Joanne Froggatt has come a long way from her role as Zoe Tattersall in Coronation Street. Since treading Corrie’s cobbles for the last time 1998, she’s been in everything from Bad Girls to Life on Mars, Spooks to Robin Hood. Now she’s starring in our new Sunday night TV obsession - costume drama Downton Abbey (think Gosford Park crossed with Upstairs Downstairs).
And she managed to find time in her busy schedule to chat to us about her time in Weatherfield, why a corset stopped her sneezing and her very intense new film…
We’re loving Downton Abbey – it’s definitely cheered up our Sunday nights. Tell us a bit about your role in it?
I play Anna the head housemaid. She’s a really lovely girl. She’s very kind and she’s the intermediary between the younger members of staff and the more senior ones. She kind of looks after everybody. But she doesn’t suffer fools gladly! She’s also ladies maid to the three daughters of the house.
It must have been so much fun to film. Got any anecdotes you can share with us?
I have but I can’t repeat them! We had a lot of group scenes where we “staff” were sat around a table in the dining area below stairs. Those scenes take a long time and you do get a little stir crazy in a hot studio. So there were lots of random conversations going on. But the whole experience was great fun and I made some good friends in the process.
We imagine the corset-wearing was quite uncomfortable?
Yes! And quite a few of us had trouble sneezing. Our corsets wouldn’t allow us to expand our chests enough! So you would kind of do this funny little noise instead of a sneeze. I don’t know how they coped day-to-day in those things.
Let’s talk Corrie (she played Zoe Tattersall (in 1997/1998). You must be proud of that time? It’s such a telly institution!
It was lovely and amazing to be involved in. It was almost my first job at 16. And it’s great to see Corrie’s getting cool again! It was a really nice time in my life.
Being in such a huge soap must have meant you got – and still get – recognised a lot?
It’s very odd at the time when you first start to get recognized. When you’re in a soap people think they know you – so they don’t think twice about coming to talk to you. Most people are lovely although you did get the odd person who wasn’t very nice.
You’ve got a film coming out soon too – In Our Name. What’s that about?
It’s a really powerful film. The character I play is a female soldier struggling to adjust to life as a civilian after serving in Iraq. She’s suffering from post traumatic stress. It charts the breakdown of her relationship with her husband – who’s also in the army - and her child.
Did you speak to any soldiers to research your role?
I had a phone conversation with a woman who is serving in the army. And got in touch with a charity called Combat Stress - ex veterans of any war who suffer from post traumatic stress can go there and be amongst others who have experienced similar things.
Filming something like that that must be an intense experience. So how do you relax?
I just spend time with my boyfriend, friends and family. Just socialising and catching up. All the usual things!
Catch Downton Abbey, Sunday nights from 9pm on ITV1. In Our Name is out 10 December