Alison King on her Coronation Street exit – “It’s not a sabbatical. I’m leaving”

Exclusive: The Corrie star reveals why she's departing Weatherfield in May

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Prepare to shed a tear, Corrie fans – actress Alison King is saying goodbye to the ITV soap in May. For Carla, its been a tumultuous decade in Weatherfield, but King has been rewarded for her performance as the no-nonsense factory boss with a well-deserved nomination for Serial Drama Performance at this year’s National Television Awards.

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Here, she talks about why she’s decided to call time on the role of Carla and what lies ahead in the run-up to her emotional exit later this year…

So, we’ve had a minibus smash, a fire, a gambling addiction, a paternity surprise – is anyone’s life on Corrie as dramatic as Carla’s?
No! In fact, over the last ten years, it’s just been one thing after another. In real life, she’d have been sectioned by now. But she’s doing all right, all things considered.

But what does it do to your work-life balance when you have such intense storylines all year round?
It’s incredibly hard. My daughter Daisy [who’s six] is the main victim because she has to share so much of her Mummy’s time with Corrie. A lot of the time, Carla’s stories are high octane, emotional stuff. The learning of it takes up my weekends and it can be mentally and physically exhausting to perform.

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Is that one of the reasons why you’ve decided to exit the show?
Yes – and I am actually leaving. It’s been put out there that I’m taking a sabbatical, but I’m not. They’ve very graciously left the doors open for me to come back if I want to. And I haven’t ruled that out. But this is a new chapter for me.

In my head, I only meant to stay four years. And I’m now going into my tenth year. So all Daisy has ever known is me getting out of the house at 7.30 in the morning and getting back when she’s in bed. I’ve probably only ever done about 20 pick-ups or drop-offs in all the time she’s been at school, which is quite sad.

And creatively, I miss being other people. It’s what I went to drama school for. I love playing diverse characters and meeting new people. And, truthfully, I also want to be able to get my voiceover career going again. There’s all sorts of things that I used to do, whch I can’t do while I’m on Coronation Street. So, those are the reasons, really.

So do you have a big project lined up?
I’ve got a very big project – I’ve got to do my house up! Honestly, I’ve got a lot of life to catch up on. And I’ve been in talks with lots of nice producers and they seem very excited about me leaving. That’s all I can really say.

As for your current storyline, I was disappointed to see Carla having a one-night stand with Robert because I enjoy her chemistry with Nick…
I was gutted! I suppose there needs to be a catalyst to bring everything to a head. But I don’t believe it probably would have happened had I not been leaving. 

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And as for what lies ahead, we’ve seen a trailer in which Carla’s attacked in the Bistro and Tracy seems to abandon her to her fate. Surely Tracy is instrumental in Carla eventually going?
Well, people seem to love the ongoing Carla and Tracy feud. So I would imagine she has something to do with it, yes.

Do you think that perhaps Carla has been punished enough over the years?
Yes. I think it does a character the world of good to disappear for a while. There are only so many things you can do before you start thinking, ‘we’re seeing the same things here’. If I were to come back, it’d feel fresh again.

One relationship I’ll also miss is Carla’s friendship with Roy. Is that as much fun to play as it is for us to watch?
Of course. It’s amazing. There are a lot of people that I’ve had a kinship with and one of them is David Neilson. And the relationship between Roy and Carla has grown over the years. Now, he even lets her be affectionate. He doesn’t mind her putting her arm around him. And when she’s mean to him, he knows that it might be for his own good. Roy’s been a little father figure to Carla, which is nice.

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What will you miss most about Coronation Street?
The people. I see more of them than I do my own family. That’s what I’ll miss. I will be absolutely forlorn on my last day and probably won’t be able to speak or do any of my scenes. But, you know, I’m excited as well. And I’m looking forward to doing other work and feeling less tired about it.

And what do you think Carla’s legacy will be? Is she up there with heroines like Elsie Tanner?
It’s impossible for me to say. Characters like Elsie Tanner are so iconic. And even when I’m watching Carla at home through my fingers, I still see me. It’s hard to get a grip! But it’s a huge honour if people put me in that category. It’s amazing. Plus soap operas help a lot of people with the subjects they cover. If we’re lucky enough to change some people’s lives and help them, then that’s a good job done.

VOTE IN THIS YEAR’S NATIONAL TELEVISION AWARDS HERE

You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.

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