Coronation Street star William Roache has revealed that he can feel the presence of his late co-star Anne Kirkbride on the set of the ITV soap. Speaking in the new issue of Radio Times, the actor says: “Even now, I can still feel her around. It’s very powerful, particularly at the Barlows’, where Ken and Deirdre were called upon to do a lot of crying and shouting. But I know all is well for her. And you get to the point where you can think about the happy times and enjoy them.
“She’s only ever a thought away and love is a great connector. I can say to Annie, ‘Didn’t we have a great time?’ They love it if you become happy again and are thinking about them in a loving way.”
Kirbride – who played long-suffering Deirdre Barlow for over 41 years – died of breast cancer in January 2015. However, Roache admits that he was unaware of how ill the actress prior to her death. “She’d been given three months off to sort herself out. We thought it was an emotional thing and that she’d get over it and come back,” he says. “Then it was discovered it was much more serious and we got the message that she was dying. We’d had no idea.”
In a wide-ranging interview given to mark the publication of Life and Soul, his new book on how to live a long and healthy life, Roache also discusses the recent run of controversial storylines on Corrie, including Pat Phelan’s reign of terror. Asked whether he thought that the soap has become too dark, Roache replies:
“You had a very strong character in Phelan, who offered a powerful storyline. But it’s like life: everything passes. Coronation Street may be going through a phase you don’t like, but it’ll pass into a phase you do.
“It should try to entertain you with its humour and grip with its drama. It’s a balancing act – you need to attract youngsters without alienating the elderly. And every so often, it’ll lurch one way when it follows something particularly strong. You will find older people saying, ‘Oh, it’s not what it was.’ But if it wasn’t adapting and changing, then it wouldn’t be bringing in new, younger viewers.”
You can read the full interview with William Roache in the new issue of Radio Times (out today)