Michelle Collins: Leaving Coronation Street was like a break-up - but an amicable break-up
Showbiz exclusive: Queen of soaps Collins opens her heart to explain decision
She's played EastEnders maneater Cindy Beale and Corrie cougar Stella Price, but when it comes to her own relationship Michelle Collins says she is more than happy with the one man.
Just don’t mention marriage.
“I just think I'd be like Miss Havisham if I wore a wedding dress!” the 51-year-old told Sunday Life.
“Anyway, my daughter Maia (18) is far too old to be a bridesmaid now anyway. She'd probably laugh, ‘I’m not coming to your wedding mum, you can't be serious!’”
Unlike the soap sirens she’s played in the past, Michelle, who has never tied the knot, enjoys a very low key, private relationship with shop worker Mike Davison, 30.
“You certainly won't find me pouring my heart out to magazines, or this is my new man. I'm not like that,” said Michelle.
“I think you can still be a private person, and still let people know certain things about you that you are controlling, in a way.”
And that’s exactly what the former Coronation Street star has done with her new autobiography, This Is Me, released just weeks after she filmed on Manchester’s most famous cobbles for the very last time.
The soap star stopped off at Easons in Belfast to promote the new tell-all book, which not only details battles with anorexia and depression, but also the ups-and-downs of being in not one, but two of the country’s biggest soap operas.
“I haven't really had a chance to sit back and think over Corrie yet, but I would say it’s a bit like a break up — but an amicable break-up. It was my decision to go, but it was a hard decision.
“The day I was leaving I was packing up all my things from my room to go and the crew were coming in and it made me realise how much I was going to really miss the place.”
Describing her decision to leave the UTV soap last year, Michelle said her mind had been made up after Sue Johnston, who played her on-screen mother Gloria Price, took the decision to leave.
“That really made my decision as well,” she said. “I loved working with Sue, I thought she was a great part of the show and then she decided to go.
“So I just thought, ‘Hmmm I'm going to go now’. It was a really hard decision, but knew it was the right decision.
“But it's been very busy. A bit of a whirlwind I suppose, but I think it’s good like that, when you leave something you always panic that you aren't going to do anything.”
Thankfully that hasn’t been the case for the north London born actress, who has already landed a short-term role in hospital based hit Casualty, and a theatre role at the Hampstead Theatre’s production of The Glass Supper.
“I literally finished Corrie on the Wednesday, went home and started filming on the Monday for Casualty. So it was a quick turnaround,” she said.
“I play a bit of a baddie which is quite nice, not quite as bad as Cindy but she is a bit of a baddie, who seems really nice on the surface but you find out that she is a little bit dark. But it's nice to throw yourself into something straight away.
“I obviously wouldn't go into anything long-term at the moment. Suddenly everything comes at once. There's been a couple of things I have had to turn down. It's really nice being able to turn things down.”
In between, Michelle has embarked on a UK wide promotional tour of her autobiography, described as “searingly honest” by critics. “You know what, I was actually shocked about how honest people thought I was,” the single mum told Sunday Life.
“Obviously there were bits where I said to myself, ‘I don't have to put this in but I'm going to, because I don’t want to just gloss over things’. I am quite a down to earth, realistic person so I think it needed to be quite real.”
And it turns out that Michelle Collins’ own story is more rivetting than the storylines of Walford and Weatherfield combined.
An account of an uphill battle against poverty and illness, on the road to stardom, with heartbreak, loss and desperation all in between.
The actress even revealed how she tried to take her own life at the height of her fame, months after leaving her iconic EastEnders role.
“It was a big revelation, to people,” she said. “I've battled with ups and downs and the particular incident I wrote about was a very one-off moment. When you write these things, it's literally only half a page but when you take it out of the book it becomes a very big thing so I think I needed to put it in there, to show people that you can reach a point, but you can get out of it again.”
In the book she described how she was rushed to hospital after taking an overdose while filming in Cyprus, for BBC drama Sunburn.
Michelle, whose daughter was just two-years-old at the time, said she was feeling low after splitting from ex-partner Fabrizio Tassalini, and felt pressure to be successful after leaving her character Cindy Beale was killed off in 1998.
Said Michelle: “Seemingly, just
because you work in this industry you have it all, your life is wonderful, but no, not at all. It's not wonderful.
“It's the same as everyone else’s, just because you do a very strange job doesn't mean you don't have the pitfalls of everyday life like everyone else, and being a single mum, and on TV, you are constantly being judged all the time.
“I think what's important is that I came out the other end and I was fine.
“I do think that depression today is a big problem, and it actually has been proven that if people from TV or whover comes out and says that yes they had a problem then it does help people.”
Michelle, whose work in Manchester meant she hardly saw her teenage daughter, says she looks forward to playing the stay-at-home mum role for a while, after completing her upcoming theatre role.
“I still love a challenge, so I would love to try new roles. There's so much I want to do.
“Actually, I might just see where Maia goes to uni next year and follow her. She would love that!”
This Is Me by Michelle Collins is available to buy now.