Coronation Street star Michelle Collins has said she feels people wanted her to fail in the soap before she even appeared on screen.
The former EastEnder joined the ITV show as Rovers Return landlady Stella Price in 2011, but suffered lots of criticism over her Mancunian accent and has written about the experience in her autobiography, This Is Me.
According to the Daily Mirror, Michelle, who is due to leave the cobbles in April, said she didn’t even realise her performance had come under fire until a friend texted telling her not to take any notice of harsh comments.
She said: “The lowdown was that my northern accent was absolutely laughable and many people were saying I shouldn’t have been cast at all. I should have known it was on the cards.
“There’d been some doubtful mutterings and finger-waving in some circles even before I’d appeared. ‘Oh no, no, no – Cindy Beale can’t be in Coronation Street. That just won’t do’. Some people wanted me to fail before I’d even started, and talk of my supposedly dodgy accent was just the ammunition they needed.”
She continued: “I didn’t get it. I’d worked hard with a great dialect coach called Mark, and as critical of myself as I often am, I really didn’t think I sounded bad at all…
“I couldn’t seem to avoid it. I turned on the radio to hear someone chuckling about it on a phone-in. Then I heard it was trending on Twitter. I had no idea how to deal with it. I’d never really suffered any tough criticism about my performances and this couldn’t have been more public.”
Michelle revealed the experience made her withdrawn in her first weeks on Coronation Street, something she never fully got over.
“It’s funny, though – after all that time working on the show, I’d never plucked up the courage to hang out in the green room. I’m not really sure why, but just the thought of it made me nervous.
“It’s not like there was anyone I dislike intensely or wanted to avoid, but it harked back to those first rough few weeks. Perhaps it was a bit like being traumatised by a bad childhood experience that never leaves you,” she said.
She also said that her character being ousted as pub landlady was a ‘blow’, adding: “I’m not sure I would have signed up for another year if I’d known it was going to happen.”
Michelle admitted going back to EastEnders for a second run in 1992 hadn’t been a good decision: “I realised fairly quickly that I’d made a big mistake. I just didn’t feel as though I belonged there any more. Some of the cast weren’t particularly welcoming either.
“I remember feeling quite upset when one of the young female cast members had a birthday party. It seemed like everyone was invited except me.
“I was in an environment where there always seemed to be someone throwing a tantrum or creating a drama. The show had changed, but then so had I, and being there was making me unhappy.”