It’s a crisp October afternoon and FHM is running a bath. We wish it was for us. We’re in an enormous house just outside Manchester and could do with soaking off the grime our train ride has left on us. Thing is, it’s overflowing with bubbles. And bubbles make us sneeze. Luckily, a five-time winner of “Soap’s sexiest star” is here to take advantage of the bubbly goodness and Michelle Keegan flings off her towel, plunges into the steaming hot water and engulfs herself in the suds.
A considerable amount of splashing about later, when she’s out of the tub, we sidle over with a warm towel. “The water was so hot! I nearly passed out,” she says, laughing. “I’ve had to go and stand by a window. I went bright red and had to cool myself down for a few minutes.”
Since January 2008, 23-year-old Keegan has played chav princess Tina McIntyre in Coronation Street which, on 25 September 2010, officially became the world’s longest running soap opera. Then on November 8 this year 11 million people watched Jack Duckworth die. It’s a show that deals in big numbers
Next up for Corrie is a destructive tram crash on December 6 and a live episode on December 9 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. “It’s not just about the deaths but also the stories that lead into it,” says Keegan. “There’s a marriage, a birth, a murder. It’s not just about the crash.”
The live show will cover the carnage’s aftermath, preparation for which has had Keegan working nights. FHM knows a guy who works nights. He has the complexion of a paving stone and the mentality of Paul Gascoigne. “It messes with your mind,” Keegan agrees. “When I switched back to days I’d wake up at 3am absolutely starving because I’d think it was dinner time.”
Coronation Street is the Mancunian’s first acting job, one that materialised shortly after getting turned down for a role in Hollyoaks. “It wasn’t meant to be,” she says. Before landing her prime-time gig Michelle’s employment highlights included working part-time in Selfridges and cleaning out a pig sty after volunteering at a veterinary centre. “I thought we’d be with puppies and kittens. They put the pig in a little house and it kept on headbutting the doors. It was trying to get out. I don’t really like farm animals. They’re unpredictable.”
Tram crash day is also when Tina McIntyre becomes the Rovers Return’s 52nd barmaid. “When you think of Coronation Street you think of the Rovers Return and all the iconic characters that have been part of it. I worked in my dad’s local Working Men’s Club so I feel quite natural behind the bar.”
She adds: “I’ve been wearing a Mrs Santa Claus outfit for working in the Rovers.”That’s a reasonable remedy to seeing your friends get mutilated, and an example of the Street’s mischievous comedic streak. “The fights are the funniest,” says Keegan. “One of the best was when Gail and Eileen were arguing in the street and Jason [Eileen’s son] came over in his builder gear. Eileen had just found out her other son, Todd, was gay, so turned round and went, ‘Oh here’s the rest of the Village People.’”
Do you prefer baths or showers?
“Showers in the morning, baths in the evening. I get a drink and a magazine when I have a bath but five minutes later I get bored and get out. I just think about what I could be doing rather than sitting in the bath.”
What drink do you take?
“Depends. If I’m feeling I need to chill maybe a glass of wine, but if I want to warm myself up or I’m feeling homely I’ll have a cup of tea. You know what’s really good if it’s a cold day? Leaving the window open when you’re in the bath. It’s like you’re in a music video. I also pretend I’m in a music vid in the shower, and when I’m driving.”
You look in the mirror and sing?
“I can’t do that because it ruins the whole illusion. Once I look at myself that’s it, ruined. It just hits you that you’re singing to yourself in a car.”
You suddenly realise that actually you’re not Britney.
Of all the British Soap Awards you’ve won – Best Newcomer, Sexiest Female, Best Actress – which is your favourite?
Best Newcomer stands out because I was a new actress and didn’t know if I fitted in. An award meant I’d been accepted. When I was younger the tune at the end of Coronation Street meant bed for me and my brother. Come home, homework, tea, bath, Corrie, bed. My family are very northern and big fans, so it meant a lot. ”
You were sent a diamond ring by a fan once, right?
“The ring was gorgeous but I couldn’t keep it. I was gutted. I had to give it to security to send back. It was worth lots of money. Quite scary.”
What else do you get sent?
“I get pictures sent from girlfriends, about their boyfriends.”
“They send pictures of their boyfriends to me, telling me they really fancy me and stuff.
Wow! Why would they do that?
“I don’t know! It’s strange. It’s like she’s selling her boyfriend, asking me what I think. I think they want my approval. Or they might want me in their games, if you know what I mean.”
At what point in your career did you start getting papped?
“About a year into having the job. I hate it. I don’t really understand why anyone’s interested. Last time I was on holiday in St Lucia. You think, “It’s so far away, how the hell does anyone know I’m here?” They could’ve given me a heads up so I could’ve put my hair up and put some make up on. My label was hanging out my bum. I wasn’t even smiling. I looked like I was having the worst holiday ever.”
Do you get a ticking off if you have a tan in Corrie?
“In a way, for continuity. If my character’s grieving in one scene and in the next I’ve got a glowing tan it doesn’t really work. If you have a break for a few weeks you have to let them know. They had to put a line in once because Jack Shepherd [David Platt, Tina’s boyfriend] came back from holiday really dark and they had to add a line in where I said, ‘You look like a cheesy Wotsit!’”