'I'm back as Sarah-Lou, but this time I'm older and wiser ... and a bit softer too'
Eight years after swapping Weatherfield for Milan, Sarah-Louise Platt is back. Soap star Tina O'Brien tells Jeananne Craig why her character thinks she's too good for the cobbles
Last time we saw Corrie's Sarah-Louise Platt, she was jetting off for a new life in Milan with her young daughter Bethany. Back on the cobbles eight years later, actress Tina O'Brien says that, while the former gymslip mum is "a little older and wiser", it's still the same Sarah-Lou underneath those fashionable Italian clothes.
"She has mellowed, but she's still very outspoken. I think she thinks Weatherfield is a little bit beneath her," says the 31-year-old, who appeared in Call The Midwife, Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing during her absence from the ITV soap.
"She's not very kind, but there's still a soft side to her. You see some really nice scenes with her daughter."
We've already witnessed 14-year-old Bethany (played by newcomer Lucy Fallon) return to the UK with a bang after a row with her mum, tapping up locals for drinks in the Rovers and giving her grandmother Gail grief.
Sarah-Lou - who was just 13 when she gave birth to Bethany - returns hot on the heels of her daughter, but isn't very successful in disciplining her.
"She's not a really bad parent; she just sees Bethany as more of a friend," says doe-eyed O'Brien, herself mum to six-year-old daughter Scarlett with her ex, fellow Corrie star Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw), and five-month-old son Beau with current partner Adam Crofts.
"When Bethany does something bad, she doesn't say, 'Right, you can't do this'. Sarah wants to go, 'Oh, ok, let's go shopping together'. She is trying to do the right thing, but she's misguided."
Returning to the soap just months after giving birth to her baby boy has been "a juggle" for O'Brien, but her other half has been on hand to help with childcare.
"Adam's been amazing. Last night, for example, I had a really early start today so he did the night feed," says the actress, who also finds time to run children's drama classes in Manchester.
"I'm very lucky that, because he's a personal trainer, he can now stay at home and look after Scarlett and Beau. It gives me flexibility."
And working again with her former boyfriend Thomas - whose Corrie character also happens to be Sarah-Lou's ex-husband - has been fine, the actress says.
"Ryan has been really supportive. He knew [about my return] from the very early stages because I discussed it with him. He was really good about it and said, 'I think it will be brilliant for you'."
On screen, Bethany will have fun stirring things up between her mum and Jason. "She keeps telling Jason that Sarah has got a shrine of him and he thinks that Sarah is still madly in love with him!"
Sarah-Lou has her sights set on someone else, however - bad boy Callum (Sean Ward) - the ex-lover of her sister-in-law Kylie Platt (Paula Lane).
"I am sure people will think it's funny that the second she walks in, she hooks up with the guy who will cause most problems with the family," says O'Brien.
"It will be interesting to see a more daring side to Sarah."
When O'Brien last starred in Corrie, she was a regular in lads' mags (and featured in FHM's 100 Sexiest Women poll). But the days of skimpy underwear shoots are "well and truly over", she says with a laugh.
"I do not regret them at all - I look back and go, 'Flippin' 'eck'. But it's not going to happen now. I am older now, I've got two children and have just had a baby - I am not in any position to want to get in a bikini!"
Returning to the soap where she launched her career has been a "perfect fit" for the actress.
"I feel incredibly lucky to have been offered this opportunity. When I first started, I was 16 and had just left high school, and I left at 24, as I felt I really needed to branch out and see the world. It was almost like it was time to leave uni," she says.
"Now, I'm older and feel I have tried different things. To be a working actress and to have a job in Manchester, and in something as massive as Coronation Street, I am very lucky and certainly don't take it for granted."
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Five of Corrie’s greatest moments
THE DEMISE OF ALAN BRADLEY
Serial villain Alan Bradley was knocked down by a tram on the prom at Blackpool as ex-partner Rita fled from his attempt to bundle her into his car. His dramatic demise, which aired on December 8 1989, was one of the soap's most memorable deaths and was watched by 26.93 million viewers.
THE DEATH OF MIKE BALDWIN
Former factory owner Mike Baldwin had a heart attack in the street and died in the arms of his old love rival Ken Barlow in this episode, which was aired in April 2006. Baldwin, played by Johnny Briggs, had been caught up in a love triangle in the past with Barlow and his wife Deirdre. Suffering from Alzheimer's at the end, his last words to Barlow were: 'You're finished Barlow, Deirdre loves me, she's mine'.
FREE THE WEATHERFIELD ONE
The jailing of the hapless Deirdre Rachid for her conman boyfriend's crimes was a huge storyline and even made headline news in 1998 when it became a national cause. At the time Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to intervene as the campaign to Free the Weatherfield One gained momentum. Deirdre was played by Anne Kirkbride, who passed away last year. The storyline is considered one of her finest moments.
THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY LIVE EPISODE
This special live episode was aired on December 9 2010 to celebrate the show's 50th anniversary. A preceding episode showed a gas explosion in a local bar, causing a tram to crash into the corner shop and The Kabin. The live episode depicted the aftermath of the accident, including the deaths of several key characters. The episode attracted an average of 14 million viewers, the show's highest audience for seven years.
THE DEATH OF HAYLEY CROPPER
One of the soap's best loved characters, transgender cafe owner Hayley Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, took her own life in a controversial storyline last year, as she didn't want to struggle on with the pain of terminal cancer.