As Rita and Dennis prepare for their wedding ceremony on Monday 4th June; the same day as the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Weatherfield, actress Barbara Knox reveals her feelings about being Mrs Tanner, what she said when she met the queen and how she felt doing her own stunts in the wedding episodes.
How do you feel about the upcoming wedding?
Fantastic! A lot of soaps and general television programmes are for kids now so I just think that this is so brilliant. It’s wonderful for all of us, it’s invigorating, it’s different and it’s lovely. You do
see in the paper that people have emigrated to somewhere and lost touch for 40 years, have married other people then met up again and are getting married and they’re seventy-odd. Peoples’ first reaction is, ‘oh dear’. Then if you think about it, it’s wonderful, companionship, a warmth, friendship and Dennis is the right man at last as far as Rita is concerned.
What about the fact that your screen wedding was chosen as the Coronation Street storyline to mark the Queen’s Golden Jubilee?
It was a huge honour. It is unbelievable. I never in my wildest dream thought this would happen. It makes me weep. It’s a great honour and overwhelming really.
Of course you met the Queen when you received your MBE what did she say to you?
The Queen was lovely and we chatted about the Street and I didn’t quite think about what I said – I remember answering her and being terrified. I said: ‘Now, if you’ve got a minute on the 10th (Dec 2010), it’s wonderful.’ It was the tram crash. If you’ve got a minute? To the Queen of England? Isn’t that ridiculous! But she does watch it. She’s visited the Street and I’ve met her with a few other
people at an event at the Guildhall and again she was talking about the Street. She seemed quite knowledgeable. She says she enjoys it.
What input have you had in the wedding with regards to clothes and jewellery?
Just about everything really. Obviously the dress was very important because as you
get older its difficult isn’t it? I didn’t want Rita to look silly. It is chiffon and very pretty. I have been playing this part for over forty years and I have had several engagement rings. I have actually kept the rings, simply because I feel like the guardian of the character really. My dressing room is full of jewels now; you don’t expect to stay in a show this long so I have just kept them for whatever. I have provided Rita’s jewellery along the way, simply because I think, oh that would be
nice, I wonder if she would like it. All of the jewellery has to be glittery enough for
The scenes for the kidnapping are very dramatic and you didn’t have a stunt
double. How did it feel doing the stunts?
Well I wanted to do it all myself. I was man handled at the edge of this water. It was awful and frightening and Rita gets thrown about quite a lot. I was almost going over into the water, it was that frightening. It was very instinctive because you read the script and it says that the baddy is behind Rita and little Tina is over there and they’re arguing. I didn’t quite realise that they were going to say, right Rick's going to throw her in the canal now. I literally screamed and it was genuine, I didn’t know that was going to happen, I thought that he was just going to shake me.
What was it like working with Philip Lowry after all of those years?
Wonderful, he is a gentleman. It was like coming home. It’s amazing that the story brings these two together and it works. Here they are getting married which is wonderful. I’m happy to be Mrs Dennis Tanner and I love working with Philip. He’s a gentleman. That first day filming after all those years was incredible. To think I’d not seen him for all that time; it was like coming home.”
Do you remember when you first came into the show?
In those days we had all of those marvellous people here, Ena, Elsie, Minnie, Margaret and my favourite, Doris Speed. The first tech run on the Wednesday, when everyone comes up and watches you do it, I was so terrified I lost my voice. I went in and I couldn’t speak at all and everyone was kind about it and told me not to worry. I was so nervous in front of all of those big names because they were like gods to me, but they were so nice to me.
Would you ever consider retiring?
I haven’t thought of retiring. I keep saying to everybody I know – don’t retire, just keep working. It’s so good for you – it certainly is for me. I know it’s hard and you’re tired and you don’t want to go in, but your brain is going. And I do think the sheer discipline of work helps to keep you younger. So apart from loving the job, that is at the back of my mind. I’ve done it all my life and I enjoy it and I
genuinely find it stimulating.
I remember once I was written out by a Producer for 11 weeks and I thought: ‘well, that’s fine; lovely.’ And the first week I thought it was the way to live and the second week I went shopping. And the third week, I thought: ‘I’ve done that.’ Oh my goodness, I was walking up the wall by the end of that time. I thought 'it’s no good - you’re a worker - you’re not that domesticated, lady!’ I think
my friends think I’m the luckiest woman on earth and so do I. Coronation Street has been a gift - it’s a good team and I enjoy working with the younger ones in the cast, such as Michelle Keegan who plays little Tina; they’re good kids.
It’s fascinating to think that a lifetime has gone by in one job. And a wonderful time with lots of highs and lows, with tears and laughter, but what a fabulous gift I think I’ve been given.
You can find out more about the wedding epsiodes in our preview pictures and see residents dressed up in the Street Party gallery.
Plus, watch classic Queens of the Street videos featuring Rita, Bet, Hilda, Betty and many more, to help celebrate the day.
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