Of the six soap stars past and present who embarked upon this series of Dancing on Ice (Sunday, 6:45pm, ITV1), Charlene Tilton has a life that wouldn’t sound out of place in a soap – unless Andrew Whyment (Coronation Street’s Kirk) is hiding seriously shady issues.
As Dallas’s Lucy Ewing, Tilton falsely accused a teacher of rape, married a closeted gay man, became a drug addict, became a model, and was held hostage by a psychopath.
As herself, Tilton (who never knew her father and whose mother was in and out of mental institutions) was named one of the 1980s’ sexiest TV stars, married and divorced a country singer, remarried and again divorced, was left practically penniless by a swindling accountant, had a number one single in Germany, did infomercials (for the exercise device, the Abdominizer), and even appeared on Channel 5’s The Farm – though fortunately for her not in the same series during which Rebecca Loos tangled with a pig.
But it was a later tragedy that Tilton says spurred her to don spangles and lycra and embark upon her icy escapade – the 2009 death of her fiancé of eight years.
“I was smoking and drinking heavily and had to decide to make a big life change or lie down and give up,” she says. “So I made a decision to take every opportunity that came by. Now I don’t miss smoking and drinking at all – it wasn’t adding anything to my life and it was empowering to quit.”
Suitably revitalised, Tilton relishes the challenges of Dancing on Ice, however treacherous the training, nerve-racking the performing or potentially spiky the judges’ comments.
“When I started training, I wasn’t fit. I had no muscle tone, no stamina and could only manage 15 minutes on the ice. Now I do three hours and push myself. The sense of physical achievement is a new feeling for me. Obviously I can’t compete with a 20-year-old ballerina but I’m having real fun. And I’d love to win.”
Which isn’t to say that Tilton is breezily confident of success. “I’m worried about everything,” she confesses. “You have to be careful and yet push yourself. At my age , it doesn’t have to be a big injury that really hurts you.”
Tilton’s new can-do attitude also sees her reprise the role that made her famous, returning to her old stomping ground of Southfork, in the new series of Dallas, which Channel 5 will screen later this year.
“Lucy is back and though I don’t have too much to do in it, it’s going to be a great show. Dallas was a major part of my life, so that reunion with the cast was genuinely the most exciting thing.”
Whatever slings and arrows Tilton has negotiated in her life so far, she says she has no regrets. Compared to the hard knocks she has endured, ice-rink accidents don’t even come close.
This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine published 22nd January