The Waterloo Road star Denise Welch reveals she was a bad girl at school... always being told off for wearing short skirts and talking too much! She plays flighty French teacher Steph Haydock in the popular BBC One series. Hi Denise! To start off, what was the name of your school? "I went to Consett Grammar School." What goes through your mind when you think back to your school days? "I really enjoyed school, even though I didn't work hard while I was there. In fact, I wish I had worked a bit harder. School for me meant being with my mates standing on the radiators watching the boys go by! But it still irks me that I was never made a prefect. And I still get sweaty palms at the thought of double maths!" Were you an A+ pupil? "As a student I was academically lazy, but funnily enough the minute I got to drama school that all changed and I was really committed." Did you have to wear a uniform? "Yes I did. I attended a convent school for a few years and the uniform was so strict and I always got it wrong. They used to put me in detention regularly for not wearing the hat, which was a straw boater. And, of course, my skirt was far too short for the nuns’ liking!" We bet your school reports were a fun read! "Well I was quite naughty, and chatty, I suppose nothing changes! So, no surprise when they read: 'Denise talks too much, she must stop playing the class clown and if she put her mind to it she could do much better'." Did you have a best friend at school, and do you still keep in touch? "My best friend at school was Jill Hewitson. We were really close throughout school and when we left, unfortunately, we lost touch for a period, but we are now back in contact which is great! After our O levels Jill and I worked at Pontins together as waitresses. My mum got so depressed when she came and saw where we were working. Anyway, one day Jill and I decided we didn’t want to work there any more, so to escape the job we hid under a tartan rug in the back of a taxi as it drove us out of the gates!" Did you have any inspiring teachers? "Yes – my brilliant drama teacher, Terry Cudden. He really did give me the belief that I could do something. If he hadn’t encouraged me to go to drama school I don’t think I’d have tried. I was going to teacher training college, so I do have a great deal to thank him for. If it hadn’t have been for Terry I could have been Steph for real! But I don’t think I could have ever taught French, though!" Have you met up with a teacher since leaving? "I’ve met up with Terry, actually, but it wasn't something I set up myself. Basically my acting career sparked my dad’s interest in amateur dramatics – he’s now got his Equity card! And Terry used to direct my dad in things so I used to see him then." Have you ever been back to visit your old school? "I don’t think I have... Mind you, I do spend every day taking my seven-year-old son Louis to his primary school and I still can’t believe they really make everything so small. It never seemed that small when I was at school!"
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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.