Julie Lordan catches up with Corrie’s latest incumbent; a true veteran of the screen
It seems like the producers of Coronation Street have decided on a renewed focus on what the soap has always done best – the older characters’ stories. It’s a bit of a return to plots with more gentle outcomes than the dark dramatics we’ve come to expect from the soaps. Helping the new silver surfers along is Maureen Lipman, who has joined fellow theatrical veterans Rula Lenska and Nigel Havers in Weather eld. We also expect stalwarts like Audrey,(Sue Nicholls) Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox) and Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden) will have more prominent stories than they’ve had recently.
Of course, it’s not the rst time Maureen Lipman has been in Coronation Street. Back in 2002, she had a very short stint playing Rovers’ bar manager Lillian Spencer, but this new character is quite di erent. Arriving with a tough-as-boots personality, Tyrone Dobbs’ grandmother is set to interfere in his relationship with Fiz, as well as poking her nose into how they are raising their two daughters and their standing in the Street – generally making herself unpopular, by the sounds of it. Maureen Lipman takes up the story.
How did the part of Evelyn Plummer come about?
I had a new agent a er many, many years and we had talked about how I would get back into mainstream TV without having to be a presenter. She asked how I felt about a role in Coronation Street. For a while, I thought it would be di cult to leave London as I’ve got a partner in London, and I’ve got dogs and grandchildren. I didn’t know what to do, but the light over my late husband Jack’s (Rosenthal) picture sometimes comes on for no reason and while 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. It is a little bit of a sentimental exercise but also it is quite a ‘me’ part.
What attracted you to the role?
Evelyn is not frightened to say what she thinks and she is certainly outspoken, a bit mean and a bit embittered. I’m not saying that I am like that myself, but she is funny, so that redeems her unpleasant qualities to some extent.
Did the comic possibility of her story interest you?
She is a genuine battleaxe without a man to battle, except maybe picking ghts with Dev in the corner shop and putting Tyrone in his place regularly. A battleaxe is someone that the public seem to like. ere isn’t much comedy in the actual storyline, by the very nature of what it is, but her lines are dry; in a way you have to put your own personality into it and then the writers start to respond to the way it is going, so I can only wait and see.
Evelyn looks quite di erent from your usual appearance – did you have much input into how she looks?
I didn’t have an awful lot of time to get too involved at that stage. She is stuck very much in the past and her clothes are the clothes of someone who is always a er a bargain. She has put her hair into victory rolls when that isn’t really something that people do any more. She is not batty and yaway – she is carefully dressed but I try not to think about what she looks like as I would just get depressed!
Has Coronation Street changed since you were on it in 2002?
Yes, it is very di erent: when I was last here there were only three episodes a week and now there are six and you can have four or more directors lming their episodes at any one time. Everyone has been so friendly and helpful that there is something very comforting about coming back up north. My son says I am already speaking with a northern accent.
Will you watch the episodes you are in?
No, I don’t watch them. I will maybe watch things later on, long a er they have been on but I really don’t enjoy watching myself. I can see me thinking
and I get impatient with myself. I think a lot of actors feel that way, 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 Evelyn end up moving into Fiz and Tyrone’s?
We haven’t seen her leave where she was living, so we don’t know what she did to get evicted. 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 a bit like a rescue dog and be grateful when 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, as she doesn’t like herself, that is very obvious and she is stuck in a pattern of behaviour. She is heading for a comeuppance! What sort of relationship does Evelyn have with Fiz? Fiz doesn’t stand a chance as 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.
Evelyn has a dog – how do you feel about working with an animal?
I have two dogs at home. I love dogs and the one who plays Cerberus is a lovely calm dog, so I am very happy that she has a dog and it is the one relationship where you see the so er side of her.
Have you based Evelyn on anyone?
ere is a little bit of someone I know. She is very challenging: even ‘Hello’ comes out as a challenge. A little bit of that has gone in and most of my aunts and indeed my father, who were all 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!
Fiz doesn’t stand a chance as no one was ever going to be good enough for Tyrone
Fiz and Tyrone are in for a shock with Evelyn’s arrival