Corrie’s Beverley Callard has revealed her late best pal Anne Kirkbride gave her a much-needed “kick up the bum” on her first day back at work.
Actress Beverley, 59, took a six-week break from the soap to recover from the onset of severe depression in March.
In a frank chat with the Daily Mirror, the star admits she was terrified about returning to the cobbles – and lives in fear her illness, which has previously left her suicidal, will one day return.
But in news sure to delight fans, Beverley says Rovers landlady Liz McDonald is going nowhere. “I saw Kieran Roberts, my big boss, at Stuart Blackburn’s leaving party,” she says. “And he told me, ‘you’re here for ever, you know that don’t you?’.
Read more: Beverley Callard’s A&E dash horror
“I want to be – I’m really fulfilled, I’m loving it. I think they’ll carry Liz out when she’s 90 in a mini-skirt and high heels. My first day back at Corrie was nerve-racking,” admits Beverley. “But I’ve got the most beautiful photo of Annie on my dressing room wall.
“I looked at her and said, ‘come on, you need to kick me up the a**e now, I need a push’. I was really scared, but everybody was so welcoming.”
Close friend Anne died last year, aged 60, after playing Deirdre Barlow in the ITV soap for 42 years.
Beverley adds: “The first person I saw when I walked through the door was Sue Nicholls [Audrey Roberts]. She gave me a massive squeeze and said, ‘now listen, if you need anything let me know, we’re all here for each other’.
“Everybody was like that.”
Beverley’s bout of depression was brought on by a change in her HRT medication. One of the prescriptions she has been taking for years, Restandol, became unavailable without warning and she began to sink.
Within weeks, the actress was holed up in bed and fearing suicidal thoughts would return.
“It’s amazing how medication can affect you,” she says. “The first few weeks I was absolutely fine and thought, well, maybe I don’t need it and then nine weeks in, goodness me, I was in a mess.
“I just couldn’t face life and couldn’t face the day or night.”
The star broke down on the set of the Rovers Return and was signed off from work to give her time to recover. She found a replacement drug and slowly began to get better. By the beginning of this month, she was well enough to return to work and knew she was better because extrovert Liz’s outrageous outfits no longer filled her with dread.
“Before I took time off, I’d lost myself so much I wasn’t confident enough to wear Liz’s clothes,” she says. “Then when I returned, she’s getting out of a taxi wearing a pink leather jacket, fake leather leggings and the highest heels you’ve ever seen. That’s when I knew I was back to my old self.”
The actress is part of an incredibly close cast and crew on Corrie, with pals on the cobbles including Sue Cleaver (Eileen Grimshaw), Kym Marsh (Michelle Connor) and Antony Cotton (Sean Tully). But it was Simon Gregson, who plays Liz’s son Steve, who gave her the funniest welcome back.
“He filled my handbag with props,” laughs Beverley. “He put a tankard in it from the Rovers, ornaments from Liz’s sitting room, I couldn’t believe it.
“He’s terrible, he makes fun of me because I’ve got really little feet. So he put Barbie shoes in the till in the Rovers and went, ‘oh look, you’ve left your shoes in there’.
“I just love my job,” she says. “You’re still buzzing when you come home and it’s a good feeling.”
But the star is proceeding with caution when it comes to her personal life and admits social events remain a struggle. “I think it’s because I use up all my confidence
When her latest bout of depression was at its worst, Beverley spent four days unable to get out of bed.
“The next big event is Ryan Thomas’s leaving party. I can’t miss that because I adore that boy and it will be a party to end all parties.”
The actress is speaking out about clinical depression in a bid to help other sufferers. She feels mental health is seriously underfunded and went on This Morning to take part in a phone-in.
She says: “It was just unbelievable – apparently it was the biggest response they’ve ever had.
“I stayed for a couple of hours after I’d finished the show and spoke to people on the phone.
“On my second day back, Antony Cotton ran up to me in the Rovers and asked me how I was doing. He said, ‘Beverley, you of all people will get there. Just remember, this touches every family in some way’. And it really does.
“I will always dread going back there again but I’m fine now. Hopefully it won’t ever happen again and I’m so excited to get on with the rest of my life.”
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