Leeds woman Kate Anthony, who plays Coronation Street’s feisty character Aunty Pam Hobsworth, is about to return to the Weatherfield cobbles. John Fisher reports.
She’s feisty, she’s loveable and she is on her way back across the Pennines to rejoin the cast of Britain’s most famous soap.
Leeds-born actress Kate Anthony has been spending time in her native city over the summer, but this month she is back on our screens as wheeler-dealer Pam Hobsworth, otherwise known as Auntie Pam.
And because most of the recent filming has been done at night, Kate has been commuting from the Leeds home of her parents, Jacqui and Tony.
The 47-year old actress has come a long way since making her TV debut in 2008.
Viewers first saw her selling dodgy ham to Blanche Hunt in the Rovers Return, and subsequently she was often to be found propping up the bar there – and giving Kevin Webster a piece of her mind.
However, since hooking up with partner Bill Webster, played by actor Peter Armitage, Pam has been steered back to the path of righteousness.
She said: “I don’t think we’ll see any more shady deals from Pam. She’s too busy ticking off Kevin for that – so under-the-counter ham is definitely off the menu.”
Pam makes her spirited return to our TV screens after a six month absence. She was last seen attending niece Molly’s funeral.
“I’m back – and with a good story line too,” Kate says. “It’s just like I’ve never been away.
“We film out of sequence so often one has to keep checking the narrative. It’s quite tricky and I’m constantly making notes on my script.
“They have already had Hallowe’en decorations on the set, so one is working ahead all the time.
“It’s also quite difficult with costumes because they put you in winter clothes when it’s hot, and summer clothes when it’s cold.”
It’s been a busy summer for Kate. Apart from filming Corrie for the September schedule, followed by the Christmas episodes in a few weeks time, she will be appearing at the Lowry in Manchester in a new play called All The Way Home (September 29-October 15) written by Ajub Khan-Din, author of the successful film East is East.
After a week off, it’s a season of panto in Buxton, playing the wicked queen Belladonna in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (from December 10) and then back again to Corrie in January.
“So it’s all fantastically hectic, but I mustn’t complain because at the moment everything in the garden is lovely.”
Kate lives in Ealing with husband Gary and two young children. But most fans ask where does Aunty Pam live? It’s certainly not in Coronation Street.
“Well, no it isn’t – the truth is we don’t really know where she resides, it’s never been clearly defined.
“I know that Pam and Bill live together and often we say, ‘We’re just going back for us teas’, so we assume it’s somewhere like Rosamund Street. Maybe one day we’ll move permanently into the Street, who knows?”
In the beginning , producers had envisaged the character of Auntie Pam as a rather large woman with a larger than life persona.
That was until slim and stylish Kate came along and blew away any preconceptions the creators held that the character be played by a larger performer.
“I thought I’d turned up for the wrong audition. I was confronted by a room full of large – and boy, do I mean large – women,” the Corrie actress says stretching both arms wide.
As it turned out Kate was recalled later after one of the producers persuaded colleagues to change their minds.
“I’ve found the right Auntie Pam – but she ain’t big,” she told them.
When Kate heard she’d got the part she was driving down the A4 when her agent phoned her.
“I pulled over and a voice said, ‘You’ve got it! You’ve got it!’”
Because of the process of auditioning, Kate and husband Gary had never talked about the logistics of the job. They live in London and the job was in Lancashire. Gary has his own company and there were the children to consider. How were they going to manage?
“I was so excited about getting the part that I just brushed the issue aside, like something magical would happen; perhaps the nanny fairy would come and make it all right.
“I rang Gary and he was as thrilled as I was, and very supportive.
“I said, ‘But Gary, we haven’t actually spoken about it, do I accept and what are we going to do with the kids?’
“He joked, ‘Sell the kids. Of course you’re going to accept. We’ll work something out.’”
The first time Kate went on the Corrie set was a daunting experience, she recalled.
“There I was walking past the Websters’ house, past Dev’s shop and the Rovers Return and into the Duckworth’s front parlour. And there was Vera’s chair – the actual chair she died in – how surreal was that?”
Kate’s career started when she achieved A-level drama at Park Lane College and met tutor Vanessa Rosenthal, who recommended she made acting her profession.
So Kate applied for a place at London drama school Webber Douglas and got in on a two-year course.
After graduating, Kate acquired a zany agent called Toni, who was a drama queen herself.
Toni once sent Kate to audition for the role of Juliet: “I came into this room and there were about 15 young, absolutely gorgeous girls – all black.
“There I was, very white with long, blonde hair. I turned around and saw two dishy male directors – also black.
“‘Oh dear, has there been something of a mix-up,’ I asked. ‘Yes’, they nodded, ‘we think there has.’
“‘We could have alerted you if your agent had sent a photograph with your CV.
“‘But to be frank, most people know that Talawa Theatre Company is an all-black theatre group’, he explained.”
Kate once auditioned for stage musical Les Miserables ignoring the fact that she was tone-deaf. The only song she could vaguely perform was Downtown.
As she sat outside the audition room all she heard was an amazing blend of voices warming up with operatic scales and gems from La Boheme.
“I suddenly thought, ‘Is Downtown the right choice?’ Nevertheless I started to sing, badly and breathlessly – so I put in some dancing, which was worse.
“There was dead silence and surprise, surprise, I didn’t get the part.
“However, I did get recalled to another audition a year later by the same director.”
With her Corrie contract extended for some time, Kate is determined to stand her ground.
“Now that I’m well and truly in, they’ll have to remove me by my nails from the Rovers Return bar to get me out,” she says smiling.