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‘I just thank my lucky stars’: Coronation Street star Tina O’Brien on loving her job and her hectic but happy home life

Tina O'Brien attends the Pride of Britain awards (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Tina O'Brien attends the Pride of Britain awards (Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

TINA O’BRIEN arrives to talk with iN10 and immediately launches into a tale of kiddie mayhem.

A toddler was sitting on her knee pulling everything off the table, while another, a bit older, thought it was fun to run a toy car over someone’s face.

It wasn’t, giggles Tina, a slice of home life with daughter Scarlett, eight, and son Beau, two, but “a bit of a funny one” on the set of Coronation Street.

She took it in her stride and got the scene done, though, not just through her mum’s knowhow but due to the fact she’s marking an acting milestone.

It’s 20 years since Tina, who plays Sarah Platt in the iconic soap, made her telly debut.

That was as a 13-year-old in ITV kids’ series Children’s Ward, three years before she was told she’d landed the part in Corrie.

That’s a phone call that’s still so fresh in her mind it’s like it was yesterday.

“I remember the auditions very, very clearly and then the call saying I’d got it,” says Manchester lass Tina, now 34.

“My mum took it and I was both over the moon and crying, because I knew my life was going to change.

“One minute I was going to college learning media studies and the next I was getting the chance to act, which was what I wanted to do.

“But I was aware that every street I walked down people would look at me.

“Back then 13 million people would regularly watch and I knew that as a 16-year-old my life was going to become very much more public.

“It was never going to be a ‘no’ to joining, it was just being aware what I was letting go.

“I’ve never regretted it, though.”

Sarah Platt [TINA O’BRIEN] and Gary Windass [MIKEY NORTH] (ITV, Mark Bruce)
Sarah Platt [TINA O’BRIEN] and Gary Windass [MIKEY NORTH] (ITV, Mark Bruce)

Having a down-to-earth family ensured Tina’s feet were always going to be firmly on the ground and she insists she was never tempted to go off the rails.

“I think I was quite tame,” she says.

Tina spent eight years treading the famous cobbles before deciding to leave in 2007. She went on to do series like Blue Murder and Waterloo Road – as well as appearing in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing – before Corrie came calling again.

Sarah was back on screens in Weatherfield in 2015 and Tina insists absence has made the heart grow even fonder.

“If I hadn’t decided to leave when I did I don’t think I’d have appreciated everything since,” she reasons.

“I came into Coronation Street right from high school and hadn’t done anything else until I was 24. I didn’t feel like I’d had a life outside the show.

“I needed to get out and see the world a bit, meet different people, try different jobs. I did a couple of period dramas and other things and having had those new experiences means I definitely don’t have itchy feet now.”

Getting meaty storylines and finding something new to challenge her every day – be that playful kids or serious screen set-tos – is one reason Tina’s more than happy to be a Corrie mainstay.

Gary returns from the Ukraine this week, much to Sarah and Anna’s delight.

But he’s hiding both bruises and secrets about what his job out there really entails. Struggling with his secret life, he goes on an all-night bender and when Sarah confronts him he ends up in a passionate snog with Nicola.

“When he comes back everything seems to be back to how Sarah wants it to be,” explains Tina.

“But his behaviour’s very erratic and unpredictable. Sarah has got a lot on her plate at the moment the way that everything’s building with Bethany and the looming court case.

“And she’s insecure about her relationship with Gary.”

Things are a lot more settled and less fraught off-screen for Tina.

She got engaged last year to long-term boyfriend Adam Crofts after he popped the question in the most romantic style, on bended knee with candles and rose petals at a plush hotel.

Tina already had Scarlett from her previous relationship with former Corrie co-star Ryan Thomas and she and Adam now have Beau, too.

It had been reported that their wedding plans had been put on hold because she was struggling with what she wanted.

But Tina’s keen to put the record straight.

“Hopefully we’re going to start looking at venues very soon. It was more the case that I was just incredibly busy at work and so was Adam.

“We realised that we were really happy as we were and wanted to leave it until we had a bit more time.

“Things look like they’ve calmed down work-wise and that’ll give us an opportunity to organise something. Adam’s my best friend and I know he’s always got my back. He’s a great dad as well.

“Beau had a sickness bug yesterday and Adam stayed in with him all night as he knew I had an early start.”

Life as a mum-of-two took more than a bit of getting used to for Tina.

Tina O’Brien and her daughter Scarlett enjoy the Magical Moments Festival at Disneyland, Paris. (PA)

She went back to work when Beau was just four months old and was in such a permanent state of tiredness that the first year was a complete blur.

Now things are more settled, despite the long filming days working on Corrie entails. Domestic duties get shared round on busy working weekdays, but Saturdays are a bit different.

Scarlett is now the face of a kidswear range for online fashion retailer Boohoo and the weekends are when shoots get done.

“I hope to goodness I’m not a pushy mum,” says Tina. “It’s something Scarlett really wants to do. If she didn’t she’d rebel against it.

“I’m quite happy because it’s fun, it’s not interfering with her schoolwork and the money’s being saved for driving lessons or whatever she wants when she’s older.”

So, with some modelling experience herself, what’s Tina’s role of a Saturday?

“Basically, I’m her assistant! She’ll have maybe 13 different outfits and it’s my job to change her 13 times and make her a drink.”

Tina paints a picture of a sibling relationship that’ll be a familiar one to millions of parents across the country.

Having spent the first couple of years besotted by her baby brother, things are subtly changing.

“Scarlett still absolutely adores Beau but I think the honeymoon period is over.

“Reality’s kicking in and he’s now a bit more of the annoying little brother who’s trying to get into the toys.”

Last Wednesday saw an extra episode of Coronation Street introduced, bringing the weekly number of visits to Weatherfield up to six.

A new studio set-up is being finalised and viewers will soon see extra bits of the Street.

The full-on filming schedules mean Tina will often find herself dashing in at the kids’ bedtimes, focused on baths and practicalities, not so much relaxing chat.

But you won’t find her complaining.

While it was a dawn start at the Salford studios as we speak, she’s keener to highlight how nice it was to start by spending half an hour in a make-up chair with someone making her look good.

“Look, to be an actress, working in Manchester on a show I absolutely love is brilliant,” she adds.

“Then to be able to go home and be able to see my children every evening … well, I thank my lucky stars, to be honest with you.

“It’s everything I want.”

Coronation Street, ITV, Monday, Wednesday and Friday double episodes.