Actress Denise Black has been away from the Street for more than 10 years, so earlier this week, Digital Spy caught up with the lady herself to chat about what it's like being back on the Cobbles, what's in store for Denise and Ken, and whether she's sticking around for a while to come.
You haven't been in Corrie for more than 10 years now. How did it feel to be invited back?
"I’m thrilled. Absolutely thrilled. I didn’t know much about the story at first, found out it was a Ken and Deirdre story, and that’s a really nice way to come in. I hadn’t had to come in pulling all the stops out - lovely stuff to do!"
Had you always wanted to return?
"Yes! I don’t think that you can have Ken Barlow’s baby and forget about it, can you? One of the special things about me, that I’ve had Ken Barlow’s lovechild! One of the surprising things for me!"
What have you been doing in the meantime?
"Truckloads of really different things. Before this I was doing a play - for the first time, playing in a London theatre with Royal in the title. I was in a Chekhov play at the Royal Court with Kristin Scott Thomas, Mackenzie Crook, playing opposite Art Malik, Chiwetel Ejiofore – who's fantastic – Katherine Parkinson from the IT Crowd, who is brilliant, playing my daughter. Playing to packed houses, having an absolute ball."
"Then I was called up by the RSC for Twelfth Night - I’m very excited by that, I’ve done Twelfth Night twice. My shock - they wanted to see me play Sir Toby Belch. I do do theatre, which I think is a really good thing to do in your middle years as a woman, because there are some fantastic parts to play. And you’d best do it while you’ve got all your energy, just do some of that heavyweight stuff, kings, queen, beheading and stuff."
What's changed at Corrie since you've been away?
"There have been changes, but I would say very little would be the glib answer. So many people are still here, in front of the camera, behind the camera, right through the strata. Even the crews - Frank on props – there are so many people, so many people who I know. The head of makeup at the moment is Sue Milton. She did my hair for the first ever Granada job I had on Sherlock Holmes. She’s a person I’ve known since the beginning of my career. So it’s sort of like family."
"I was excited and I was nervous, but when I came in I was bowled over by the warmth of the welcome, I couldn’t possibly have not been happy."
Are you back in a semi-permanent role?
"No, it’s not semi-permanent. We’re going to have to see what happens. I really don’t know how dramatic this one’s going to kick off as, at the moment, what I know is what is in the scripts I’ve read, and I’ve almost finished filming those bits. Then I’ve got another little lot coming up in a few weeks. But after that, I don’t know about the future at all. I was hoping to go down and have a word with the producer, to see what’s happening."
Why does Corrie deserve to win best soap at the Soap Awards this year?
"Oh my goodness. Why does Corrie deserve to win? Corrie’s on a high at the moment, I remember thinking ‘why do the soaps compete with each other?’ Corrie was the first, then EastEnders. I feel they’re very different animals. At this moment, every single script, every single episode, the characters just seem to be gelling. I don’t think it ever falls below a certain level, and sometimes it just flies, and it’s doing that at the moment."
What's been the best storyline for you this year?
"The one I was excited about – because I know Antony Cotton – was the love affair between him, Sonny and Michelle. I was really quite surprised by that story actually because I just didn’t know how that would sit. That is a sign of how much things have changed, to me. In the actual Street, there’s a very radical change, I think. It isn’t just bringing young ones in, it’s nothing superficial like that. It’s moved with the times, hasn’t it. It just reminds me how old I am!"
"Ken goes to see her. He just literally walks through the door of the salon where she works. She has told him where she works, so in the back of her mind… she does say ‘I always knew you’d turn up one day’. He arrives unannounced. Just there."
How does she react to him?
"She’s just cautious. You don’t walk into his life when you’re feeling miserable and walk out when you’ve perked up. She’s just being a good mum. I think she is a good mum, and I think a good mum, however rusty things may be between the mum and dad, knows that it will be to Daniel’s advantage to know his dad - as long as his dad is going to be responsible."
And it's not long before Denise and Deirdre come to blows is it?
"No, it’s straight to. Straight to. We went out shopping, the ladies wardrobe [and me]…I did Clocking Off with them and various things like that. We went out shopping for this pair of huge high heels. We went ‘they’re Ken Barlow’s shoes’. She straps them on and they come straight to blows."
What's it like working alongside Bill Roache again after all this time?
"I've always said he’s such a pleasure to work with, and he just seems more lively and younger, is the shock. He’s very kind, you know, and good to work with. He always gives you the full eye. He’s right there. I say ‘ooh, Bill, I can’t remember’ and he says ‘would you like to run the lines?’ We were straight in there running the lines. He’s lovely. Annie [Kirkbride], I only met yesterday for the first time since I’ve been back, in the Green Room!"
"That’s a hard question! She was a cold-blooded murderess, wasn’t she? It wasn’t a crime done on instinct, she planned it, she used people dreadfully - she allowed Ken and Deirdre to borrow all that money. How did she turn so cold?"
How does it all pan out with Ken and Denise then?
Whether she’s super-nice or she can see the chink in the armour, and wants to turn it to Daniel’s advantage, I’ll leave you to decide. Whether she still fancies Ken…"
Do you think Denise will ever get the salon back?
Well, I want to know that, because I saw Sue [Nicholls], who plays Audrey, who was filming on the Street yesterday. The first time [Denise] goes back onto the Street, she goes to the Barlows - I’ll tell you that much.
"We were just doing a scene where I arrive at the Barlows', which was a delight - the gossips come running down from the Cabin – I cast a look over my shoulder, and said to Bill [Roache], 'he [Denise] should run out of the Rovers in floods of tears, fall into the front of her salon crying tearfully and sink to the ground’!"
Thanks for chatting, Denise!