Monday 19 March 2018

Is there life after Corrie?

As a new musical comes to Dublin, Declan Cashin looks at the mixed fortunes of those who have left the cobbles

Not many actors would turn down the career-transforming opportunity to star in Coronation Street.

The really tricky decisions come when that star decides he or she wants to leave the show for bigger things, only then to discover that they can't move on from the soap role that made them famous.

As it happens, the touring Corrie musical, Street of Dreams, which arrives in Dublin on Friday, features three of the soap's most iconic former stars -- Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch), Kevin Kennedy (Curly Watts), and Brian Capron (Richard Hillman) -- all of whose post-soap fortunes have varied greatly.

So how easy or difficult is life after Corrie once you've made such an impression on the telly-loving public?

Capron is philosophical about making it big in Corrie.

"Mine was a short burst -- just under two years -- and I was very pleased when it came to an end because the pressure was immense," says the 65-year-old, whose stint as serial killer Richard was credited with revitalising the show's then flailing fortunes in the early Noughties.

With 30 years in the business behind him prior to joining Corrie, Capron was shrewd enough to capitalise on this late-in-life big break, navigating through the choppy post-Hillman career waters.

"I stayed off television for a year, because I knew viewers wouldn't be able to get Richard out of their heads," Capron admits. "Also I had quite a lucrative time 'cashing in', if you like, with personal appearances (PA).

What kind of money are we talking about? "In those days, you'd make anything from £2-3,000 for each PA in a nightclub," he replies. "It could be £6,000 or up to £10,000 to open a supermarket, and I was doing a few of those a week."

While Kevin Kennedy may forever be known as Curly to some fans, the actor has worked like a trooper to put the part behind him, mainly through work in the West End where he's currently starring in We Will Rock You.

It was a very different experience for their Street of Dreams colleague Julie Goodyear, who left Corrie in 1995 after 25 years.

Her post-Corrie life involved an ill-fated talk show, taking part in Celebrity Fit Club, and attempting a disastrous comeback to the soap in 2002.

'The lines got seriously blurred on that one," says Ben Frow, director of programming with TV3, which airs Coronation Street here.

"It was a case of, 'People love Bet; Bet has been through some traumas; Bet can relate to ordinary people; therefore Julie Goodyear can relate to ordinary people'.

"[Goodyear] then famously did a chat show that has never seen the light of day. It's currently in a vault in ITV somewhere, and it will never, ever be shown because it was such a car crash."

Frow has a further theory as to why actors like Goodyear struggle to establish post-Corrie careers.

"She just played herself," he says. "If you ever met Julie Goodyear, you'd see she is Bet Lynch. Therefore her acting ability is fairly limited. That's not to say she wasn't great as the character, but I don't think she'll be getting the damehood for services to acting."

Which is not to suggest that some actors can't make a decent stab at things after leaving the show.

Katherine Kelly, who played Becky McDonald on the soap until earlier this year, went straight to the West End, earning rave reviews for her performance in She Stoops To Conquer.

She'll next be seen in a major part in the TV miniseries Mr Selfridge, alongside former Entourage star Jeremy Piven.

Similarly, Suranne Jones (Karen McDonald) is another success story. After leaving the programme in 2004, she went on to land parts in the TV dramas Unforgiven and Five Days. Currently she can be seen in the surprise TV hit Scott & Bailey.

In the same vein, two of the key players in Downtown Abbey -- Joanne Froggatt (servant Anna) and Rob James-Collier (foxy gay footman Thomas) -- both cut their acting teeth in Corrie as teen mum Zoe Tattersall and bad boy Liam Connor, respectively.

"The successful ones -- like Suranne and Katherine -- tend to play the few real, gritty, true characters in the soap," says Ben Frow.

"My big problem with Coronation Street is that it's very pantomimic. Many actors are just playing caricatures of themselves. I think the people who move on are the less humourous characters."

Surprisingly, past form shows that it's Corrie's 'hot young things' that have consistently flopped the most after they leave the show.

Look at Adam Rickitt (Nick Tilsley), who hoped to pursue a pop career, but only managed a Top 5 chart placement with his single 'I Breathe Again'.

Another hunk, Danny Young, left the soap with great expectations, but the only impression he has made since has been a run on Dancing on Ice.

"Helen Flanagan [Rosie Webster] is a very good recent example," says Ben Frow. "Her character became a joke. I would be stunned if she appeared in anything else major.

"I don't think she's a great actress. And in a way, even if she was, that Corrie character prevented you from seeing that, because the character became so two-dimensional."

So with that in mind, is there anything an actor can do to make the post-Corrie transition any easier?

"The clever ones make sure that they get a great exit storyline, and go out on a real bang," Frow says.

"That way they are genuinely missed, and actually take an audience with them onto the next project."

'Coronation Street: Street of Dreams' is at The O2, Dublin, on Friday and Saturday.

Irish Independent

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