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A role to kill for: Strictly champ Ellie Leach on first foray into theatre with Cluedo 2

© Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/ShutterstockStrictly Come Dancing winner Ellie Leach makes her stage debut as Miss Scarlett in Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter.
Strictly Come Dancing winner Ellie Leach makes her stage debut as Miss Scarlett in Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter.

Fittingly, given that she’s starring in a new murder-mystery based on the characters of Cluedo, reigning Strictly champion Ellie Leach has a dark confession to make.

It’s not that it was Miss Scarlett on the theatre stage with the glitterball trophy, but that she hasn’t actually ever partaken in the board game the show draws its inspiration from.

“I have to confess – I’ve never played it,” she laughs as she chats to P.S. during a break on tour in her first venture into the world of theatre.

“Everyone who I’ve met can’t believe it. We never used to be a board game kind of family and even if we did, the choice would always be Monopoly and we’d never finish a game because it’s so long!

“It’s amazing that we’ve taken it from a game and really created a backstory for the characters literally just from playing cards. It’s not your typical, serious murder mystery. It’s very much a comedy whodunnit.”

Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter

A brand-new tale to follow-up the success of the first run, Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter sees Ellie play Miss Scarlett alongside fellow lead Jason Durr’s Colonel Mustard.

Written by the Bafta award-winning Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, and directed by The Play That Goes Wrong’s Mark Bell, both their roles have been reinvented to fit in with the new setting of the play in the rock and roll 1960s, and the comedy caper allows the audience to play detective throughout.

Ellie with the cast of Cluedo 2. © Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterst
Ellie with the cast of Cluedo 2.

“At first I was very nervous being out of my comfort zone and doing something I’ve never done before,” Ellie said.

“I’m really enjoying it and the cast are amazing. I’ve learned so much from them already and I’m continuing to learn from them every single show we do. I’m surrounded by a great group of people who are really teaching me a lot about the theatre world.

“I was so, so nervous before we’d done the first show. I didn’t know how it was going to go and it was new to us all. Obviously there are people in the cast who have been doing theatre for years, but it’s still a brand new show.

“We’ve had some amazing audiences and people seem to really be loving it. They’re really engrossed in the story and you can hear the oohs and the ahs.

“To be able to receive the energy from the audience straight away is amazing. Acting on Corrie for TV for 13 years, you don’t get that immediate reaction.”

Corrie memories

Ellie spent almost half her life on the cobbles, racking up over 700 episodes after arriving as Faye Windass when she was just nine.

She left the soap in July 2023, before being revealed as a Strictly contestant a month later.

“Corrie will always hold a special place in my heart,” she said. “I worked there for pretty much all of my childhood, I grew up there and worked with some amazing people and iconic actors and characters.

“I feel very grateful that I got to work there for so long, but as well as the amazing memories I’ve got from there, I’m moving forward in my career and being able to make new ones.”

Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola lift the famous Strictly glitterball trophy. © Guy Levy/BBC/PA Wire
Ellie Leach and Vito Coppola lift the famous Strictly glitterball trophy.

Ellie admits most of last year was a complete whirlwind as, paired with professional Vito Coppola, she became the youngest celebrity to win Strictly at just 22.

As well as making her even more of a household name, it’s also shaped the way she looks at her career – and her likelihood to say yes to new things.

“After Corrie, I was a little bit nervous and scared about what was going to happen next, and then I did Strictly, going completely out of my comfort zone and I absolutely loved it,” she said.

“Strictly taught me that doing that can really push you and it’s the only way to grow, really. I’m so glad that I’ve had that experience. People say it’s just a dance competition, but it really changed my life and the way that I look at opportunities.

“That experience was what made me say yes to Cluedo. Before doing Strictly, I would have been so scared to do something like that and probably would have said no out of my own fears, as much as the job is amazing and it’s been so much fun.

“Doing something that’s completely different is scary, but over the past year, I’ve learned so much about myself and the industry and the career that I want.

“I’m lucky to have had those times and now to be able to do something that’s brand new.”

Life on tour

Taking that leap and embracing life on the road with the Strictly tour and now Cluedo 2 does, however, mean being away from family.

Ellie has a close bond with them – so much so that the Strictly glitterball lives in the family kitchen because her mum thought it clashed with the cream and gold colours in the living room.

“Being in Corrie for 13 years, I was based in Manchester, grew up there, I lived with my parents and now being on tour is a very different experience,” Ellie said.

“I’m really lucky that I have an amazing cast and we all spend time together when we’ve not got shows because we’re all away from our families and that is difficult. It’s really important that we all have each other.

“I’ve been really, really lucky with the people that I’ve got to work with over my career. It’s amazing to be able to do a job that that you enjoy so much with people who you equally enjoy being with.”

Being Ellie

Now even more in the spotlight than before, the 23-year-old is adapting to being recognised on the street not as Faye from Corrie, but just Ellie.

“It’s very strange,” she admits. “Not a lot of people knew who who I was and now they know me through Strictly. I was just being myself.

“For people to have voted for us every week and to have won feels really nice because, while obviously I know that people are voting for the dancing, it feels like people are also voting for you. I’m glad that people got to see me for me.”

Ellie is also part of ITV reality series Drama Queens, which follows her and fellow soap stars like her cousin and fellow Corrie star Brooke Vincent, EastEnders and Hollyoaks’ Rita Simons, and Emmerdale’s Laura Norton in their day-to-day lives.

Ellie playing Faye Windass in Corrie. © ITV/Shutterstock
Ellie playing Faye Windass in Corrie.

Far from the often polished version of life shown on social media, there’s a lot of tears amid the triumphs.

“When people see things like you going to award nights, red carpets and things like that, yeah, that is a part of our life, but once in a blue moon,” Ellie said.

“Our everyday lives are completely different and I think that it’s really important for people to see that we go through struggles in life that people who aren’t in this industry go through. We’re all just kind of trying to navigate our way through life.

“Speaking about struggles you’ve had should be normalized and people shouldn’t have to keep those feelings bottled up or not tell people because they think it’s silly or because they think it’s only happening to them, because it’s not.

“I think that’s why Drama Queens is such an amazing show – we’re just showing that it’s OK for things to not go right sometimes.”

Theatre is up Ellie’s Street

Ellie reckons she’s managed to bring together elements of performing from two iconic shows in Coronation Street and Strictly for her first foray into theatre.

Cluedo 2 is based on the classic Hasbro board game, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and the five month UK tour sees a cast of colourful characters move from room to room trying to escape the murderer and survive the night.

Ellie on stage. © Dave Hogan/Hogan Media/Shutterst
Ellie on stage.

Ellie said: “I’ve taken the acting skills that I’ve learned at Corrie combined with the skills that I’ve learned on Strictly to be able to perform live in front of people – especially doing things where something might go wrong and finding a way to adapt.

“I’ve definitely married the two to create my working environment for the theatre. It’s  just being able to take different aspects of your life that you’ve learned and put them into something new.

“Acting for TV, you’ve got the cameras and close-ups and every little movement can be picked up on whereas the stage is completely different. You’re playing to packed houses and everything has to be bigger and bolder and louder.

“With this show, with it being a comedy, there is lots of physical comedy in there as well. All the movements are big and bold anyway so you can get away with being ridiculous and feeding it through the story.”

Cluedo 2: The Next Chapter, Theatre Royal Glasgow, June 4-8.