Sophie Thompson, who has joined Coronation Street as mysterious clairvoyant Rosemary Piper, talks about her new role and which Corrie favourites she'd love to bring back from the dead...
Former EastEnders actor Sophie Thompson, has joined Corrie this week, as eccentric clairvoyant, Rosemary Piper, who befriends Audrey Roberts and her daughter Gail and tells them she has messages from their deceased husbands!
Hairdresser Audrey is intrigued when Rosemary turns up in her salon and later imparts information about her late husband, Alf, meanwhile Gail is thoroughly rattled when the mysterious clairvoyant mentions her murdering hubby, Richard Hillman and becomes convinced that Richard has placed a curse on her family from beyond the grave!
TV Times met up with mum of two, Sophie, on the set of Corrie to hear about what’s in store, her own spooky experiences and which Corrie characters she’d love to bring back from the dead….
TV Times: What’s it like being the woman who’s bringing Richard Hillman back from the dead?
Sophie Thompson: “It’s lovely. Rosemary is quite a mysterious bird who’s clearly got information and purports to be psychic. Who knows if she has genuine gifts but I’m fond of her already!”
TVT: How would you describe her character?
ST: “Curious and vague! She’s giving snippets of information away but only so much and it’s curious that she has this information at all.”
TVT: How does Gail react when Rosemary suddenly mentions Richard Hillman?
ST: “To even hear Richard Hillman’s name must chill her bones. It’s like she wants to know more, but at the same time, she doesn’t. She’s in that place at the moment.”
TVT: Is Rosemary going to bring back any of Gail’s other husbands?
ST: “I don’t know yet. That remains to be seen. But when Gail hears about Richard Hillman she starts to think he’s cursed the Platt family. He affected her life so profoundly.”
TVT: Where do the séances take place and what does Rosemary use?
ST: “So far, we’ve done both of them in the salon. She doesn’t use any specific tools other than a couple of candles, no Ouija board or cards or anything like that. She just picks things up and hears things. It’s more like channeling.”
TVT: Have you based the character on anyone?
ST: “In my heart I’m trying to channel little elements of all the wonderful women that I’ve watched on Corrie over the years, Hilda Ogden being a particular favourite. Sadly, Rosemary wasn’t going to turn up with a headscarf and a duster, but she’s the kind of spirited northern bird that we all know and love from Weatherfield.”
TVT: Do you have any experience of clairvoyants and do you believe in them?
ST: “I’ve got a healthy respect for the whole thing. I’ve got a friend who’s a psychic and does that as a living. I do believe you can pick up things and that there are genuine qualities that someone like Rosemary could have. She’s got an extra sensory perception and she’s very empathetic.”
TVT: Did you do any research?
ST: “I did watch quite a bit of Psychic Sally! Weirdly, just before I’d got this job I did a short film for some graduates from the London Film School, and I played a clairvoyant. I had to be this weird psychic woman and a few days later the Corrie job came up. That’s a bit spooky, isn’t it?”
TVT: Have you ever had a sixth sense yourself?
ST: “I’ve bumped into a couple of ghosts in my time. I worked at the Bristol Old Vic years ago. It’s meant to be haunted and I did have a very weird experience there in a dressing room corridor. And there was an old house I used to live in where I felt there was a powerful ‘presence’ from another time. There are lots of things that aren’t explained and I like that.”
TVT: What’s it like working with Sue Nicholls, (Audrey), Helen Worth, (Gail) and the Platt clan?
ST: “I literally feel like I’ve won some sort of prize! I couldn’t have been luckier to find my story was with these wonderful women. My first day was in the salon with Sue and I was so happy. For some reason we both got quite giggly. She’s got amazing life going on behind her eyes and she is just so funny. I was corpsing and thinking ‘I’ve only just arrived and I’m being really rubbish and unprofessional!’
“Helen is so kind, and calm. Joining any soap is like getting onto a moving vehicle, and it’s quite a large vehicle. You’re trying not to let the side down.”
TVT: Have you had scenes with any other characters other than Sue and Helen?
ST: “I’ve had one with David Neilson, (Roy Cropper), and Peter Gunn, (Brian Packham). Roy is very sceptical about Rosemary so that was really fun. They are quite cheeky and naughty on set. I’ve never worked with David but I have met him before because he was friend of one of my best friend’s husbands who has sadly died. It was lovely to be on set with him.”
TVT: Is there a Corrie character you would bring back if you could?
ST: “There are so many; Hilda, Jack and Vera, Bet. So many of them! And Ena [Sharples]. Crikey. All those ladies that used to drink milk stout in the Rovers. I wish I could bring them back and sit with them and have a milk stout with them.
“I was in the Rovers the other day with Helen and I could conjure Ena, Minnie and Martha all sitting in their brilliant hats.”
TVT: You sound like a genuine Corrie fan. Where did it all start? Is it something you watched as a kid?
ST: “Yes, it was. Back then it was only about two episodes a week. I had to wean myself off when I had children. It was getting ridiculous because I’d tape it and life would happen, work would happen and children would happen and I went ‘I can’t do this now, I’ve got to leave it for a bit’, so I did. But the beauty of soap is that you can return to it and Corrie will always have that spirit, those strong women and great storylines.”
TVT: How does being in a soap compare to other acting jobs?
“It’s very much its own world and it operates under a very specific dynamic that you just don’t get on any other job. I felt like I learned about acting by watching people on Corrie. I was always so impressed by people’s performances, particularly in heightened situations, I’d think, ‘Crikey they had to grab that!’
TVT: Could Rosemary come back to the show after this story?
ST: “Who knows! I just have to count my lucky stars that I’m here now and enjoy how the story unfolds. You don’t know how things are going to pan out, a bit like life, and then you get the scripts and go ‘Ooh, golly, that’s going to happen!’. Helen said she likes taking things as they come because it’s more like life then. I thought that’s very wise.”
Coronation Street airs on ITV