Last time we saw Corrie’s Sarah-Louise Platt, she was jetting off for a new life in Milan with her young daughter Bethany.
Back on the cobbles eight years later, actress Tina O’Brien says that while the former gymslip mum is “a little older and wiser”, it’s still the same Sarah-Lou underneath those fashionable Italian clothes.
“She has mellowed, but she’s still very outspoken. I think she thinks Weatherfield is a little bit beneath her,” says the 31-year-old, who appeared in Call The Midwife, Waterloo Road and Strictly Come Dancing during her absence from the ITV soap. “She’s not very kind, but there’s still a soft side to her. You see some really nice scenes with her daughter.”
We’ve already witnessed 14-year-old Bethany (played by newcomer Lucy Fallon) return to the UK with a bang after a row with her mum, tapping up locals for drinks in the Rovers Return and giving her grandmother Gail grief.
Sarah-Lou – who was just 13 when she gave birth to Bethany – returns hot on the heels of her daughter, but isn’t very successful in disciplining her.
“She’s not a really bad parent; she just sees Bethany as more of a friend,” says doe-eyed O’Brien, herself mum to six-year-old daughter Scarlett with her ex, fellow Corrie star Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw), and five-month-old son Beau with current partner Adam Crofts.
“When Bethany does something bad, she doesn’t say, ‘Right, you can’t do this’. Sarah wants to go, ‘Oh, OK, let’s go shopping together’. She is trying to do the right thing but she’s misguided.”
Returning to the soap just months after giving birth to her baby boy has been “a juggle” for O’Brien, but her other half has been on hand to help with childcare. “Adam’s been amazing. Last night for example, I had a really early start today so he did the night feed,” says the actress, who also finds time to run children’s drama classes in Manchester.
“I’m very lucky that, because he’s a personal trainer, he can now stay at home on Mondays and look after Scarlett and Beau. It gives me flexibility.” And working again with her former boyfriend Thomas – whose Corrie character also happens to be Sarah-Lou’s ex-husband – has been fine, the actress says.
“Ryan has been really supportive. He knew (about my return) from the very early stages because I discussed it with him. He was really good about it and said, ‘I think it will be brilliant for you’.
“We are a very ‘modern family’,” O’Brien adds with a smile. “We spent Christmas morning all together this year for the first time. It was lovely.”
On screen, Bethany will have fun stirring things up between her mum and Jason.
“She keeps telling Jason that Sarah has got a shrine of him, and he thinks that Sarah is still madly in love with him!”
Sarah-Lou has her sights set on someone else, however – bad boy Callum (Sean Ward) – the ex-lover of her sister-in-law Kylie Platt (Paula Lane).
“I am sure people will think it’s funny that the second she walks in, she hooks up with the guy who will cause most problems with the family,” says O’Brien. “It will be interesting to see a more daring side to Sarah. Because she had a baby quite young, she has had to try and stay responsible.”
Returning to the soap where she launched her career has been a “perfect fit” for the actress. “Now, I’m older and feel I have tried different things. To be a working actress and to have a job in Manchester, and in something as massive as Coronation Street, I am very lucky and certainly don’t take it for granted.”
Coronation Street airs on ITV on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sarah-Louise Platt returns on Monday, March 30