Denise Welch: ‘After playing a brothel madam I’m dying to wear a bonnet!

(Image credit: BBC/Company Pictures/Mark Bourdillon)

Denise Welch’s distinctive bleach blonde hair is nowhere to be seen when she guests stars as redhead Susan, a brothel madam, in the opening episode of Inspector George Gently.

Denise explained why she was delighted with her makeover, and why she fancies more period roles: “I have this wonderful red hair in a great Sixties sharp cut, and a real Sixties mini dress and shoes. I was unrecognisable!”

Denise, who became a Coronation Street regular in 1997 playing the brassy man-eating barmaid Natalie Barnes until she left in 2000, added: “I loved dressing up for this role. Because my hair is so short, very blonde and quite contemporary, people seem to find it hard to see me in a period drama, but I’m dying to wear a bonnet!”

What’s on TV can reveal that Denise, in a show-stealing scene as Susan, shamelessly flirts with Inspector Gently (Martin Shaw) while playfully revealing the secret preferences of some of the brothel’s male clients!

Denise’s other memorable roles include inept French teacher Steph Haydock in BBC1’s school drama Waterloo Road (2006-2010) and the gangster, Scary Mary, in ITV’s Benidorm in 2011, alongside her then-husband Tim Healy.

“My ex hubbie, Tim Healy, guested in an episode of Inspector George Gently a few years ago, and I became hooked after that; so it’s brilliant I now get to guest in it too! I’ve actually interviewed Martin on Loose Women and have always been a fan of his.”

Not only that, but Denise’s role as Susan the madam is a first: “Funnily enough I’ve never played a brothel madam before. I loved everything about filming on Inspector George Gently - the attention to ‘my brothel’ was just wonderful. It’s had a colourful bar in the front room with a pineapple ice bucket!"

Watch the first episode of the new four-part series of Inspector George Gently on Wednesday, April 29 at 8pm on BBC1 to discover what Susan’s holding back from George, as the inspector investigates the murder of a young woman…

Read our interview with Martin Shaw for more on the new four-part series of George Gently


Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.