THE residents of Coronation Street are about to be struck down by a severe case of deja vu. Liz McDonald is returning to reclaim her place behind the bar of the Rovers and the outfits are as outrageous as ever.
It’s coming up to 25 years since McDonald first appeared on Coronation Street: “She’s still brash but she’s got some cash,” says Beverley Callard, who has played the iconic character on and off since 1989.
“Yesterday, I had my hair in a Scouse bun so it was scraped off my face. I had this dress on that was too tight with a Wonderbra and false eyelashes. It was awful,” she exclaims.
As much as she’d like to tone McDonald down, “the rest of the cast can’t wait to see what emerges from the dressing room,” she laughs.
Tall and slender Callard, who has combined her acting with work as a fitness instructor for the last 30 years, is looking amazing in understated black trousers, black shirt and heeled black boots (she has tiny size two-and-a-half feet) as she takes a break from filming.
It’s been two-and-a-half years since she left the show and the 56-year-old actress admits she was tentative about returning.
“I had to think about it. I love playing Liz and I love the show but I thought, ‘Do I have to stop real life again?’ ” says Callard in her lispy Leeds accent.
“I’ve just done 32 weeks on tour in a really demanding play but nothing is as knackering as Coronation Street.”
Liz’s homecoming is sure to please viewers, including a certain knight. “I was at a party in Manchester years ago and I got this tap on my shoulder. It was Anthony Hopkins,” recalls Callard. “He said, ‘I so love your character, you’re so real’. My legs went to jelly.”
Sir Anthony for one will be happy that Stuart Blackburn, the show’s executive producer, was adamant that Liz should return and arranged a clandestine meeting with the actress when her theatre tour stopped off in Manchester.
“He said he wanted Liz to run the Rovers again and I just couldn’t say no,” says Callard, who admits she felt nauseous as her husband Jon drove her to the studios.
“I thought I was going to be sick. It’s not the work, it’s just walking into that building - but I’m having a ball,” says the actress.
Since viewers last saw Liz, she has been busy working at a health spa in Spain and following a successful investment in the business returns a woman of substance.
“Steve [Liz’s on-screen son played by Simon Gregson] has called her and said, ‘I want to buy the Rovers and it should be you and me,’” says Callard. “That phone call paves the way for Liz to make her return in suitably dramatic fashion.” But then, Corrie fans wouldn’t have it any other way.
Coronation Street, STV, Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings