The Corrie star on love, life and cake...
Kym Marsh is the consummate professional. She’s bang on time for our appointment on a rainy Tuesday morning and instantly we’re cheered up by her bright northern tones as she chats away like a long-lost friend.
Since joining Coronation Street 10 years ago, the actress has become one of the show’s best-loved characters as barmaid Michelle Connor, famous for her witty put-downs to dopey partner Steve McDonald (played by Simon Gregson). It’s hard to believe that she started out on Popstars with the band Hear’Say (but more on that later). Now is here to talk to her about the betrayal her character’s soon to face in the soap after it’s revealed Leanne Battersby is carrying Steve’s baby following a drunken one-night stand.
In real life, Kym’s battled tragedy in her 40 years, losing her baby son and ‘angel’ Archie in 2009 after he was born 18 weeks prematurely. In 2011, she then gave birth to daughter Polly eight weeks early – but despite doctors’ concerns, at five she’s thriving, along with Kym’s elder children David, 21, and Emilie, 18. Here Kym reveals why she won’t be adding to her family and how she’s got her body at its best…
You’ve become one of Corrie’s most popular characters. How much of you is there in Michelle?
Quite a lot. We’re quite similar in some aspects I think, but very different in others. She loves her family – she’s very family-orientated, which is exactly like me – and she’s quite into her career with her wedding planning, which obviously I am too. She’s very loyal to her family and friends. In fact, she’s too loyal to family and friends, isn’t she? So there are many similarities between us. She’s a little bit more miserable than me [laughs]; a little bit more serious than I am, I think.
Michelle’s eye roll and death stare combo is incredible!
[Laughs loudly] Thank you. There’s a lot of sarcasm in Michelle – I love to try to bring it out. I base it on my sister Tracey – she’s moodier than me and a bit more sarcastic.
I bet she’s good to have on side for those times when you feel like you’re under attack or being criticised, then?
She’s one of the best people in my life. I adore her. She’s a very loyal person who would do anything for you. She’s very protective of me and she’s looked after Polly for me since I came back to work when Polly was 12 weeks old.
After what happened to Polly when she was born, do you have fears it will be harder for her than for other children?
She was only 4lb 1oz when she was born, so they told me she’s always going to be tiny, but actually she’s tall – she has long limbs but a little elfin face. You do hope she’s going to meet all those milestones because the doctors told me: ‘Don’t expect Polly to meet them all because she was born so early’ – nearly eight weeks premature – and because of that they were like: ‘She may be behind and you may find her speech isn’t as good,’ but actually it’s better than most kids her age. We had her first school report yesterday from her reception class and she’s absolutely where she should be.
Does she have to take any special precautions?
No, we haven’t had anything major, touch wood.
How much of a toll did it all take on you?
It took such a lot to get her here in the first place; I had such a bad pregnancy and then getting her here… Obviously having lost my little boy Archie, it was a traumatic couple of years. So, the fact she’s here and doing so well, you’d never know she was born so early.
Where do you get your strength from to overcome all of this trauma and carry on?
I’ve not really had any choice. Obviously I’ve been through one of the most traumatic things that anyone could ever go through and it’s a very difficult thing to come back from. You never get over it but you learn to live with what’s happened. Literally, it was the love and support of my family and friends that got me through, and work as well.
Did you hear from other celebrity mums who’ve been through the same thing – such as Amanda Holden?
No, she didn’t contact me but we don’t know each other. Also I know Lily Allen went through the same thing. But Sarah Brown [Gordon Brown’s wife] contacted me. She sent me a handwritten letter, which was lovely. It’s a strange thing, because when you lose a baby in those circumstances it becomes a taboo subject and people feel that they shouldn’t open up and discuss it. But I found that talking about it really helped me.
Will you ever have any more children?
Actually, I’ve made a decision not to have any – and I can’t physically have any now. After I had Polly I was going through a lot of stuff woman-wise and my consultant said to me: ‘Do you want more children?’ and I said no because I don’t think I could go through that again – the hanging on to the baby, the constant worry of whether they were going to survive, what quality of life they were going to have. It took its toll – not just on me, but my kids and my family and I just thought: I have three amazing children and an angel who takes care of us all – what else can I possibly have? So I had a procedure which isn’t a hysterectomy but they laser away your womb lining so you can’t actually have any more kids. I’m really happy with what I have and I’m lucky as some people can’t have any.
How do you think your character Michelle will react when she finds out Leanne is having Steve’s baby?
[Lets out a shriek and laughs] She isn’t the most forgiving person, is she? I really think she’s going to go ballistic. I don’t know how she’s going to get over it. She’ll be devastated. We’ve seen Michelle almost have a bit of a fling with Will, but her love for Steve stopped her from doing it and he gave her a hard time. And then eventually when she finds out about him she’s going to feel so betrayed because for her it will be a case of: ‘You found that so easy.’
How would you react if your fella [personal trainer Matt Baker, 27] did that to you in real life
I’d kick him right into touch. I’d be like: ‘Get out!’ I’m not the type to take that.
Is Matt supportive of your workload and being a big star?
Well, I don’t really want to talk about my relationship, but I will say that he’s very supportive of what I do.
Will you marry him?
Sorry… I’m just not talking about that.
Now Alison King and Paula Lane have both left Corrie, have you started to get itchy feet?
I’ve just re-signed so I’m not going anywhere just yet. It’s something that everyone toys with now and again, but it isn’t something borne out of other people’s decisions. It would be a mistake to leave prompted by someone else. This is an amazing job – I’m in a very lucky position and in a great role and, you know, it’s not as easy as it seems out there. So to leave something so stable and say: ‘I’m off!’ isn’t for me. It sounds clichéd, but it’s like a family.
What do you miss most about Alison [Carla Connor]?
We’re still in touch but I do really miss her. We shared a dressing room and were very close both on and off set. I really hope she’ll come back but then part of me doesn’t because it will mean she’s gone on and done some amazing stuff. She’s a wonderful actress.
You look fabulous for 40, but is it harder to keep the weight off and stay in shape?
The reason I haven’t is because I stepped up my training before I turned 40, so I’m maintaining my fitness. I work out at least three times a week, but at the moment I’m going five times a week. I enjoy keeping fit, not just because of the fact it makes my body look better but because it keeps me healthy and my mind really clear as well. I follow the Paleo diet – I don’t have dairy or grains or bad carbohydrates. Instead, I have a lot of green vegetables, sweet potato. I eat a lot of protein and meat and fish.
Where’s the cake in this?!
I do have a cheat on a weekend. I find that’s the best way to follow any kind of diet plan – always give yourself a treat because more often than not you’ll fail. Who wants to sit there and look back at their life and go: ‘I really enjoyed those carrot sticks’? You want to be able to say on Saturday: ‘I’m going to have dinner, a dessert and a few glasses of wine.’ That’s the best way to do it.
The Spice Girls have announced they’re reforming. Any plans for Hear’Say to do the same?
[Laughs] Doubtful! We did get asked to do The Big Reunion a while ago and we all said no. I only hear from Danny [Foster] – that’s just how it’s worked out.
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