After a difficult time in 2009, things are looking up for Coronation Street’s Kym Marsh. The RTÉ Guide's Janice Butler caught up with the actress during a recent trip to Dublin to talk about matters close to her heart.
When I walk into the swanky Dublin city hotel room to meet Coronation Street’s Kym Marsh, I’m dazzled by her megawatt smile, and her engagement ring, a ‘rock’ on her perfectly manicured finger. She’s rumoured to be marrying former Hollyoaks’actor Jamie Lomas this summer, but she’s tight-lipped about the details.
"Everyone’s speculating about when the wedding’s going to be, but you should only do it when you’re ready to do it and not feel pushed. So I’ll just leave them speculating for the moment", she says with a grin.
As with many stars, she’s much smaller in person. Her small frame is dressed head-to-toe in black, with her trademark ebony hair shimmering like a shampoo ad. She’s in Dublin today to open up about a matter that’s very close to her heart. Diabetes has affected quite a few members of Kym’s family, including her grandmother, an aunt and an uncle. Kym hopes that publicising itsmyinsulin.ie – a website covering aspects of the condition, from diagnosis, control and long-term management – will make people more aware of the condition.
"My grandmother had type-1 diabetes and lost her sight when my dad was about eight years old", she says, turning serious.
"And my auntie, my dad’s sister, has type-1 and injects four times a day and her sight is gone. My uncle has it, but he’s type 2 so he can control it with tablets.
"I only ever do things that I have knowledge of or if it affects me in some way, because I don’t agree with doing something just to put your name to it", she explains.
"I want people to be more aware of diabetes; it’s a much more serious condition than people realise. If you have been diagnosed and you’re unsure of what steps you can take or how it’s going to affect you, then I recommend checking out this website."
Another thing that gets Kym talking are her children. The proud mum of two, David, 15, and Emily, 12, enthuses about being a parent. When it comes to her daughter, it’s a full-on case of mini-me, with Emily displaying the same ambitions as mum.
"She just wants to entertain", laughs Kym. "She loves singing, drama and dancing. She’s definitely going to end up in show-business."
Having been through the mill with the media and the showbiz industry, from the turbulent Hear’say days to a very public break-up, how does Kym feel about her daughter entering what can be a cruel industry?.
"I would be a hypocrite if I tried to deter her because it’s what I always wanted to do, so I can only encourage her really. But the good thing is I’ve done a lot and seen a lot so I’ll be able to point her in the right direction and protect her."
Her son, David is the other extreme, she says. "He’s nothing like Emily and I; he’s very laidback, quiet and shy. He’s mortified if you sing happy birthday to him. He’s very artistic and good at cooking actually, so I’m hoping he’ll turn out to be a chef, but part of me thinks he’s too laidback for that."
Since Kym Marsh put down roots on Coronation Street four years ago, her acting credentials have been highly praised. As the outspoken barmaid Michelle Connor, Kym has been able to sink her teeth into some of the biggest storylines on the show over the past few years. In recent months, she’s been less prominent, but she promises that is all about to change.
"I think you just go through periods when you’re not working so much and the producers are concentrating on other characters. We’re a cast of about 50 and sometimes you have to be off to give other people a chance. So I’ve been going through a quiet period but things are going to heat up again."
So can she divulge any juicy storylines?
"There might be some love in the air for Michelle with a certain Irish barman. There’s obviously been a little bit of chemistry between Michelle and Ciaran [played by Boyzone’s Keith Duffy] and that’s going to continue, but whether they finally get together or not, I don’t know", she smiles.
She says that working with Keith has been a high-point. "I’m working with Keith a lot at the moment and he’s great fun! This is the first time I’ve worked with him. I had heard a lot of good things about him from the other cast members and meeting him, they were all true. He’s certainly a cheeky chappy."
In recent months, there have been a lot of changes to the cast of Coronation Street, thanks for the arrival of new producer Phil Collinson, whose portfolio includes Doctor Who. Some long-running characters like Ashley and Claire Peacock (played by Steven Arnold and Julia Howarth) will be exiting the soap later this year, leaving the whole cast questioning their future on the Street.
"There’s always that fear when the new boss comes in and you worry that they’ll want to make changes, and nine times out of ten they do. We’re all really excited because Phil is really a great guy and we think he’s going to be fantastic for the show", she comments.
"We’re obviously sad at seeing Steven and Julia go but I think that was very much a joint decision. I don’t think anyone was particularly surprised. But the show won’t be the same without Ashley!"
Recent reports have claimed that Phil hopes to make Kym the leading star of the soap . . . the next Bet Lynch perhaps?
"I did read that and I just laughed. The show is so much bigger than one person and that can’t possibly be true. Maybe he has some ideas for my character, I don’t know, but he certainly won’t be thinking ‘how can I make Kym the biggest star of the show’. I wish he was!"
Last year, Kym revealed that she had had breast implants. At the time, she made it clear that it was something she’d been thinking about for a long time before going ahead with the procedure. A year on, is she still happy with her decision?
"Yes, definitely. I was really unhappy with the way I looked, and I hated it. There was no exercise that was going to bring my body back to the way it was before I had children. There were certain dresses I couldn’t wear and when I was on holidays I felt uncomfortable, it was horrible", she reveals.
"I mean I thought about it for such a long time. You’ve got to be so certain before you go ahead with something like that. I met with the surgeon about three or four times before."
With so much of her personal life out in the open, does she resent having to share so much with the media and the public?
"You know I’m from a reality TV show, so for me to pull back now would be after the horse has bolted", she answers honestly.
"Obviously when we started out in Hear’say we weren’t told ‘don’t say too much’. I do try to keep things more private now, I don’t talk too in-depth about my relationships and Jamie and I don’t go to places so that we can be photographed.
"The truth is never really what’s out there, it’s only ever what people perceive to be the truth, it’s only ever really going to be known by us, and that’s the way it should be."
* For more information on diabetes and treatment options go to www.itsmyinsulin.ie