She was only supposed to join Corrie for 12 months, but now, almost 31 years later, actress Beverley Callard, 63, has decided to finally hang up her stilettos and pull her last pints in the Rovers.
The soap veteran joined the hit show as Liz McDonald back in 1989 and, despite a few breaks from the show in the three decades since then, has clocked up more than 2,100 episodes.
But even before the ongoing coronavirus crisis halted production, the actor had decided to make 2020 her final year, announcing her plan to leave in the summer.
And despite all her huge storylines on Corrie, Bev reveals it’s her family that makes her most proud. She insists her two adult children, Rebecca, 44, and Joshua, 30, are her ‘greatest achievement,’ in addition to her fourth husband Jon McEwan’s three children and their three grandsons.
Bev says, ‘I’ve got two children and three stepchildren who are grown up now, three gorgeous grandsons and I’ve got the most wonderful husband. I thank my lucky stars every single day.’
She continues, ‘We all live in different parts of the country, so we’ve tended to get together on occasional weekends and I’ve loved that. And I eventually want to spend more time with my grandchildren too.’
But there are no retirement plans in sight for Bev. After a hiatus forced upon the producers and cast by current social distancing measures, she will go from playing feisty Liz on to her next role of Roxanne in The Thunder Girls – a new stage show about a disbanded 80s girl group who get back together for a reunion tour.
Perhaps it’s a strong work ethic that has kept Bev looking younger than her 63 years, but she insists it’s simply all down to not wearing make-up on days off, drinking lots of water and eating healthily.
She says, ‘I think mentally I’m still 16, but I don’t battle to look younger. If I’m not at work or going out, I don’t have any make-up on at all. I drink loads of water just because I know it’s good for me, and Jon and I eat really healthily.’
Although she’s quick to add, ‘I’m not a saint, by any means. Listen, I can party with the best of them, I can down a few Jägerbombs, believe me!’
So why did self-confessed ‘workaholic’ Bev leave the show if she’s still planning to work whenever she can?
She explains, ‘At least I won’t be working 50 weeks a year. Theatre is different. It’s not as demanding as Coronation Street because once you’ve learnt your lines for the stage show, they don’t really change. Whereas in Corrie, I’ve been learning new lines every night, especially when I’m in a lead story.’
She’s understandably emotional at the thought of ending her time on the cobbles, though. ‘I have no idea what my last day will be like,’ she says. ‘I’ll be terrible, but I’ll still be in touch with them all anyway.’
Bev has seen many iconic stars come and go on the Street. But one who meant a lot to her, both off and on screen, was Anne Kirkbride, who played Deirdre Barlow, and sadly died five years ago of breast cancer, aged 60.
She recalls, ‘Liz and Deirdre were best friends and Annie and I were too – I do miss her. I’d been doing quite a lot of filming in the Barlows’ set early this year and it’s a weird feeling. She is still there in spirit, most definitely, her photographs are on the bookshelves and you can’t go on that set without thinking, “Oh, I hope you’re here with me”.’
Bev finishes, ‘I have a big photo of her in my dressing room, and both our names are on the dressing-room door. I’m hoping that even when I’ve gone, they both stay there.