It must have been a dream come true filming in Africa!
"Yeah, it was really lovely. It was nice to be asked to do the project but the filming in South Africa was a bonus!"
How did you first hear about the project?
"Gavin [Blyth], the DVD producer – and the assistant producer at Corrie – phoned me up with the idea and asked how I felt about doing it. I said that it sounded great from what he told me, so he went ahead and sent me all the information. It all went from there."
How did the idea come about?
"I've no idea how the South Africa idea came about. In Corrie, Cilla went off to Vegas, so maybe with Sun City being similar to Vegas, Cilla decided that wanted to live there after a visit? I would think it's quite reasonable to live in South Africa because of the exchange rate, too. It's a great place, with so many different things to do."
What was it like playing Cilla again?
"It was really strange. I didn't really think about it until I went to Manchester for the script read through. I opened my mouth and she just poured out again. I was a bit worried about it, though. I drew up a list of pros and cons. I left Corrie of my own choice in order to move on, do different things, have a break and spend more time at home. One factor that I really did take into account was the fact it's a DVD and it's never going to be shown on TV. I didn't feel like I was going back to the series. It was just a great opportunity apart from anything else. And it was a great way for me to round off the character. She left in a bit of a hurry to Vegas, never to be seen again. This is just me saying a farewell to her."
In a nutshell, what's the DVD about?
"It's a chaotic carry on-type comedy. There are a few sensitive moments in there, but on the whole it's a farcical side of Coronation Street! It's a bit of fun. If you're looking for serious storylines and dramatic acting, it's not that. If you're looking for something to put in someone's Christmas stocking that they can sit down at four o'clock after they've watched The Queen on Christmas Day and laugh for a couple of hours, that's what it is."
"Thinking back, there were lots of scenes which were really good fun. I always love the cheeky dressing up bits and the parts with lots of action going on. I love the farce – the bits with Chesney going around in the wheelchair were hilarious. To be honest, some of the nicest bits are some of the two-hander scenes I have with Sam [Aston]. There are a couple of really nice moments where you realise that Cilla does still love Chesney and he still loves her, but they just don't know how to show it. I have to say, I loved going down that huge water slide! I didn't particularly like filming the bits in the African bush at midnight, though – they were a bit scary. We were in the middle of nowhere in Africa in the dark and then you hear lions starting to roar and you think 'oh my God'!"
You must get asked this all the time, but would you return to Corrie?
"[Laughs] Like I say, I've put her to bed for now, but I'd be stupid if I said I'd never go back. Never say never. Things change, things happen. In three or four years' time I might fancy resurrecting her. For now, I'm not really wanting to go back. I'm having a lovely time at home and doing other things. I'm very lucky that they've left the door open for Cilla to return – she's certainly not dead!"
What else are you working on at the moment? Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
"I got back from doing the Corrie DVD and went on holiday for two weeks, then I went back to South Africa for 10 days to do Adrenaline Junkie with Jack Osbourne. I'm in the last episode of the series. We swam with great white sharks, did a bungee jump and skydived, amongst other things. It was scary, but it was great fun. I've had a lovely summer working with such great people. Now I'm spending a bit of time at home, doing a few voiceovers until the next big project comes up."
Coronation Street: Out of Africa is available to buy on DVD from Monday, November 10.