A familiar face returns to Coronation Street next week when Debbie Webster (Sue Devaney) visits big brother Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell), her second reappearance within a year since leaving Weatherfield back in 1985.
Brassy Debbie, a gobby teen who has matured into a successful businesswoman, is back for a longer stint this time and will clash with Kev’s new girlfriend Abi Franklin (Sally Carman), who faces a battle with painkiller addiction following an accident at the garage which left her seriously injured.
Devaney, a popular presence on UK stage and screen for decades, discusses with RadioTimes.com her second cobbles comeback, her brush with Weatherfield royalty during her original era, and working with the legendary Victoria Wood.
How does it feel to be back again?
Absolutely amazing. I was chuffed to come back last year, I was touring with Calendar Girls the musical and they fitted me in for six episodes. Mike, who plays Kevin, asked if I’d consider coming back again and I said I’d love to, so he told me to make sure I was available as he was going to speak to the producer! I was over the moon when I got the call, I didn’t think it would be so soon. I was meant to start filming in April but it was delayed because of COVID. But it’s lovely, so many of my mates are here.
Has Debbie changed much?
I was 16 when I first played her and I’m 53 now, but I think there is a lot of the old Debbie still in there. She was very outspoken as a teenager and still has that trait. She’s got a lot of money these days, it’s fun playing a character so rich she can give away £200k just like that! I’ve based Debbie on one of my oldest friends I’ve known since I was a child, she’s the kind of girl who never goes out with her face fully done and with earrings that match her bag and shoes.
What are your memories of your original time on the street?
Back in the old Granada studios it was amazing and the era of big, big stars. I remember Julie Goodyear, who played Bet Lynch, arriving in a white Rolls Royce and the driver getting out and opening the door for her. People like her and Jean Alexander (Hilda Ogden) were still around, it was such a special time. It’s a different building but there’s still something very special about Corrie. I feel very safe and comfortable.
Why is Debbie back again?
Business brings her back. She lives in Turkey and works as a property developer but was missing her family, her and Kevin are close. You get to that age in life where you want to feel closer to home and that’s what Debbie is experiencing. She’s never forgotten where she’s come from and is comfortable being back. There’s going to be some business deals and she wants to make sure her big brother is alright.
Does she approve of him seeing Abi?
Debbie questions whether she is good enough for him. If Kevin’s happy, Debbie’s happy, but she doesn’t want him to make a fool of himself again and is wary of Abi at first. I don’t think she dislikes her, she just wants her to be honest and sincere. Debbie is meddling a bit but needs to know Abi is genuine, Kevin has been hurt so many times before.
Who else is on the show you already know?
Lots of people, as well as Mike there’s Antony Cotton (Sean Tully), I hung out with Jane Hazlegrove (Bernie Winter) a lot in our 20s, I was at Oldham Theatre Workshop as a kid with Sally Ann Matthews (Jenny Connor) and Sally Dynevor (Sally Metcalfe) I’ve known for years. We were so excited to have a scene together as our characters have history, they used to be sisters-in-law. When I got Corrie in 1984 I remember Sal saying that was her dream job, if she got a part in the Street her life would be made. I reminded her of that when we did our scene, the two of us in our 50s working together on Corrie all these years later, and we both had a little cry!
What are you memories of working with Victoria Wood in dinnerladies?
It was one of the best times in my life, I learnt a lot. I didn’t know what to expect, you think as it’s comedy it’ll be all fun and games, everyone singing round a piano having a laugh, but she was very serious and quiet. Vic was a perfectionist, if you got a line or inflection wrong she would make sure you got it right. But I loved working with her, she was a private person but once you got to know her she was incredibly loyal, she cast me in Housewife 49 years later. I loved watching how she did her comedy, she was at the peak of it then. Being in a room with her, Julie Walters, Celia Imrie, all those greats – I just soaked it up and made the most of it. I can’t believe that was 20 years ago.
Could Debbie become the matriarch of the Webster family?
Yes! She knows who she is, I imagine she’s been through the insecurities of her 30s and 40s and now she’s in her 50s she tells it like it is. Take or leave my advice, but I’ll tell what I think anyway! If somebody crosses her, that’s it. Corrie could easily have recast Debbie, it’s been such a long time and I’m so grateful they asked me – and not someone who was younger looking!