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Kerri Quinn on life after Corrie and why she wants to set up support network for NI actors

Belfast's Kerri Quinn tells Claire O'Boyle about life after Coronation Street and why she wants to set up a support network for actors in Northern Ireland

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Proud mum: Kerri Quinn and daughter Libby, who has already taken tentative steps into the world of acting

Proud mum: Kerri Quinn and daughter Libby, who has already taken tentative steps into the world of acting

Proud mum: Kerri Quinn and daughter Libby, who has already taken tentative steps into the world of acting

She landed the job of her dreams with a starring role in Coronation Street. But just weeks after having viewers hooked in her final scenes as woman scorned Vicky Jefferies, Kerri Quinn has opened up about the tougher side of acting - and says industry bosses should do more to help.

From not knowing where their next pay cheque is coming from to dealing with rejection and even getting no response on jobs at all, the talented Belfast woman says actors have it harder than people think.

"When you're on a roll this industry is amazing," says Kerri. "Your spirits are high and it's the best feeling ever. But on the flip side when things aren't going so well, it can be a very, very lonely business.

"The acting community has taken some real knocks. We've lost people around the industry and I know there are actors struggling to cope. It's not an easy world to be part of, and some of the stuff that goes on can really hurt your mental health."

One of the toughest parts of the job, says the actress, is getting no feedback on auditions.

"When you're looking at a part, you really invest a lot of energy in it and you put a lot in emotionally," says Kerri.

"But it happens regularly, this real lack of communication. People don't even get a message or an email to say they haven't been successful.

"You don't get anything to say, 'Thanks for the days and days of effort you put in preparing for this, thanks for making your tape and sending it to us, thanks for convincing your friend to give up their time to make your tape with you. We appreciate what you did, we loved your take on it, but it didn't work out'.

"There isn't even the effort of a 30-second email to say thanks for taking the time to audition. Often people will literally find out they didn't get a part when it's announced on social media that someone else did. That isn't great. It's not a good way to treat people, and this job is hard enough without that.

"People are left in limbo land for days and weeks, and it breeds insecurity in an already insecure industry. You're already very vulnerable before you go in for an audition so this really doesn't help.

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Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

"I think it happens pretty much everywhere and it makes people worried and stressed. I think now we're all talking about mental health a bit more, it's time for people doing these jobs to realise that if they just gave a little bit of clarification, just a quick thanks but no, it would make a positive impact.

"We know we're not always going to get a yes. That's what we signed up for, but we didn't sign up to be left in limbo land."

Backing the industry campaign #YesOrNo which launched in 2018 calling for actors to get a definite answer after auditions, Kerri says its message has started to filter through, but the job is far from done.

"A lot of casting directors and companies are getting better at it here in Northern Ireland and across the water, but we're not there yet," she says. "It's not just actors going on about it, it's an industry-wide campaign to get some acknowledgement for what we do and how much work is involved.

"It's just about respect and treating people properly because leaving people hanging doesn't help an actor's headspace."

Kerri, mum to eight-year-old Libby, played vengeful Vicky Jefferies in Coronation Street for more than a year and filmed her final scenes back in the autumn.

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Kerri with John Shayegh, Doireann McKenna and Cat Barter in Tinderbox’s Huzzies

Kerri with John Shayegh, Doireann McKenna and Cat Barter in Tinderbox’s Huzzies

Kerri with John Shayegh, Doireann McKenna and Cat Barter in Tinderbox’s Huzzies

While there have been conversations of a possible way back to the cobbles for Vicky, a return is far from set in stone and since November Kerri has been looking for work.

"When you're on a soap like Corrie the support's fantastic," she says. "Honestly right through it, they were so accommodating and helped me out a lot, especially with the filming schedule and making sure I was able to get home to Belfast as much as I could.

"But when your storyline ends and you're out there looking for work, it's hard. I've been up for a couple of things recently and nothing has worked out so far.

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Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

Kerri with Tristan Gemmill in Coronation Street

"There was one big job in particular I didn't get, which was a bit of a sore one. People think, 'Well you've just walked off the biggest soap on TV, you've got it sorted', but it's not like that at all. I'm the same as everyone else in this business and you just have to keep going until something works out."

Kerri's final storyline saw Vicky team up with Kym Marsh's character Michelle Connor in a vengeful plot to frame cheating Robert Preston for her murder. In the end, Robert himself was shot dead by a crazed gunman.

"There was no big goodbye for Vicky," says Kerri. "Her last scene was in the Bistro with Michelle, Carla, Rita, Jenny and Johnny and the baby. I think there was a bit of redemption for her and an acceptance of the baby.

"I did suggest maybe Vicky and Michelle could get together as the Street's newest gay couple to bring baby Sonny up together, but they didn't go for it," jokes Kerri.

"The fact they didn't give Vicky a big official exit means it could be easier to bring her back though, which would be great. I've chatted with producers since I've left and I guess it's a case of watch this space."

And if she did wind up back in Weatherfield, would a longer stint and a move to Manchester be on the cards?

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Kerri with Christopher Eccleston in Come Home

Kerri with Christopher Eccleston in Come Home

Kerri with Christopher Eccleston in Come Home

"It definitely would not," says Kerri. "I loved Manchester, but the commute was actually fine and the contracts on a show like Coronation Street are never long enough to justify uprooting my daughter and taking her out of school.

"I wasn't coming the furthest distance by any stretch. David Neilson, who plays Roy, comes from Barcelona and there are people coming up from London for filming. It was fine."

In the meantime, as she waits for a breakthrough on her next acting job, Kerri is fully occupied with daughter Libby, an aspiring actress herself. "I'm lucky because I've got Libby who keeps me busy, and I have two nieces who I mind for my sister, so I have no problem filling my days," says Kerri.

"Libby has done her first bit of work in a film with James Norton and she's auditioning for other things, too. She's busier than me at the minute. I know it's a tough world for her to go into, but I think she's a natural and she's got me behind her."

And with that in mind, Kerri says with her long commute to Manchester for Corrie filming days over for the moment, she's fully based in Belfast and wants to reach out to other actors locally.

"It can be really tough," says Kerri. "So I think we could all be a bit more supportive of each other. I don't know if that's with a wee gathering, a cup of coffee every couple of weeks to talk through what we're up to, but I think it's helpful as you get older to ditch the negative people, and hang out more with positive people.

"It's always good to hear what other people are going through and to know you're not on your own. Just for stuff like, I haven't worked in six months, I'm a bit rusty or stressed.

"We're a unique wee community, actors, so sometimes that bit of a laugh and a confidence boost from each other would really help. I'm going to try to make it work."

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