There’s good news today for fans of Coronation Street’s bubbly new hairdresser Emma Brooker – the actress who plays her, Alexandra Mardell, has been handed a new six-month contract on the ITV soap. “It’s great to know that I’m going to be sticking around for a bit longer,” the star tells RadioTimes.com. “I’m so pleased.”
The character of Emma, who debuted back in April, immediately made an impression on viewers when she got involved with David Platt mere days after starting work at Audrey’s salon. But for Mardell – a long-time fan of Corrie – that debut storyline proved to be a disorientating experience:
“To begin with, it was very surreal to be thrown in the Platts because I’ve watched the show all my life. Initially, it didn’t feel real. But Jack [P Shepherd] and Sue [Nicholls] have been so welcoming that I settled in quite quickly.
“However, the strangest part for me was being sat in the green room with Chris Gascoyne and Andy Whyment watching The Chase. I just thought, ‘what I am I doing? I’m sitting here watching The Chase on a Tuesday afternoon with Peter and Kirk from Corrie! That was so odd.”
The actress came to Corrie following a guest role on ITV crime drama Vera, an experience which she said stood her in good stead for her current soap role. “Brenda Blethyn went to the same drama school as I did – the Guildford School of Acting. And she came along one and asked me to audition for Vera. She was so supportive and so experienced. I learnt so much because that was actually my first television job.”
Now, of course, Mardell is learning from such soap A-listers as Sue Nicholls, who regularly offers tips to the Corrie newcomer: “There’s always something to learn. Sue herself says she learns something every day,” she says. “I’m glad that I’m getting to work with her a lot because she gives me so many hints and tips. Even down to how I’m positioning myself or showing me how to hold a gaze or a silly look. It really helps me out.”
Upcoming drama for Emma will see her caught in the crossfire when war breaks out at the salon as rival stylist Claudia tries to pinch Maria out from under Audrey’s nose. So whose side will Emma be on? “She doesn’t want to take sides, but she can see that Audrey is clinging on for dear life. Emma is just trying to keep the peace as much as possible.
“But it’s great for me because I got to share a scene with Rula Lenska, who’s a legend. It doesn’t come much better than being in a scene with both her and Sue. I’m being spoilt.”
And as for life away from Audrey’s, Emma will receive romantic attention from Seb Franklin, with viewers set to wonder whether he’ll reveal all about his recent HIV diagnosis. “I think she’d be very open-minded if she were to find out. But she probably wouldn’t understand it fully – that could be more of an issue! There are certainly lots of complications when it comes to Seb – Faye’s still interested in him, for a start.”
But if Emma’s personal life is in for a rocky time, the outlook for Mardell seems bright, with the 24-year-old having now moved from London to Manchester following the vote of confidence from Corrie.
And when it comes to fame, it appears as though she has her feet on the ground, thanks to advice from the likes of Colson Smith, Lucy Fallon and Jack P Shepherd: “When I’ve hung out with them outside of work, they always tell me to be myself and to not worry about people judging you. The most important thing for me is that I remain true to myself.”
But one person she was understandably keen to impress was her mother, who’s a diehard devotee of life in Weatherfield. “My mum was worried I might ruin it for her,” she laughs, “but she’s said I fit in well.” Well, if Corrie’s happy and mum’s happy, what more can you ask for?