Coronation Street fans eagerly anticipating the return of Toyah Battersby won’t have to wait much longer – Georgia Taylor (who hasn’t been seen in Weatherfield since 2003) will be back on Christmas Day. But how does it feel for the actress to return to the soap after 13 years away?
“Fantastic,” she says, “though there’s a lot to take in. We’re in a brand spanking new studio for a start and there’s been quite a big turnover in the cast since I was last here. So, at the moment, I’m just trying to get to grips with things, really. In the canteen, I’m having to ask where the knives and forks are! Luckily, Jane [Danson] has been so helpful.”
And it seems that art is to mirror life, what with Toyah having to seek support from sister Leanne over the festive season when she turns up unexpectedly with news that her marriage is in tatters. Leanne, Nick and Simon had been hoping to spend Christmas with Toyah at her house in Liverpool, but plans have to be rapidly rearranged thanks to the marital strife.
“Toyah has reached a real crossroads,” continues Taylor. “She’s had a huge argument with her husband on Christmas morning and decided to up and leave. So she needs support – and not just from Leanne, but from other people on the Street that she knows, like Roy, who she’s also very close to.”
Toyah’s actions certainly look to be rash, but for Taylor, the decision to reprise the role was one she thought long and hard about. Indeed, she reveals that she has turned down the opportunity to make cameo appearances in the past:
“I was asked to do a couple of episodes for Les and Cilla’s wedding. But I’ve always said that there had to be a creative reason to come back. Not just to be a wedding guest – that kind of thing didn’t really appeal to me. I wanted a good storyline to commit to.”
And was there anything she insisted on before signing her contract this time around? “It was important to me that we clung onto some elements of Toyah’s original character. So I wanted her to still be a vegetarian, for instance. But you do change and grow – you travel and have relationships, so all that feeds into the person you become. I’m still finding her, to be honest.”
Thirty-six year-old Taylor made her Corrie debut back in 1997 when the loudmouthed Battersbys blasted on to our screens to a public outcry from critics. Viewers did, of course, grow to love the motley clan, but how did that initial reaction affect the actress during her early days in Weatherfield?
“It was crazy. I just clung onto Jane – the pair of us were like rabbits in the headlights. The amount of attention surrounding our family was just insane. There were polls saying, ‘This is the worst thing to happen to Coronation Street. This family are destroying the show’.
“Obviously, over time, people grew to love them because there was a lot of humour that came with them. But it was a crazy time and I do wish I’d kept a diary. Now, Jane and I will look back and laugh at some of the clothes they’d make us get dressed up in for photoshoots. I’d say that for a good year, it was just a whirlwind, really.”
Due to that formative experience with her on-screen sister, it’s no surprise that Taylor was in close talks with Danson while she debated coming back to Corrie. Having been a jobbing actress for more than a decade with roles in such hits as Casualty and Law & Order: UK, it took a while for Taylor to decide to commit to a full-time return to the Street.
“When you’re in a show like Coronation Street, you have to be committed. So I was debating whether I was ready to get myself in a position where I’m just in one job and focused on one character. Throughout all this, Jane was like my counsellor. She’s got such a balanced view on things and she’s also one of my best friends. So when I finally made the decision, she was over the moon.”
And what reaction does she think she’ll get from the public, who – let’s face it – have been crying out for a reunion of the Battersby sisters ever since Taylor originally left the soap?
“Well, not everybody is going to like you. So there’s always going to be some people who think, ‘why are you bringing her back?’ But from what I’ve seen and the messages I’ve received, it’s been so positive. People are nostalgic about the Battersbys, especially women the same age as Leanne and Toyah, who saw us causing mayhem and nicking sweets from Rita’s Kabin.
“And because Jane is so brilliant and Leanne is loved so much, I think fans want to see her get her sister back in her life. People are definitely happy for that.”
Watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below