I was preparing a one woman show for Edinburgh and I had gone with a new agent after many many years. We had talked about how I would get back into mainstream TV without having to be a presenter. As I was finishing writing the show she called and said how would I feel about going into Coronation Street. For a while I thought I can’t do that I’ve got a partner in London, I’ve got dogs and grandchildren, do I want to leave London? I didn’t know what to do but the light over my late husband Jack’s picture sometimes comes on for no reason and whilst I was sitting there wondering what to do of course on it came! I thought it was a nice way to circle 50 years because I met Jack in 1969 when I came to Manchester to join a theatre group called The Stables and I thought it would be quite a nice way to go back to something that he started his career doing, he started by writing episode 13 of Coronation Street. It is a little bit of a sentimental exercise but also it is quite a ‘me’ part.
What attracted you to the role?
She is not frightened to say what she thinks, Evelyn is certainly outspoken, a bit mean, a bit embittered, I’m not saying that I am that but maybe it’s not much of a stretch and she is funny, so that redeems her unpleasant qualities to some extent. I met with the then producer Kate Oates and I got a bit of the background story and saw a couple of the first scripts. I felt it would be a bit of a challenge, particularly as I would have to go up there and get a lot of episodes filmed in advance because I was already booked for Edinburgh.
What was it like juggling the two things?
It has been a challenge, I don’t think I have ever been as frightened as I was on that first night in Edinburgh because I had literally only had a few days to learn it, and even though I wrote it it was still an hour of me talking. As soon as I finished the two weeks there I was back to learning the next scenes for Evelyn and came back and was shooting the next day.
Has it changed since you were last on the show?
Yes it is very different, when I was last here they were only three episodes a week and now there are six and you can have four or more directors filming their episodes at any one time. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful, there is something very very comforting about coming back up north, my son says I am already speaking with a northern accent.
Is there anyone in particular you would like to work with?
I have this fantasy of doing a scene like Ena, Minnie and Martha in the snug maybe with Rita and Audrey putting the world to right, talking about nothing.
Was it partly the comedy element of the story that interested you?
She is a genuine battleaxe without a man to battle. A battleaxe is something that the British public seem to like. There isn’t much comedy in the actual storyline, by the very nature of what it is, but the lines are dry which brings the humour.
Physically Evelyn is very different to you, she looks a lot older did you have much input into how she looks?
I didn't have much input in the early stages, I have pinned up my hair into something slightly old fashioned, she is stuck very much in the past. Her clothes are the clothes of someone who is always after a bargain. She is not batty and fly away, she is carefully dressed but I try not to think about what she looks like.
Will you watch your episodes?
No not straight away, I will maybe watch things later on long after they have been on but I really don’t enjoy watching myself. I think a lot of actors are the same, it is hard to be objective. I don’t read reviews and I am not on social media I just get on with the job.
How does she end up moving in to Fiz and Tyrone’s after they find her?
We haven’t seen her leave where she was living, we don’t know what she did to get evicted. So I assume that there comes a point where she has so few friends and has upset so many neighbours that she doesn’t mind leaving. You would think she would be grateful whens she gets to the new place but far from it she is just as belligerent as she was in the old place. It is going to take some sort of a showdown, she doesn’t like herself, that is very obvious, she is stuck in a pattern of behaviour. I hope she gets an asbo, I’d love to see her tagged and doing community work with such bad grace. She is heading for a comeuppance.
Evelyn has strong opinions about how Fiz and Tyrone should be bringing up their children. What sort of relationship does she have with them?
Fiz doesn’t stand a chance no one was ever going to be good enough for Tyrone, not that she thinks he is good enough either but she has a grudging liking for this boy and she thinks that the woman he is with is boring. She sets out to drive her away just by being ungracious and critical and generally driving a wedge between them which is a horrible thing to do but there are people like that.
How do you feel about working with a dog?
I have two dogs at home, I love dogs and the one who plays Cerberus is a lovely calm dog. I am very happy that she has a dog and it is the one relationship where you see the softer side of her.
Have you based Evelyn on anyone, what have you drawn on?
There is a little bit of someone I know, she is very challenging, even ‘hello’ comes out as a challenge. A little of bit of that has gone in and most of my aunts and indeed my father who were very dry in their humour.
Do you like Evelyn?
You have to like the person you are playing otherwise you are judging them too much and it shows.
Meet Evelyn for the first time, next week on Coronation Street!