Denise Welch has spoken of how “incredibly lonely” she was when she joined the cast of Coronation Street.
The actress, who played Natalie Horrocks on the soap from 1997 to 2000, said she struggled for her first few months in the role.
She told ITV’s Loose Women: “I was in my late 30s and I had done things like Soldier Soldier and Spender so I was kind of used to people going ‘Oh are you off the thingy?’ but nothing can prime you for what happens when you go into a soap opera.
“I went in there and I like being alone, I’m very happy with my own company and I need times of aloneness but being alone and lonely are two very different things and everyone thought I was having this brilliant time and certainly for the first three or four months I was incredibly lonely.
“I had left the north east where we had moved back to, Matty (her son) was about nine, and I had come down to do 17 episodes, which could be done in three weeks or four weeks ‘cos you do that many.
“And then they said ‘Will you do some more, would you do some more?’ and Natalie’s house was on location so on a Sunday we would go there and I could never get home and everybody on the show pretty much lived in Manchester and I just kept thinking ‘Is anyone going to invite me for dinner or anything?’
“I just felt really lonely for a time so I always made it a point of mine that when new people came in I would make sure they were all right and I used to say we need to get a starter pack going and try to look after the young people because I could kind of deal with what happened to my life in my late 30s but for the young people their life can change very quickly.”
However, Welch said she made “life long friends” on the soap, including Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster, Charlie Lawson, who plays Jim McDonald, and Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts.
She said of Kennedy: “We both had alcohol issues during our time in Coronation Street and we kind of helped each other through those times.”
She also fondly remembered Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow and who died in 2015, saying: “She was so funny, she actually dragged me off to get my belly button pierced once, I can’t remember why. Then when I was pregnant it popped off and I never saw it again.”
Welch said it was time to leave the soap after her character, who arrived on the cobbles as Kevin Webster’s mistress, became less fun.
She said: “That was a great storyline, it was so brilliant because nobody would ever consider that someone that broke up the Websters’ marriage would then go on to be a long running character and when I was playing the real bitch that was fantastic to play but to keep Natalie in the show they had to soften her to the point that I nearly became Emily Bishop and then it was time to go.
“I still think that Natalie owns half the garage.”