Thank you, Barbara Knox! Sally Carman
on how the Corrie legend inspired her to act, and why she’d love her character, Abi Franklin, to stay on the cobbles for years…
Most actors have a tale to tell about what made them want to perform, but Sally Carman’s story has to be one of the most heartwarming we’ve heard yet.
Back in the late 1980s, when Sally was a schoolgirl, she was one of millions of Coronation Street fans captivated by the dramatic plot that saw Alan Bradley manipulate and almost kill Rita Fairclough.
Thirty years later and Sally is of course now making waves on the same show, playing troubled mum-of-three Abi Franklin.
‘I always knew I was going to be an actress, but I didn’t do GCSE drama at school or anything,’ reveals Sally, who was born and bred in Yorkshire. ‘I performed in a couple of plays at junior school but really that was it.
‘Funnily enough, Barbara Knox was a massive part of it. I remember watching her do the whole Alan Bradley storyline and getting tingles and goosebumps, and I just knew I wanted to do that.
I’ve told Barbara this, and she was quite touched by it.
‘Oh my goodness, to meet her was something else; it was like an out-of-body experience!’
To be fair, we can’t give Barbara all the credit for Sally’s success. Some of that must also go to Sally’s parents - dad Stephen, a former miner, and mum Ann, a former housewife. Dad, in particular, needs some Brownie points, having given his daughter a kick up the backside when he could see that she wasn’t pursuing her dream.
‘When I left school, I was in a couple of bands,’ Sally tells us. ‘We used to gig in pubs. I was the lead singer, and we had a great time.’
‘My dad said to me: “You’re never going to do this acting,” so I went, “Yes I am!” He knew what he was doing – reverse psychology and all that. So I applied for four drama schools, got in at LAMDA [London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art] and that was it.’
Sally’s first TV role was in 1998, when she made a brief appearance in BBC1 cop drama City Central. Since then, she’s notched up numerous roles on telly, radio, film and in theatre, before landing the part of Corrie’s Abi last year.
She was cherry-picked to play the character, and initially offered six episodes before eventually being made a more permanent cast member. But if you think this sounds like she had an easy ride, Nicked: Abi finds herself in trouble with the police think again. Getting the nod from Corrie came after years of trying – and failing - to break into the soap.
‘I had something like 10 screen tests over the years for different parts,’ says Sally.
‘I auditioned for Shona,
Kate Connor, and I was up for Hayley Tamaddon’s character [Andrea Beckett] as well.
‘Gennie Radcliffe, Corrie’s casting director, has been my biggest supporter. She has worked so hard to try to get me onto the show, and she finally managed it. But Abi was worth waiting for. She is by far the best fit for me.
‘She’s an actor’s dream. She’s flawed, like we all are, but she’s doing her best.’
Trouble on The way…
When we first met Abi, she was a drug-addled mess, unable to properly care for her three children – teenage son Seb, and young twins Lexi and Charlie. After the twins were taken into care, she vowed to get them back, and it looked like she was well on her way when she cleaned up her act and landed a job at Kevin’s garage.
But things turned sour recently when Abi was wrongly accused of damaging Michelle Connor’s car and given the sack. And, this week, the former mechanic implodes and has a drugs relapse. She then decides to put the twins up for adoption, and when Seb trashes the florists after discovering that the real car saboteur was Tracy, she takes the rap for her son’s crime and gets sent to prison.
It’s not the happy ending Abi had hoped for – but Sally is thrilled.
‘I don’t want her to get her kids back, and I think that’s unrealistic now anyway,’ she tells us. ‘I like how she just bobs about like an alley cat, going from one thing to the next until she ends up smack on her backside.
‘And, who knows, if I’m in Corrie for a while, the twins can grow up and they can come and find me on the street in a few years’ time.’
Does this mean that Sally would like to stick around on the soap?
‘I really would,’ she smiles. ‘You look at people like Bill Roache
[Ken Barlow]. He’s in his 80s and he’s smashing it on a daily basis.
‘I’d really love that to be me in years to come. I couldn’t think of anything better!’
I remember watching Barbara and
getting tingles and goosebumps
soap legend: Barbara Knox has played Rita since 1964