Catherine Tyldesley: full profile
BA (Hons) Acting, 2006
Excellence in Sport or the Arts
Catherine Tyldesley is one of the most recognisable faces to have graduated from Birmingham School of Acting in recent years, having played Eva Price in top TV soap Coronation Street since June 2011.
After graduating from the School in 2005, one of her first acting jobs was a guest role as a midwife in the same programme, as well as appearing in such popular series as Holby City, The Royal, Emmerdale and Shameless. She enjoyed her first starring role in the 1920s-set BBC drama Lilies and also showed she had an eye for comedy, appearing in sketch show Scallywagga and sitcoms Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Trollied.
Having wanted to sing and act on stage from an early age, Catherine performed with various theatre groups as a child and teenager but chose to get formal training before embarking on a professional career. She visited a number of acting schools, but says it was Birmingham School of Acting (BSA) that stood out. As well as giving her the training and support she needed, it provided a massive boost to the early stages of her career when she was signed up by an agent after one of our Showcase events, where students perform a range of pieces on stage in front of agents, casting directors and theatre producers.
“To me training was incredibly important – my big ambition was to work with the RSC [Royal Shakespeare Company] and I hadn’t been classically trained; I also wanted to improve my voice, and I knew that training would enable me to be flexible in the range of roles I can play which is what you want as an actor.
“I auditioned for a lot of schools and out of all of them, Birmingham School of Acting was the one that impressed me the most. I came down for the audition day and the tutors we met were all great, and it was the only place that gave feedback to everyone, regardless of whether they offered you a place or not. I learned so much on that day, I thought just imagine what I’d learn in three years. The tuition we received was absolutely outstanding – so many of our tutors had worked in the acting business all their lives and, as I’ve learned since then, as an actor you learn on the job so to have the benefit of their experience was amazing for all of us.
“I was incredibly lucky when I did the Showcase at BSA and was signed by United Agents, and I’m still with them today. Having a good agent is so important – I’ve got so many friends who are very talented but don’t enjoy the sort of support from their agents I do. I was fortunate because Northern accents were very big at the time with programmes like Shameless, and my agent didn’t have anyone like me on their books.”
With most of her experience up until that point on the stage, Catherine expected her career to head in that direction, but after securing a couple of TV roles, she started to make a name for herself on the small screen instead.
“Because of my background we were preparing for me to have a career in musical theatre but I got a few TV auditions early on which went quite well and my first TV role was in a series called No Angels for Channel 4. It was there that I met Katherine Kelly who later played Becky in Coronation Street – she took me under her wing and we’ve stayed friends ever since.
“In those first few years, it was just a case of going to as many auditions as I can and you’ve got to be very motivated and positive or you’re not going to survive. You’ve got to go to auditions saying ‘I will get this part’ and that’s not being arrogant, it’s just positive thinking and that’s how you’ve got to be. I was fortunate that I could sing and that was something that paid the bills between acting jobs – doing things like singing before games at Manchester United.”
Having come to the attention of the producers at Coronation Street, and with friends already in the series, Catherine dreamed of securing a part herself – and was delighted when the opportunity came up to audition for the role of Eva – part of the new family taking over the Rovers Return alongside Michelle Collins as mum Stella and John Michie as her mother’s then-partner Karl.
“I’d been back and forth to Granada a few times with different roles and they’d always been very good to me, saying they liked me and there would be a role for me in Coronation Street; it was just a matter of waiting for the right one. I auditioned for the role of Eva three times – a regular audition, then a screen test, then an audition alongside Michelle Collins to make sure we worked as mother and daughter. I didn’t look like the other girls there – they were all younger, or different physically, but the producers obviously saw something in me that clicked.
“I was absolutely ecstatic to get the part because I’m from Manchester, I had friends in the show already and most importantly I was a massive fan. I grew up with Coronation Street and to be part of such a legendary show is so amazing that I miss it when I’m not there. When I’m on holiday, I can’t wait to get back and I’m always looking forward to getting the scripts to see what’s happening next.”
Producing five episodes of Coronation Street every week is a challenge for everyone involved, but Catherine still has time to appreciate the fact that she’s doing the job she loves, and playing a character she can have a lot of fun with.
“It is a very frantic schedule – far more than anything I’ve done before. Every week is different but when your storylines are at the centre of the programme it’s really a seven-days-a-week job as you can be filming for up to six days and on our time off, we’re busy learning lines. But I like that, I like the discipline and we all get on so well together that we all enjoy ourselves and have a laugh even when we’re working hard.
“The Rovers is my favourite place because so many legends have passed through, I’m there so much and it really goes feel like home. You work with everyone so much that you really become like a family – I’m so close to Michelle Collins who plays my Mum that I really miss her when she’s away and now I’ve had Sue Johnston join as my gran which is amazing as she was one of my favourite actresses when I was growing up. When I found out she would be joining I was so excited, we clicked straight away and she’s become like family to me now as well.
“Eva is such a great character because the things she does and says and the way she dresses are so different to what I would dare to do. I couldn’t have wished for a more fun character to play, and the writers have so much scope with her that you don’t know what’s going to happen next. I also loved the storyline with Nick because we saw a different side to her – that underneath it all she is very insecure and vulnerable, and she’s one of those girls who needs to have a boyfriend to feel loved, and when they split up she was like a little girl again.”
Her three-month stint in Emmerdale gave Catherine her first experience of being recognised in public, but being a regular in Coronation Street took that exposure to another level.
“Emmerdale warmed me up but Coronation Street is just something else – it doesn’t matter where you go, you will always get recognised all the time, and it’s nice because 90 per cent of the time they’re fans who want to talk about Corrie. There’s also the promotional work and interviews you need to do, but again I don’t mind because I’m passionate about the programme and can happily talk about it for hours! The downside is being followed all the time and the paparazzi, but it goes with the job and you just have to get on with it.”
As for the future, Catherine is delighted to be part of Coronation Street for now, but would love the chance to try some different acting roles. “I’m maintaining my singing and that’s something I’ll always keep hold of, and fit in any opportunities around my work in Corrie. In terms of acting, I’m so happy to be where I am, I can’t imagine doing anything else at the moment, but it is still my ambition to work with the RSC one day, and do some more period drama. If I’m fortunate enough to do those, that will be great, but the cobbles are keeping me busy at the moment.”