'She’ll trample on anyone to get what she wants'
Almost twenty years after she left Emmerdale in a helicopter, Kim Tate (played by Claire King) returns to the village next week. And it seems she’s badder than ever, because shortly after being released from prison, she orders Graham Foster to kill her former step grandson, Joe Tate.
But it’s Kim, herself, who inevitably comes a cropper. After causing a stir at Home Farm’s masquerade ball, she’s pushed from a balcony and comes crashing down onto a champagne fountain below, leaving the residents – and viewers – wondering if it’s a case of ‘Ding dong, the bitch is dead.’
We caught up with Emmerdale actress Claire King, to talk about Kim Tate’s much anticipated comeback…
How did your return come about?
Claire King: “It’s been one of those things that people have discussed ever since I left, nearly 20 years ago. I’ve been asked about half a dozen times to return, but it always jarred a bit. I just felt that the time was right now, with having Joe Tate in there. Things have slotted in a lot easier.”
We last saw Kim Tate in 1999. What has she been up to when we first meet her again?
CK: “Kim has been a naughty girl because she’s been incarcerated in prison for quite some time, and has just got released, six months early. She has probably been in Spain or Ireland and carried on her crimes over there, and got caught.”
Has she changed at all?
CK: “I guess she has, but probably not for the better! I think it’s hardened her being in prison, and she’s probably learnt a few more skills and tricks. I think she’s more narrow-minded. I would say she’d trample over anyone now to get what she wants.”
Kim orders Graham to kill Joe. Why?
CK: “It will all become clear. She has been pulling the strings from prison. Joe and Graham both really work for her, and Joe’s gone a bit rogue. He’s getting married to Debbie, and that wasn’t part of the plan. She wouldn’t approve of a Dingle marriage at all. The Dingles and the Tates have always been at it.”
Can you describe the scene when she turns up at Home Farm?
CK: “There’s a masked charity ball, and Kim arrives in a DB9 Aston Martin, dressed to the nines with a mask on. Everyone’s going ‘Who is this woman?’ She takes her mask off and says ‘Me? I own the place!’ There are one or two people there that still recognise Kim, and they’re shocked to find out that she’s back. She’s been holding the title deeds to Home Farm all this time. She’s the one who’s been pulling the strings, because it’s still her property.”
Kim is pushed from a balcony and lands in a champagne fountain. Did you do the stunt yourself?
CK: “There was a stunt girl to do the falling into champagne, but I had to fall from a balcony ten feet up onto crash mats and boxes. I don’t mind doing those things. I was going to train for my stunt card before I did Emmerdale first time round, so some of that has come into play now.”
What was it like, stepping back into Kim’s shoes?
CK: “It was quite bizarre at first, because a lot of the cast, crew and studios are all new, and the first few days I was working with Andy Scarborough (Graham), who is absolutely lovely, so it was like doing a new job. But as soon as I stepped outside Creskeld Hall, which is what they use as the exterior for Home Farm, it all came flooding back, and it was like putting on an old pair of riding boots. Kim Tate was there, standing proud with a smirk on her face.”
When you first joined Emmerdale, in 1989, did you sense that Kim had the potential to become such a villain?
CK: “No, because we were all nice then! We were a happy family when we first arrived. The turning part was when the character Lynn Whiteley left, who was a bit feisty. Lynn’s exit paved the way for a bitchy character to come through. I said to Fionnuala Ellwood, who played her, ‘Now you’re out of the way I’m going to make Kim more bitchy.’ So I toughened the lines up and then the writers would make them stronger and so I played them stronger, and somehow we ended up with this bitch Kim Tate. They loved writing for her and I was so lucky that I got such great storylines. I didn’t know it would go to the extent that it did and with the longevity it had as well.”
Is it more fun, playing the bitchy characters?
CK: “Oh gosh yes, far more fun. I don’t think I’d be cast as a downtrodden, mousey type person. The bitchy parts are so well written because you’re allowed to be a bigger character, a bit more camp and out there, and get away with saying things that the average person would like to say but can’t.”
Do you have anything in common with her?
CK: “I’d like to think not! Obviously, I look like her, but I’m much softer than she is, and I think I’ve got a better sense of humour. You’ve got to take elements of yourself when you’re playing a character, but it’s down to the writing. If they write it in a certain way, you play it in a certain way.’
You’ve become so associated with Kim Tate – do you feel that you’ve ever lost out on jobs because of that?
CK: “Yes, definitely, throughout my career. But she’s not a bad person to be associated with because she stood me in good stead at the early start of my career and I’m still here – well I’m back! In the early days, people looked down their noses at soaps. I don’t think that’s so much the case now because we’ve got reality shows like TOWIE and things like that, so soaps are higher up the scale.”
Emmerdale continues on ITV. Archive pic: ITV/REX/Shutterstock