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'I am sure some people still think of me as Shelley, that's fine by me'

Since becoming a mum a decade ago, Corrie veteran Sally Lindsay has found the work just keeps on coming. Gemma Dunn reports


Sally Lindsay in Cold Call

Sally Lindsay in Cold Call

Sally Lindsay in Cold Call

Sally Lindsay is counting her blessings. The actress, who played Shelley Unwin for five years in Coronation Street, has had one heck of a last decade - from all manner of projects on the small screen to putting down roots and starting a family. In fact, it's the latter, it seems, that's really seen her career flourish.

"I've got to say, since I've had the boys, I've never been so lucky in work and been given so many amazing opportunities," begins Lindsay (46), who shares nine-year-old twin boys Louie and Victor with her drummer husband, Steve White.

"I seriously think it's because I don't care anymore. They are my absolute priority and I think, when you're in this business and you give an attitude of 'Yeah, whatever', it almost comes to you.

"You get these lovely things and think, 'Ah, yeah I'll do that', whereas I used to be like, 'I've got to be at this party', 'I've got to speak to this producer', 'I've got to do this meeting'. I don't do any of that anymore; it's terrible."

Her CV speaks for itself, however. Since bidding farewell to the Weatherfield cobbles some 13 years ago, Lindsay has appeared in various guises, from police drama Scott and Bailey to sitcom Still Open All Hours with David Jason and hit comedy drama Mount Pleasant.

She even landed a gig as a regular panellist on Loose Women, lent her voice to murderous villain Piella Bakewell in Wallace and Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death and upped her theatre credits with stints in everything from the musical Ella to Neil Bartlett's Everybody Loves a Winner. It's a list that doesn't play to the long-standing accusations of "soap snobbery".

"Look at Coronation Street and the women that have come from Coronation Street: Suranne (Jones), Kate Kelly and Julie (Hesmondhalgh, all of us really, all great actors who work constantly," she argues. "So, no, I didn't really face that.

"I'm sure some people will always know me as that character, because that's all they watch and that's absolutely fine. I'm very honoured I'll always be in their memory as something which was great."

It seems age hasn't had a part to play, either.

"Obviously, it's famously known that, once actresses get to 50, the roles do thin out," Lindsay empathises. "Fortunately, for me, that hasn't happened, but I'm not saying it doesn't, because it does.

"I think what it is, is, when you get to 50, you're too old to play mums, but you're too young to play grandmas and for some reason society is okay with men not being either of them. We need more female writers and more female script editors, which is happening, because then they can tell the story of that age."

Lindsay, who started out on the stand-up scene in her twenties, where she met and became friends with comedian Peter Kay, adds: "I've always been lucky, I've had some great roles in the past and I'm seen as a comedy actor as well, so that's something I absolutely adore doing."

Her latest project - a self-professed "career highlight" - isn't much of a laughing matter.

She will lead an ensemble cast in Cold Call, a bold new four-part psychological drama for Channel 5 that tackles themes of repression and revenge, asking difficult questions about modern Britain.

Joining co-stars Daniel Ryan, Paul Higgins, Taj Atwal and Dan Skinner, the proud Mancunian takes the lead in June, a working-class single mother who becomes embroiled in a web of revenge when she decides to fight back against the scammers (the "cold callers" of the title) who steal every penny she has.

The message to take away from this cat-and-mouse thriller? This really could happen to anyone.

"I wanted her to be this person who was very approachable, every woman really," Lindsay says. "This doesn't happen to stupid people, this happens to really intelligent people. It happens irrespective of class, race, gender, anything. That's the horror of it.

"So, making her as normal and approachable as possible is the trick. She's had years of being put down; she's never got a break, she's struggling, so this is the straw that breaks the camel's back."

Of her path to retribution, she teases: "Just the promise that she could rectify all this sends her down that rabbit hole and, once she's done there, she can't get out of it.

"She's taken with it, her strength, her anger and her rage of what's happened to her and what's happened to all these other people as well. She just can't stop herself, it's like a roller-coaster.

"All hail to single parents, too, because me and my husband are absolutely 50% bringing our children up and I don't know how they do it.

"I think, 'God, these people are like bodacious, so strong' and June is so strong and she proves it in the end."

It's helpful, then, that Lindsay and her husband share the load - a balance that, perhaps, her soap days would not allow.

"The schedules were just ridiculous. I don't think it's something that I could do now, but, then again, a load of people do bring their kids up in it, so I don't know.

"I've been working back-to-back this year, but now I've got some time off, which is fantastic, so I get to see the boys and be mum - well, I'm mum all the time, because a lot of the things I film in London, so I get home, so it does work out really."

Next, she will star alongside Johnny Vegas and Sian Gibson in Dial M for Middlesbrough, the final chapter of UKTV's murder-mystery scripted comedy franchise.

She's also writing a commission - although she can't talk about it just yet. But what she will say, however, is she loves being given the chance to create.

"I was an associate producer on Cold Call," Lindsay reveals excitedly. "I love being involved and having a say and not feeling frustrated if there's something you want to say, but can't.

"But I'm never happier than when I'm on set acting. That's my absolute favourite thing in work life."

Cold Call, Channel 5, Monday-Thursday, 9pm

Belfast Telegraph