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Tuesday 27 April 2021

Sharon's Secret Is Out! Corrie Blog Press Day Interview with Tracie Bennett

1980’s Coronation Street is ripe with characters that I would love to see make a return to the cobbles. However brief, and even just for an episode or two, I adore the nostalgia that gets inserted into the modern-day Weatherfield. Could you imagine if Curly revisited the cobbles, Terry Duckworth taking Tyrone for a pint, or like when we had Fiona Middleton’s (Emma’s Mum) recent brief stint? I could go on (insert your ideas if you wish). The most successful and most recent character reprisal has to be Jenny Bradley. Memories of that iconic wig for Jack Webster's kidnap are long faded, as Jenny is our now iconic Rovers Return landlady and has long since been close with Rita again. 

With Rita in mind, I was elated when Corrie announced the return of Rita’s original foster daughter; Sharon Gaskell. As I wasn't born until 1981, I only have youtube as a reference for her original tenure but I can remember 1999 quite well when Sharon nearly sold the Kabin from right under Reet's feet. Sharon then married a man called Ian Bentley and never graced Weatherfield again - until now that is! Actress Tracie Bennett has since gone on to win critical acclaim and awards as a broadway musical theatre star, so when the email came from Coronation Street Blog to attend an online press day to interview this stellar star of stage and screen - I couldn't resist! 

Lockdown has caused many problems but I've been spoiled rotten attending these online press days!

The zoom session was pencilled in for 30 minutes but Tracie is the consummate professional and talked for an hour. Tracie came across as being so warm, very genuine, and has those dulcet northern tones that I love! Having been on set since 5 am, the 12-noon interview did not stop Tracie from giving us some juicy Corrie chat!  

Keen to find out what Sharon’s return is all about, let's take it back to April 14th where we had a chat with Tracie to find out what's coming up on the cobbles; 

TB - (Tracie Bennett)  Q - (question)

Q When were you first approached about coming back? Is this the first time you've been asked or approached in the past?

TB  I’ve been approached a few times but they don't know if you're available. If I’m booked to do a show for 2 years, it's complete No as I can't get out of it, which they seem fine with. This time, I think they’d got the idea and had a look at my availability. Early machinations would have been about 16 - 18 months ago and they had a few storylines ready but were wondering where to go with it, and then pandemic hit! When September 2020 came, we decided to proceed from March 2021. A sad storyline was broached but with the covid-19 they decided against that. Whether that part of the story still goes ahead - I don't know!

Q Were you nervous about reprising the role after such a long time and did you watch any old footage to get a feel of Sharon’s character? 

TB  I didn't go back and watch, I tried to remember the essence of her. There were some big storylines in the past. I've been in and out since 1982, then 1999. Sharon is 5 years younger than me. The essence is, she’s gobby, impulsive, and has a good heart but she didn't mean to be horrible. She was young enough and daft enough to get away with it, but not at that age now. It's like keeping the core of her, but not knowing where the storyline will go now. The impulsiveness is still there though. She hides under the veneer, and she’s hiding for her nephew now. Technically, it's quite a challenge now but I still skip to work! 

Q What is it that makes you want to return as Sharon and revisit the character?

TB The storyline! I was told, it was dark and I wondered. You are interested in the flaws of a human being, under pressure, family related, guilt and duty - my acting chops needed to come back! They wanted to give me a good storyline, a big story, and that's what I wanted. 

Q Can you talk to us about what Sharon has been up to and what has brought her back to Weatherfield? 

TB  Sharon was a foster child originally. We then find out she’s got brothers called Wayne, Darren and Gary. Sharon got cancer and Wayne looked after her very well and felt she owed him. He then died and left his business to Sharon. However, Wayne’s son Harvey takes advantage of her because of this favour owed. Harvey emotionally blackmails Sharon into helping him find Leanne. Sharon also owes Rita a lot of money after selling the Kabin. She does have some guilt about deceiving her again and feels that remorse

Q What new friendships and connections can we expect from Sharon’s return and has she met her match with Jenny? 

TB  A little bit but Sharon plays her like cat and mouse. Sharon comes in harmless but has seemingly met her match. Sharon can put her down quite quickly but has those layers of veneers we talked about, it can get very complex

Q Sharon also has some history with Leanne? 

TB Yes, although originally I didn't remember it being that bad. I had a chat with Helen Worth (Gail Platt) working out the dates and discussing past storylines. I didn't realise she had a bad history with Leanne, but I remember it now

Q What has it been like working with those original cast members like Helen, again?

TB Like that (clicks fingers) I've seen Helen a few times out and about. I've known Jimmi (Dev Alahan) for a long time and I knew him before he got on the show. Barbara and I bowed at each other when we first met again! I've not met the others yet as there’s a limited number of people on set at the moment due to Covid. 

Q What was it like walking onto the new set for the first time? 

TB Less emotional than it would have been, had it been at Granada studios. Corrie was a jump start for me, I wouldn't be working now if it wasn't for that. It was like a little rep company at the start, I went through so much development from 1982 -84. I was glad it’s all brand new, it was 22 years ago and I can make new memories and start again, almost. Just a few connections now to the old school, so it all feels brand new. Number 7 Coronation street is still there- which Sharon helped build! 

Q What did you learn from originally working on Coronation Street. What were you taught from working with such legends as Pat Phoenix (Elsie Tanner) and Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden)?

TB Well, in those days it was concentration, but we did have rehearsals back then. They never marked the floor, it was like working in a play - very much theatre-based, almost. They were good to me. We would have a group Wednesday in the green room where all the women would get together. Me, Julie (Goodyear, Bet Lynch) Pat, Jean, Barbara (Knox, Rita Tanner) - would get together and Barbara would go off, but Anne (Kirkbride, Deirdre Barlow) would be there. We’d all chat and you know, these were strong northern women. At first, I used to think, well, why would they want me there, to join this group. You used to know them as their characters' names from watching the show for 20 odd years but then you’d get used to it. Pat (Elsie Tanner) would always say ‘Always dress effeminate, as a superstar, even when you come into work. You can always wear stockings and suspenders under those dungarees - and always wear a bit of scent’

Q What is your first love - theatre or television?

TB I can't decide I love both. When in theatre you're an athlete almost with what you eat and the strict routine. I do like that though, and it does work when you stick to the diet and the regime. When you don't have a matinee on Sunday you can have a blowout, but I'm used to the hard work and that's fine. If you're lazy, it would be much harder but I was brought up to work hard 

Q Is there anything Sharon won't do when trying to track down Leanne and Nick for Harvey? 

TB There’s kind of a limit coming when she cuts Harvey down a bit but eventually, she gets a bit terrified when she realises Harvey is a bit of a psycho. I have to play the part ambiguous to do all these different levels of deception. How far will Harvey go? There is a death threat and Sharon then questions her morality. She could end up going to prison for something but then realises the serious ramifications. Watch this space! 

As I say, I love it when Corrie reprises these characters from the show's illustrious 60-year history. Time means that we can’t bring many characters back, but my word, Tracie Bennett would have been high on my list!

Which iconic character would you like to return to Coronation Street?

@rybazoxo your cobbles connoisseur and budding Weatherfield historian!    

All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would absolutely love a return of Curly Watts, I've seen recent interviews with Kevin Kennedy and he seems like a very nice bloke!


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