Uniform ironed… Shoes laced… pencils sharpened… After nearly eight years away from our screens, the new year heralds the dawn of a new era as Waterloo Road opens its doors for a new term.
The popular BBC1 school drama sees Adam Thomas and Katie Griffiths reprising their roles as childhood sweethearts Donte and Chlo Charles, alongside a host of new faces including Coronation Street and Strictly favourite Kym Marsh as dinner lady Nicky Walters and Still Open All Hours' James Baxter and Wonder Woman 1984's Vincent Jerome as joint deputy heads Joe Casey and Lindon King.
The show also welcomes the return of Angela Griffin as tie-dye-loving Kim Campbell. In an exclusive interview, Angela, 46, reveals how the former pastoral manager Kim walks into chaos on her first day as headteacher in Waterloo Road season 11…
How did you feel about reprising the role as Kim Campbell?
"I loved reprising the role but, if you go back to a character, there needs to be a new flavour. And there certainly is with Kim. It's been 10 years since we've seen Kim go off and have baby Dexter, and it's like she’s coming back as a completely different character. Kim’s passion for the kids and for the holistic side of teaching is still there but, as we’ll see, this often conflicts with the qualities needed to be a headteacher."
This is evident as the series begins. What can you tell us?
"It’s the first day of term and the kids are feeling particularly strongly about an aspect of the school’s history, and decide to do something about it. Unfortunately, there are a few kids who turn what is a peaceful-ish protest into something quite aggressive and out of control. And Kim is caught in the middle. Once upon a time, Kim would have been out there, with a placard, protesting with the kids. But now, as headteacher, in charge of budgets and answerable to the Local Education Authority, she’s unable to grant their wishes as easily as she wishes she could."
Sounds like chaos!
"Chaos is what had defined Waterloo Road; an inner city, urban school with inner city problems. It’s the same show but also completely different - and it’s a lively, powerful opening to what is a really lively, powerful series."
Kim’s clearly changed professionally - but what can you tell us about her personal life?
"Kim does come back a very different person and the blanks will be filled in as the series goes on. But what I can tell you is Kim has gone through massive changes while she's been away and she's dealt with huge loss. Kim has always worn her heart on her sleeve and people know exactly what she feels about everything. But this loss has made her want to shut down and remove herself from working right on the front line with the kids and stay within numbers and budgets. But she knows she can't bury her feelings forever."
Elsewhere, married childhood sweethearts Donte and Chlo Charles now have two children. What was it like reuniting with Adam Thomas and Katie Griffiths, who play them?
"Adam and I were talking about kids the other day, saying they don't know they’re born and he turned to me and said: ‘I never thought I would have this conversation with you’. It blows my mind that he's now married with children himself [Adam’s real-life son Teddy plays on-screen son Tommy and his niece Scarlett, daughter of his actor brother Ryan Thomas, plays his on-screen daughter, Izzie]. It's really wacky to get to work with them again and them now be grown-ups. I'll never not see them as Little Donte and Little Chlo!"
Why do you think now is a good time to bring back a drama like Waterloo Road?
"The world is such a different place now post-COVID and with issues surrounding identity, climate change and the cost-of-living crisis. I think this show is holding a mirror up to what is going on at the moment, giving young people a voice and highlighting the impact of what’s going on in today’s society. It's incredible how politicised our young people are; I’ll sit with Tallulah [Angela’s daughter with actor Jason Milligan] and we’ll discuss what's in the news - sometimes I wish all she was bothered about was kissing boys!"
What were your own school days like?
"I loved school; I was never someone who dreaded it. I remember when my primary school teacher did storytime. I can still hear her reading the book and the way she held the book; I remember going home and trying to be Mrs Bricknell. That was the beginning of me wanting to be a performer. But I was mouthy and always had something to say, so I wouldn't have liked to teach me!"
Waterloo Road starts on Tuesday January 3 at 8pm on BBC1.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!
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