Hull’s Gemma Oaten has revealed she is to appear in Coronation Street.
The actress who has previously had roles in Emmerdale, Doctors and Casualty, is heading for the nation’s most famous cobbles as new character Isla Haywood, a potential new love interest for Tyrone Dobbs.
Gemma, 37, said she was thrilled to be joining the ITV soap that has been running for almost 61 years.
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“It’s so exciting,” she said. “Even though I have had so many acting jobs over the years, this does not go over my head, especially with it being my first audition back after the dreaded lockdown.
“My agent called and said, ‘Gemma, they have asked to see you’, and I said, ‘shut up’. It was really lovely to be asked to audition.
“It was the dreaded self-tape, which is the bane of my life.
“I called my neighbour and said, ‘my family are arriving this weekend, it’s going to be carnage’ and my neighbour had Ruby, my dog.
“The scenes I had to read had four or five characters in and I recorded them on my phone – I’m there playing the parts of Tyrone and Fiz and Darcy (Isla’s daughter) and Hope – it was quite funny but it seemed to work.
“I called Isla Is-la, I think it was the mishaps that got me the job.”
Gemma found out she had landed the role while on a train to Hull where she was due to give a talk about her work with eating disorder charity SEED.
“My agent called and said, by the way, you can’t tell anyone, and I was on this train trying to act normal," she told Hull Live.
“It was on my best friend Joff Powell’s birthday and he rang about two minutes after this call and said, ‘thanks so much for the gift and the card, Gemma’, and I was like, ‘that’s okay Joff’.
“He said, you’ve got it, haven’t you – he’d been the only person apart from my mum and dad I’d told I was auditioning – and I kept replying, ‘I don’t know what you mean’.”
Gemma, who will star in four episodes of the soap, described her feelings about her first day on set.
“I mean, it’s like a national institution. I have been watching Coronation Street since I was a kid.
“I’m walking over this bridge at Media City and it’s a whole island – Corrie is huge. My heart is in my mouth and I get lost,” she said, laughing.
“I see someone I remember, a make-up girl from Emmerdale, and then I think, this feels okay.”
Gemma said of stepping onto the set: “It was petrifying but then there was Alan (Halsall, who plays Tyrone) with a big grin on his face and then I heard, ‘hello Gemma’, and I noticed someone familiar behind the camera, it was one of the guys from my first job at Doctors, and that was really lovely, that sense of meeting people along the way and it coming back full circle; that was a really nice feeling for me.”
She said there was a sense of “gratitude and kindness” and, when she got chance to speak to some of the Coronation Street regulars, including Simon Gregson, who plays Steve McDonald, and Alan, with whom she shares many of her scenes, they reinforced those feelings.
“They said they were so lucky to have been working throughout (the pandemic) and were so fortunate," Gemma said.
“Everyone seemed to have this essence of coming together, it was really warm and friendly.”
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