It’s 12:30pm and Kym Marsh is in her dressing room at ITV Studios in London. She’s just come off the set of This Morning and is surrounded by luggage that her partner, Hollyoaks actor Jamie Lomas, is primed to carry for her (“One in each hand and one on my head,” he says).
They’re heading home to Manchester this afternoon where Marsh, 35, has recently resumed work on Coronation Street following the birth of her daughter, Polly, in March. Her character, no-nonsense Michelle Connor, is back on our screens this evening and I wonder how it’s been, mixing childcare with work commitments.
“I’m not having to juggle learning lines with night-time duties. I’m trying to do the script-reading when I get home from work, but we’re not getting much sleep at the moment, to be honest.
“Polly was getting a good seven hours’ sleep at a time, but she’s started teething so we’re back down to three and she doesn’t nap during the day. If she sleeps at all, it’s for 10 minutes. So, we can’t really do a routine because she’s not one of those babies. It has been very stressful because I do have this house full of children.”
Marsh is also parent to David (born 1995) and Emily (born 1997) from a previous relationship, while Lomas has a son called Billy, who’s five years old. Add in a newborn, born five weeks early and with a birth weight of just over 4lbs, and you can see how home life would be hectic. I ask about recent reports that Polly has been suffering from reflux – is she feeling any better?
“She’s loads better than she was. She is off some of the medication although she is still on Gaviscon and she takes one antacid a day as well. The doctors have told us that it will just go as she gets older. And now that she’s on solid food, it’s not as easy for her to bring stuff back up.” She gives an ever-ready laugh. “Sounds lovely, doesn’t it?”
Marsh also reveals that Polly has been something of a hit among her castmates. “She has been introduced on several occasions and everybody adores her. She really likes Charlie Condou, who plays Marcus, and she seemed delighted to be with Ryan Thomas (Jason). She immediately took to him. I think it’s the dark hair, which she must associate with me.”
Back on the cobbles
With such new-found joy in her life, it must have been a wrench going back to the set of the Street? “I was really nervous about returning. Ten months is a long time, but I’ve got a financial need to work. I do enjoy my job though and I’ve settled back in quite quickly.”
And in a way, it must be nice to get some independent time away from family concerns and be able to drink a cup of tea that doesn’t end up going cold?
“I did read somewhere that I’d gone up to the producers and said, ‘I want Michelle to have a baby’. Let me put people straight on that: I could think of nothing worse! It’s lovely to have the baby, but I think it’s really important for all parents to keep hold of their own identity and have a little bit of time for themselves.
“I find it funny when I read comments about me and they’re saying, ‘Oh, they’re having a night out’ or ‘She’s gone back to work. How dare she!’ You can’t be at home constantly. It’s important to have a life.”
As for that life so far, it’s fair to say that Kym Marsh has experienced her fair share of trauma. From Popstars to Weatherfield by way of marriage and divorce to EastEnders’s Jack Ryder and the horrendous loss of Archie (her baby with Lomas) in 2009, it’s been a rocky road. With Michelle no stranger to adversity either, I wonder which of them has seen the most drama?
“I’d say it’s even stevens,” she reflects. “Maybe mine hasn’t been quite so tragic. Michelle has lost both her brothers, found out that her fiancé was gay and that her son wasn’t really hers. Only in soapland. I’m surprised she’s not in the Priory, to be honest. I suppose I have had a dramatic life, too. But hey, it’s never boring.”
And just how much of her is there in the character of hard but soft-centred Michelle? Is Kym Marsh tough but vulnerable, too?
“I’m very much like that. A lot of what I do on the outside is purely for show because I need to keep a little bit of something back that’s just for me. I don’t think people can ever really know the real person behind the celebrity. I do put on a front and then go and cry about things in private.”
The future for Michelle
At the moment, though, Marsh is well and truly in the public eye, thanks to Michelle Connor returning from her cruise-ship jaunt with an engagement ring on her finger. The lucky man is, of course, Ciaran McCarthy, but with actor Keith Duffy set to leave Coronation Street, it seems this latest romance looks set to be thrown into chaos.
Michelle has certainly got through the men during her time in Weatherfield, but which of her love interests has Marsh enjoyed working with the most?
“They’ve all brought different things to the mix, to be honest. Simon Gregson, who plays Steve, was my first on-screen partner and we had a lot of great comedy. Chris Gascoyne (Peter) is a heavyweight actor – I think he’s exceptionally good. And I get on so well with Keith. I class him as a friend and I’ll really miss him. Everyone will, because he’s a nice person to have around. He’s very jolly on set and sometimes you need that. But I’m sure there’ll be another fella along soon enough.”
“Or a woman,” chips in Lomas, salaciously.
“Yeah, you’d love that, wouldn’t you?” Marsh laughs. “What’s lovely about Michelle, though, is that she’s not a villain and she’s not a bitch, but she can be all of those things when she needs to be.
“She’s also really shocked when she finds Carla in such a state after all that’s happened [the Underworld boss was recently raped by her business partner, Frank Foster] and she doesn’t want to let Frank win. So, it’s nice to see Michelle back to being a feisty person. She’s always ready to stick up for the people she believes in, and that’s definitely another way in which I’m very similar to her.”
Coronation Street is on ITV1 at 8:30pm