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60 Seconds with Actress Paula Wilcox

Exclusive interview by Karen Beishuizen

Paula Wilcox is a British actress who starred in the comedy “Man about the house” (US Show Three’s Company is a remake of this show). She starred in movies, series and on stage.
She currently plays the role of Elaine Jones in “Coronation Street”.

KB: You are best known as Chrissy in the sitcom “Man about the house “: How did you get this part, and did you expect the show to be so popular? Even now in 2022?

The part was very much created for me. I had appeared as Beryl in The Lovers, a sitcom produced by Granada Television in Manchester. It was a huge success, and I was invited to a meeting with Philip Jones, Controller of Light Entertainment at Thames Television. After my success in The Lovers, he was keen to find something for me. He also wanted something for Richard O’Sullivan and, after Brian Cooke and Johnny Mortimer came up with the premise for a series, Sally Thomsett joined the gang. As you know, Yootha Joyce and Brian Murphy completed the ensemble and Doug Fisher put in regular appearances as the upstairs neighbour, Larry. We had a wonderful time shooting the three series, and none of us could have predicted its success in 2022!

After all, when we all met for the first read-through, we’d never even heard of home video.

KB: Are you still in touch with Richard O’Sullivan and Sally Thomsett?

Yes. Sally and I exchange Christmas cards and meet occasionally, and I see Richard and Brian from time to time as well. It’s always a real pleasure to see them – we shared such happy times.
There is a special bond when you work closely with people over a period and when we meet the old days seem like yesterday!

KB: At what age did you know you wanted to become an actress, and have you ever regretted this decision?

I loved going to Pantomime as a child and would always volunteer noisily and enthusiastically to go up on stage, but I was never chosen. Then, aged about 11 or 12, I was taken by the school to see a production of Shakespeare’s Henry IV part 1. I was fascinated by the way lines that I had read in class, and which made no sense to me there could be repeated by an actor or actress on stage, and they could show me how their character was feeling, why they said the line and what it meant. I was hooked straightaway and wanted to be able, not only to show emotions but also to express them as beautifully as the best writers can.

KB: Since 2020 you play Elaine Jones in Coronation Street: How did you get this role and how difficult is it to play a victim of abuse?

Elaine had been a victim of Coercive Control back in the days when that expression probably didn’t exist. I read a couple of books and spoke to experts about the experiences of different women and the way they coped. Fortunately, all the Coronation Street writers had done masses of research, and the scripts were sensitively written and really good to work on.

KB: In 2008 you portrayed Bette Davis in the play Whatever Happened to the Cotton Dress Girl: How was it playing such an iconic actress and are you a fan of Bette Davis?

Whatever Happened to The Cotton Dress Girl? was a huge hit for the small theatre that produced it, and I loved every minute of it. Bette Davis is an icon of mine and I’ve seen all her films (I think).
She was, at least on the surface, incredibly tough yet she was sensitive enough to give such wonderful portrayals of suffering women – she would have loved Shelley’s role in Corrie!

KB: Are there any current actors/actresses/directors you like who you would like to play with?

Not really.

KB: The world is slowly coming out of an almost 2-year lock down where you couldn’t do much except for staying at home: How did you spend this time? Any hobbies?

Just before the pandemic hit, I was asked to play Elaine in Coronation Street. I turned up for work on the first day, and within a matter of days, the studio closed because of Covid. So, I came back as soon as the studio reopened to finish my story.

As luck would have it, the producers have asked me back several times since then so Coronation Street and two other series I worked on have kept me busy all through lockdown. I’m aware that I’m one of the very lucky ones. Like almost everyone I know, I spent my down time walking, catching up on books I’d been meaning to read and trying to think of new things to cook for supper!