Beverley Callard notches up 30 years on Coronation Street in 2019 as the indominable Liz McDonald, one of the soap’s most popular faces and former landlady of iconic pub the Rovers Return.
But Bev is also busier than over away from the cobbles, combining Corrie with stints on stage in The Rocky Horror Show and upcoming new musical play The Thunder Girls, about a girl group reuniting three decades after a bitter split, co-starring Coleen Nolan and premiering at Manchester’s Lowry theatre in September.
Can you tell us what’s coming up for Liz in your 30thyear on the show? I was quiet at the start of this year while I was doing The Rocky Horror Show on stage but now it’s revving up. I’ve got loads of comedy with Simon Gregson (Steve McDonald) and Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw) then into more drama – but I can’t tell you any more than that! I’m busy, that’s for sure.
Would you like to revisit Liz’s romances with Johnny or Mike? I don’t want her to get back with Johnny, he’s a wuss! Obviously I love working with Richard (Hawley) but Liz thinks he’s a coward because he lies and was playing a game with her. I’d love to have my old friend Louis Emerick in full-time as Mike, but Liz does love a baddie doesn’t she? That’s why it worked with Jim, he was very straightforward and passionate.
Are there any plans for Jim to return? I hope so, but they won’t tell us until it’s happening! Last time he was back he pretended their dead daughter was still alive which was pretty evil, but he acted out of desperation – listen to me still defending him! I love working with Charlie Lawson we click into place so easily. And I’d like Liz’s other son Andy to come back, we haven’t seen him for a long time. A full McDonald reunion for the 30thyear would be great but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Would you like Liz to be landlady of the Rovers again? That’s a tricky one. Sometimes you can be in there and not have great stories so I wouldn’t want that. I’m not against the idea of being back in the Rovers, as long as big storylines keep coming for Liz. But I like Liz in the medical centre as well, it gives her a new dimension. There are discussions about that at the moment…
What has kept you on Corrie for so long? I love playing Liz and what the writers give to her. They just keep reinventing the character, she never gets boring and can go from high comedy to bleak tragedy. Writers like Jonathan Harvey capture those moments we all go through and as actors we bring them to life, and I love that process. I’m lucky to get paid for something I love doing.
You’ve done Rocky Horror and start The Thunder Girls in September, are Corrie supportive of doing other projects on the side? Yes, more than they used to be. I did 10 years on the Street initially then left to go back to doing theatre because we weren’t allowed to do both back then. Now the cast is so much bigger and they realise sometimes you just need inspiration from something else. I don’t want to stop playing Liz but I think the show understands it’s good for actors to step out of their comfort zones.
Is it nerve-wracking playing a different character to Liz? I still get nervous when we go for a take on Corrie, even after all this time! But it’s a nice nervous. My character in The Thunder Girls, Roxanne, is very different to Liz which I’m glad about, I wouldn’t want to take time out of Corrie just to play Liz under another name. I’m probably most nervous about learning all the dialogue.
What about the singing? I’ve got the vocal coaching going on! That’s not new to me really, I’ve sung before – I’m not Barbra Streisand I hasten to add, if only! – but I’ve done plays with songs. Apparently they’re called ‘playsicals’ now, I think that’s am American term. It’s a bit naff! The songs evolve naturally from the characters and just happen, they suddenly break the fourth wall rather than go into a full-on tap routine!
Are there similarities between Corrie and The Thunder Girls in terms of portraying strong women? The Thunder Girls is much more glamorous but, like Corrie, chips away at the age-ism thing because the characters are all strong women of a certain age. About 20 years ago the script was in development as a TV drama but they wanted to make the characters younger because they thought women over 40 were past their sell-by date! That’s really bad isn’t it? It wouldn’t have worked, the whole point is that these women have gone through so much and that is what makes them interesting.
Did you enjoy doing the Rocky Horror Show? I had the time of my life! I’m doing it again in May at the Liverpool Empire. For me, as an actress in my 60s, to be in the middle of some great stuff in Coronation Street, doing The Thunder Girls which is a brand new production, and being the first ever female narrator in Rocky Horror all in one year is amazing.
It’s Corrie’s 60thanniversary in 2020, what can you tell us about that? Nothing – and not because I’m being secretive, honestly! I asked our producer Iain MacLeod but none of us know yet. Maybe another live episode, but all the soaps have done that so many times now. Personally I wouldn’t want a big epic CGI disaster, I think it should be taken back to proper kitchen sink drama, with personalities, emotions – women in their nighties with no make-up, all of that!
Beverley Callard stars in The Thunder Girls play opening at The Lowry in Salford, Manchester on 24th September 2019. Tickets available at www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.