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Soaps Interview

Michelle Collins, John Michie (Stella and Karl, Corrie)

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Stella and Karl outside the Rovers in Coronation Street

© ITV

Coronation Street launches a new era next week as former EastEnders actress Michelle Collins and Taggart star John Michie make their first appearances as Stella Price and Karl Munro, a new couple who move into The Rovers. With his marriage to Becky at crisis point, Steve McDonald decides to make his life a little easier and launches a search for a new bar manager for the pub.

Steve's hunt leads him to Stella, who appears to be perfect for the job, but he soon learns that she has some tricks up her sleeve as she moves boyfriend Karl and daughter Eva into The Rovers unexpectedly. As show bosses have confirmed that Stella is also hiding a big secret, it seems that it won't be the last time that she causes a stir on the cobbles… Here, Michelle and John chat about their new roles.

Steve interviews Stella
What can you tell us about Stella and Karl?
Michelle: "Stella comes into the street because she's answered an ad that was put out by Steve, who wants to find a new landlady for The Rovers. She has her partner Karl, who she's been with for quite a long time, and she also has a daughter called Eva. She's strong, but she's not scarily strong! She has a good sense of fun and a good sense of humour. She's a confident sort of woman, and she also comes in with a secret! But that's all I can say."
John: "Karl is a bit of a ne'er-do-well. He could have had a career as a footballer - that was his skill at school. But he's a bit too keen on the wine, women and song! He had a very strong mother, and I think he kind of clings on to Stella in a way, because she's very reliable and very organised. He also fancies her quite a lot, and he does love her."

Is it true that Karl is a bit of a womaniser?
John: "Well, in the backstory, Stella has had a cancer scare, and that's made John think like a man for the first time in his life. It's made him be responsible and it's made him fall in love with a woman for the first time, rather than just having brief affairs. Stella is the perfect woman for him."

What kind of background do Stella and Karl have?
Michelle: "Stella goes in to help pubs that are having a few problems, and she's very good at her job."
John: "Stella used to run a pub in Rochdale called The Sundial, and it was all really good there. Karl used to play for the local pub football team there and he also had a part-time job in the bar. He had his girlfriend and everything was great. But coming to Weatherfield, Karl just thinks, 'What are we doing here?' That's the thing - he doesn't know the secret that Stella has which brings her to Weatherfield…"

Stella and Karl move into the Rovers
What are Stella and Karl's first scenes like?
Michelle: "Well, at the time when Stella applies for the job at The Rovers, I think Steve is quite desperate to find someone. Stella is quite confident and forthright when she comes in, and then there's a funny scene where she asks what room she'll be staying in and Steve tells her that it isn't a live-in job. But Stella says, 'It's live-in or nothing for me' and she moves in!"
John: "Then the next day Karl turns up, and Steve thinks, 'Who's this?' And Eva turns up too. They just keep coming!"

We know that Karl is not Eva's father, but do they get along well?
John: "Well, the one person who kind of ruins everything for Karl is Eva. They don't really get on very well. And I think the reason that they don't get on is that Karl can see his traits in her. Eva is selfish, spoiled and she wants her own way, and in many ways, Karl is the same. But at the same time, Karl does now have this love for Stella where he just wants to look after her for the first time in his life."

Do you feel like you've all struck up quite a close 'family bond' for your scenes?
Michelle: "I think so. I've worked with John before, a long time ago, and we've stayed friends. I think we all do genuinely get along because we all started at the same time, so we're all in it together and we help each other."
John: "Definitely, and there are already intricate little things that are happening between Stella, Karl and Eva, which are very interesting. We're just on a journey with it, like the viewers will be. The potential for dramatic tension is huge and fantastic, and that is what's exciting for us as actors. We get on very well off the set, so it's been a lot of fun."

Were you both fans of Coronation Street before you joined the show?
John: "I am a Corrie fan! My mum is from Rochdale, and it's the first show that I remember watching when we were kids. My wife is another northerner and it's her favourite show. She's not so pleased that I'm in it, because she thinks I'll ruin it for her now, as a little bit of real life is entering her favourite soap! (Laughs) But it's the only soap for me - I think the writing and humour in Coronation Street is what makes it stand out above the rest. I'm delighted to be a part of that."
Michelle: "I've always said that if I were to do another soap, Corrie would be the only one that I would consider being in. I've been brought up with Corrie. It's a great show, and Stella is a great role. These days, soaps are very, very strong. People love them, and you get these fabulous, dramatic storylines that you possibly wouldn't get elsewhere."

Stella, Karl and Eva outside the Rovers in Coronation Street
How did you both find your first day on set?
John: "Well, luckily I was cushioned into this job, because I was brought in to do some readings when the castings for Stella and Eva were taking place, so I'd been here a few times before I actually had to come in and do my first scene. In fact, my first scene was driving a cab in the street - that's about six or seven episodes in and the scene is with Carla, which was enjoyable. And then after that, I did my arrival on the street. By the time I got into The Rovers, I'd actually already done a few scenes. That's the scary bit, being in The Rovers and getting all the drinks! But by the time I got there, I was calm and it all went really well."
Michelle: "I didn't realise the enormity of it until I actually went in, and I'm still getting used to it, but I feel very comfortable. It was very daunting, but at the end of the day, you just get on with it because you're with other actors who are all very nice and very helpful."
John: "I have to say, the whole team here are really welcoming and friendly, and the actors are really down-to-earth. There's a real feeling of equality here, which I particularly like."

Are there any other members of the family who could come into the show?
Michelle: "Not that I know of!"
John: "But I'm sure that Karl has a love child somewhere! (Laughs)"

Want more gossip and teasers about Coronation Street's new couple? Read the bonus chats below:-
> Coronation Street: Bonus chat with Michelle Collins
> Coronation Street: Bonus chat with John Michie Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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