Coronation Street‘s Maria Connor is showing that she’s not to be underestimated in her latest storyline.
Maria sparks an outraged reaction from Audrey Roberts (Sue Nicholls) next week when it’s revealed that she’s secretly set up her own salon business in her flat, undercutting her boss’s prices to steal away her regular customers. Who knew she had it in her?
The storyline also paves the way for the return of Rula Lenska as Claudia Colby, who’ll be offering her a chance to run one of her salons, if she can find the cash for the franchise opportunity. Is Maria about to turn her back on Audrey for good?
Here, Samia Longchambon – who plays Maria – reveals all on her latest plot.
How does this new storyline begin?
“Tracy gets wind of Maria giving Angie a haircut in the salon flat and starts blackmailing her, saying: ‘I’m going to tell Audrey unless you do my hair in your flat’. So it’s Tracy who’s a catalyst for it all, because she then points out that Maria could make a fortune doing this.
“Audrey then finds out that Maria has been doing everyone’s hair, including Gail’s, which doesn’t go down well! She walks in as Gail is sitting there with foils in her hair. We had to not laugh doing that!”
Does Maria feel undervalued?
“Yeah, she does. She’s been at the salon for so many years and she feels like she’s been doing all the work recently, because Audrey’s been off having her ladies’ lunches. David has been preoccupied and Bethany has too, so it’s just been all down to Maria and she’s not really been getting much credit for it. So that’s where it’s all come from.”
How does Audrey react to Maria’s betrayal?
“She goes mental. She goes absolutely off her head. Sue’s just been brilliant in it. It’s not meant to have been funny, but it’s just been hysterical.”
Are you pleased with the storyline?
“Yeah, it’s really nice to have a storyline that’s not involving a man. I’m not in the middle of a love triangle. It’s just been me, Sue and now Rula Lenska doing lots of nice salon stuff. It’s just been nice having a different kind of storyline and seeing a different side to Maria.”
Doesn’t Maria feel any guilt for going behind Audrey’s back?
“She does. That’s why she doesn’t tell Audrey initially, because she doesn’t want to upset her. But then she makes the point to Audrey: ‘I did want to invest with you and make more of myself. I’ve got Liam to think about.’ She’s at a time in her life where she wants to do a bit more than what she’s doing, but Audrey is stopping her and holding her back. It’s just a bit of ambition that’s kicked in.”
What happens as the story progresses?
“Maria has to ask people to invest in her. Claudia returns and offers to franchise her salon, but Maria needs to find an investor to get the money.”
Maria goes to Carla for help, doesn’t she?
“Yeah, they’re family, and obviously Maria knows Carla is great at business. With everything that’s happened with the factory, she knows that Carla is maybe in the game for investing in something. So it sort of works, but not for long! I can’t say too much.”
Does Maria worry that Claudia’s offer could cause more trouble with Audrey?
“I think Maria just really wants to go for it, because by that point it’s got so sour with Audrey. Audrey is chucking her out of the flat and everything, so at that point, Maria has got nothing to lose.
“Just when Claudia offers Maria the chance to franchise the salon, Audrey comes in The Rovers and says, ‘I’ve been a bit harsh on you, I admit it. You don’t have to move out of the flat’. But just as she says that, Claudia comes in and says: ‘Ooh, we’re going into business together!’ So it’s one step forward and two steps back. Maria doesn’t hesitate because it’s a great opportunity for her.”
Could it be a risk for Maria to get involved with Claudia? She does have a history with conman Lewis and he’s been hanging around…
“I’ve been saying that to Rula! But I don’t know if there’s any connection yet between Claudia and Lewis, so maybe it will all become clear. Rula seems to think Claudia is legit and that she’s not trying to get one over on Maria. Hopefully it will all go smoothly, but probably not, I don’t know!”
Have you ever accidentally injured someone when filming salon scenes?
“One time it was Barbara Knox (Rita) in the chair and I nearly ripped her head off. We’ve got the old-fashioned hairdryers, with the visor that comes down. Rita was under the visor and I just pulled it back without lifting it up and Barbara’s head just went with it! I was so sorry!
“Another time, I nearly cut Kate Ford’s (Tracy) fringe off. I had the actual hairdressing scissors and I don’t know what stopped me, I was just doing it. I was shaking afterwards and I said, ‘Kate, I think nearly just gave you a tuft instead of a fringe!’
“I know little bits of hairdressing, but it’s very limited. Probably around 18 years ago, I should have done a hairdressing course. For years I got away with just folding towels, but we’ve had to up our game a bit.”
What storylines would you love to tackle next with Maria?
“I’ve always felt the fact she’s a single mum could be more looked into and the struggles that they’re facing. But I guess this storyline is kind of doing that, because it’s showing that Maria is wanting to go further in her career and she’s showing a bit of ambition. She wants to support her son.”
Do you have any ambitions to try something different away from Corrie?
“Yeah I do, but not necessarily different shows and stuff. At the moment, I’m actually doing a reflexology course, just for something different to focus on and to do something else alongside my job. I’m halfway through the course and the cast all keep offering to be guinea pigs for me. I’ll have to make sure they’ve all got clean feet before I start poking round!
“It’s a home study course, so I just do it and then send my lesson off to be marked. I’ve got to do a practical at the end. I’m really enjoying it. At the end of it, I will be a qualified reflexologist – touch wood, hopefully.”
What kind of reaction did you get when you spoke out about your anxiety recently?
“It was amazing. I didn’t have one negative reaction. I was really nervous about speaking about it, because you don’t know what people will think of you or what kind of reaction you’ll get. But everyone was so supportive, and a lot of people have been messaging me. It’s been really humbling and actually it feels quite liberating to say, ‘Life’s not perfect all the time’.
“My close friends all know that I’m a worrier, so it wasn’t a shock to anyone who knows me that I suffer with anxiety. It’s not something I talk about every day and I don’t want to be defined by it or anything, but it’s just something that a lot of people have and something that you live with.
“I’ve always had it since I was kid. Meditation can help, so I do guided ones on YouTube sometimes if I’m feeling a bit anxious or stressed. Talking helps as well. I think a lot of people are talking more now, which is important.
“But something like this reflexology course has been helping me as well, having something else to focus on rather than over-thinking. It’s given me something else to be busy with, instead of that. But I’m not saying I’m giving up acting, it’s just something else.”
Coronation Street airs on ITV.
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