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Ex-EastEnder taking over the Rovers

Former EastEnder Michelle Collins is taking on one of the biggest jobs in soapland - as the new landlady at the Rovers Return in Coronation Street.

Collins, who played Cindy Beale in the BBC1 soap, will appear in the ITV1 show as the pub's new boss, Stella, in June with her on-screen husband Karl, played by John Michie.

She said: "I am honoured to be joining the cast of Coronation Street. The show has been part of my life since I was a child so to become a part of it is extremely exciting."

Viewers will see Stella brought in to help owner Steve McDonald run the pub after a series of bust-ups with his wife, Becky, leaves the business in trouble. But he gets more than he bargained for when she promptly moves her family in and the truth comes out about a dark secret from her past.

Michie, best known for his role as DI Robbie Ross in long-running crime drama Taggart, said: "My mum is from Rochdale, my wife is from Grimethorpe. They are both northerners and huge fans. I am from even further north so it is the only soap for me."

The show's executive producer, Kieran Roberts, said he was "thrilled" to welcome the pair to the show.

He said: "As Robbie Ross in Taggart, John has kept viewers on the edge of their seats for the last 10 years. Karl is a very different character for him, though, and the ladies of Weatherfield need to watch themselves, as this sexy charmer will quickly make his presence felt.

"Michelle's acting credentials are first-class, with more than a decade leading some brilliant and memorable drama series.

"Of course Michelle's soap credentials are superb and in the same way she made Cindy Beale one of EastEnders' most memorable bitches, I am certain she is going to be fantastic as the warm, funny, steely, flawed and larger-than-life northern matriarch Stella.

"Karl and Stella's fiery marriage is sure to keep viewers hooked through 2011 and beyond."

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