, who gets the best storylines and what's in store... Do you think there are qualities that are common to all Coronation Street women? Debbie: "The good ones have got a nerve of steel underneath; they’re survivors. Right from the first 13 episodes, the women who were there had survived the war and rationing..." Sue: "There’s a survivor’s instinct." Julie: "Even Emily, who’s not a steely person, she’s gone through a lot, hasn’t she?" Do you think the women get the best storylines? Julie: "I wouldn’t say that, because someone like Steve McDonald is a proper iconic male character." Sue: "But what a woman he is!" Julie:" Things happen to Steve, almost against his will, and very often the catalyst for those things are women. So the men can have great storylines, but the women are the catalysts." Debbie: "You’re right, all that went on with Tony Gordon. It was all driven by the women in the show." Was one of the incentives of going into Coronation Street knowing that there are strong roles for women? Sue: "It would be lovely to say that, but let’s be honest, we’re all only actors, aren’t we? But the writing is very good and you’re hard pressed in this day and age to find good writing, especially for women of a certain age. What makes me sad is there’s some great actors out there and because there’s no roles for them, they’re having to diversify and end up on reality TV to pay the bills." How much were you told about your characters when you came into the Street? Julie: "Hayley was brought in as a foil for Roy and there was no background at all, apart from her dad had died. They told me she was transsexual in the first audition, but I had no sense of what a big deal it would be back then at all. It was very hard for me in the early days; a lot of transgender groups were really against me playing the part. They thought I was a young upstart actress and thought there should’ve been a transgender actor playing it, but my thought was, ‘I’ve been offered this and actually you’ve found someone who’s really sensitive to this issue and I will do my best by you.'" Sue: "For me, I think originally, it was a three-month contract. They wanted someone to answer the phones at the taxi firm and I’d only been in about five weeks, and then someone rang me from upstairs, ‘Can you do a screen test? We’re interviewing for your sons. I went, ‘My sons? Yeah yeah, you’re getting a house on the street and you’ll live there with your two sons. It was like ‘Oh, right then, I will, will I?'" Debbie: "It was like an assault course for me – 200 people up for the same role, because there’s not a lot of dramas being made now, and there were some very big names. My brief was that Anna was going to be glamorous but not in an obvious way, so she’s totally changed. But that was my brief; she was going to be a bit gutter-sniper glammy, so I turned up to the audition in a skirt and a blouse with my make up and my hair done." Did any of the other female cast members give you advice when you joined? Julie: "All my early scenes were with Amanda Barrie who played Alma, and she gave me a lot of advice about living a private life and not giving too much away." Sue: "I was very anxious about the celebrity side. It’s not something I’ve ever been interested in; I’m an actor, that’s what I do. And Helen Worth who plays Gail, she was brilliant on advising me on how to deal with that side of things." Debbie: "I felt sick for the first 12 months, I thought, ‘I’m not going to be private, everything’s going to be taken away’, and then you come to the point where you realise even if you have interviews, you don’t have to talk about things that are private. There’s Debbie the actress and there’s Debbie that’s me; that’s my life and I’m keeping that." Are there any actresses that you’d love to see in Coronation Street? Debbie: "I want Julie Walters to come in as my mother." Julie: "She’d be brilliant as your mum, and I heard Jane Danson (Leanne) saying the other day that she wanted Kim Cattrall to come in and play her mum. I think my mum could be that lovely actress Ruth Sheen; she’s on my trajectory of looks. She’s probably not old enough though, maybe she could come in as my elder sister." Sue: "I’ve never thought who could play my mum. My mother is dead though. Who could you see playing my mother? Maybe Patricia Routledge..." Julie: "Roy’s got a mum coming in next year. I’m fascinated by that. God, who could play Roy’s mum?" What do you see happening in the future to your characters? Debbie: "There’s a lot of tough times ahead, Gary’s back from Afghanistan and it’s more psychological issues that he comes back with, so Anna’s going to have another rollercoaster year, I think. She’s had such a tough time, nothing nice ever happens to her. I think someone should take her out for something to eat and clean the house for her. I think she’ll come into her own with the problems that Gary’s having; she’s the backbone of the family, she’s the one that’s going to have to sort it all out." Julie: "I think Hayley could have a passionate affair with Jason Grimshaw or Ciaran. But Roy’s mum’s arrival is going to throw a cat amongst the pigeons. I think we have our best times when they throw someone into the mix – so just keep bringing in people who absolutely don’t fit in with us. That’s always good for me and Roy." Eileen often bemoans the fact that she doesn’t have a fella. Would you like to see her settle down? Sue: "I think it would be very dangerous if she settled down because of the men she chooses. I’ve always said, it’s very easy to put people in a shoebox. If you walk down any street in Manchester there’ll be single women, bringing up their kids, haven’t worked, haven’t met the right man and they’re getting on with life, and I quite like that, and I think she’s representative of a lot of women."
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.