Back in the 1990s, during her first stint at Emmerdale, Claire King was nominated the title Sexiest Female at The British Soap Awards.
Fast forward 30 years and the glamorous actress is still winning admirers for her portrayal of manipulative bad girl Kim Tate.
But while Claire looks amazing for 58, she says her looks are not something she gives much thought to.
‘I won’t be winning the Sexiest Female this time around,’ she laughs. ‘Probably wrinkliest because I don’t do Botox. I’m very relaxed about ageing, I made the choice not to have anything done and grow old disgracefully.
She adds, ‘My fella [Claire has been with her partner for 10 years, but won’t publicly name him] is happy with it. He can’t stand the look of people on Instagram, he thinks they all look the same.’
Claire was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis in her 30s, meaning she suffers from painful joints. One side effect is that she has a low immune system – another reason she’s avoided cosmetic surgery.
‘To have an operation is risking my health, so I made the decision that I’m not going down that route,’ she explains.
Funny, feisty and frank, Claire is great company and despite her success on the small screen – with starring roles in Coronation Street and Bad Girls, as well as Emmerdale – she doesn’t take herself, or life, too seriously.
It may be down to her non-conformist streak, honed as a teenage punk after an education at the highly respectable Harrogate Ladies’ College. After initially working as a nightclub DJ, she sang in punk band To Be Continued, before moving to London.
‘I still have a rebellious streak,’ she smiles. ‘I think that will always be in me. I’ve still got all my leather jackets from when I was a punk gathering dust in the wardrobe.’
Claire later switched to acting and in 1989, landed the role that was to define her career, that of Emmerdale’s lady of the manor Kim Tate.
‘She’s probably one of the best characters to play. There’s no one like her in British soaps. I can have fun with her, I’m a lucky girl,’ Claire says.
‘She was one of the first evil women on British soaps, after Dynasty and Dallas in America. She’s got the big house, she’s glamorous and a pain in the bottom.’
Claire left after 10 years, spending four years on Bad Girls and three years on Corrie as Liz McDonald’s old pal, Erica Holroyd. She also took part in Strictly Come Dancing and Celebrity Big Brother, but last year she was tempted back to the Dales.
Viewers have recently seen her racked with remorse for believing she was responsible for the death of her husband, Graham Foster, after angrily ordering her right-hand man Al Chapman to kill him.
The murderer turned out to be Rhona Goskirk’s former husband Pierce Harris, who was recently released from jail for rape, but Kim still has conflicting emotions.
‘She’s feeling guilty because she did really love Graham and hadn’t even realised herself how much,’ Claire says. ‘She’ll feel pretty depressed and probably hit the bottle and maybe spill a few beans to people, which could land her in trouble.
‘Even though the police can’t find anything, she might just drop herself in it, which could lead to her being arrested.’
A spell in jail for Kim would at least have the advantage of giving Claire a break to spend more time in her home of 25 years, a beautiful remote barn in the Yorkshire Dales.
‘I look out and see green fields, and the community in the country are generally friendlier,’ Claire says of her decision to eschew city life. If I need something from the farmer, such as my drive clearing, or some straw for the stables, then I’ll make him sloe gin in return. It’s the old barter system, which is great.’
It sounds idyllic, but somehow we couldn’t imagine tough-talking Kim Tate agreeing to such an amicable arrangement!