Former Coronation Street actress Sarah Lancashire has attacked what she calls TV’s "ludicrous prejudice" against soap stars.
Lancashire, who starred as barmaid Raquel Watts in the ITV soap for six years until 1996 tells this week’s Radio Times that the industry doesn’t take performers from soap operas as seriously as those from other types of TV drama.
She said: "Soaps are a double-edged sword. There can be prejudice from some writers and producers who feel you will lower the currency of their work if you've been in one. You have to rise above such ludicrous prejudice.
“Sometimes it's necessary for soaps to hang on to an audience by sensationalising, but it's a beast I don't understand any more, an art form that has fostered extraordinary talent. It's a great arena to learn your craft before you move on. There's no such thing as a 'soap' actor, though.
"We're all actors and work across an enormous amount of media – radio, television, or standing outside a supermarket in a Weetabix outfit. I haven't done that, but when I see someone doing it, I think 'There but for the grace of God..."'
Lancashire, who made a brief reappearance in Coronation Street in an episode in 2000, said she would not rule out returning to the cobbles of Weatherfield.
She said: "I won't say I'd never go back to a soap because an actor's life is so precarious. You can have the most wonderful patch when everyone wants to work with you, and in the blink of an eye the phone won't ring for a month, even a year."
Lancashire went on to forge a successful career with roles in dramas like Doctor Who where she played the powerful businesswoman Miss Foster and the popular BBC1 drama Last Tango in Halifax. Her latest role is as a police sergeant in new BBC1 drama Happy Valley.
She said that older women have problem within the acting profession, but that this was true of other walks of life.
"There's some truth that roles for older women are harder to come by, but it's wrong for actors to monopolise the ageist thing," Lancashire said. "In every profession you reach an age when people look at you suspiciously. Accountants, bankers, teachers are all pushed aside."