Weatherfield welcomes back a familiar face next week when Rula Lenska returns to Coronation Street as snooty stylist Claudia Colby, sashaying onto the cobbles seven years after her last appearance. During her last stint, fans lapped up Claud’s personal and professional rivalry with Audrey Roberts, and when the frenemies are reunited on Wednesday 25 July it’s straight into the bitchy barbs between the ladies – and Lenska is loving it.
“It’s battle of the hairdressers,” the veteran performer reveals. “Claudia is now suddenly flying quite high and has several new franchises opening of her salon, Perm Suspect. She visits Audrey at her salon and learns Maria has been sacked, so she poaches her!”
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Stealing her former staff sparks Claud and Aud’s old animosity, but Lenska defends her alter ego’s antics when it comes to her old sparring partner. “She doesn’t intend to hurt Audrey, I don’t think she means her any harm. Claudia is quite catty with her remarks about the differences between their clientele – how some salons are the future and others just aren’t! But the writers are also developing the warmer side of their relationship which I am thrilled about.”
Lenska is clearly delighted to be back on the soap and building on the chemistry with Sue Nicholls, as Aud and Claud reform their bitchy double act. “It’s such an unusual dynamic, these two older women who like each other but constantly snipe and try to get the upper hand. It’s important to show interesting, viable, exciting and unusual relationships between older ladies, it provides a delicious possibility of grown-up humour, and is vital for the older demographic.
“Sue and I gelled straight away. The relationship sparked interest from the writers even when we didn’t have many lines as such, so now they’re really writing for Claudia and giving her more to do and with a more caring element.
Soon to be rejoining Lenska and Nicholls is Nigel Havers as Lothario Lewis Archer, who Claudia originally introduced Audrey to all those years ago as her male escort. The prospect of the trio being together again was another draw back to Weatherfield for Lenska: “Yes, the delectable Lewis is coming back,” she purrs. “I believe that relationship may be rekindled, but I’m hoping she meets a tall, dark, handsome stranger and has a romantic episode…”
The actress praises Corrie’s tradition of formidable female roles, but admits she never thought she’d end up on the show. “It was the least likely programme for me to do because I’m a bit cut-glass posh,” she observes. “I remember thinking I should attempt a northern accent for the part when I first met with Sue. She said, ‘Just give me a sentence,’ so I did – and she responded with: ‘Forget it!’ I’m feeling very honoured to be asked back, people here are charming and very welcoming.”
There seems to be the appetite for a permanent place for Claudia on the street this time round, from both producers and Lenska’s point of view. “It’s a long stint this time,” she confirms. “Currently I’m here into November with the possibility of extending. I’d love to do a couple of years and get embroiled in the family of Coronation Street. You don’t know where the storylines are going to lead, but it’s looking good.
“My dream is Claudia and Audrey join forces and amalgamate to run a joint studio – Claudia does her tattoos, fake nails and funky haircuts, and Aud does her blue rinses. I think it would be terribly funny!”