Recasting Bethany Platt may have caused some embarrassment for Coronation Street bosses, but it’s been a blessing in disguise for Blackpool-born newcomer Lucy Fallon.
A fresh-faced 19-year-old, Lucy can certainly pull off playing 14-year-old teenage tearaway Bethany, as the character returns to the ITV soap next week.
But she’s not taking any chances, and is keeping her driving licence with her at all times – after what happened with Katie Redford, the actress originally cast in the role.
Almost overnight she was sacked after it emerged that she had lied about her age, claiming she was 19, when she was really 25.
“I have my driving licence here to prove I’m 19,” says Lucy, giggling.
“I get asked for ID all the time,” adds ex-Hodgson Academy pupil Lucy, from Cleveleys, where she still lives with her parents.
“I drive and have my own car, but once I got ID’d for petrol. And I got ID’d at the cinema when I went to watch a horror film, which was a 15.”
And playing a schoolgirl on national television is only going to add to that problem, as 31-year-old Tina O’Brien, who is also returning to the cobbles after a seven-year break to resume her role as Bethany’s mum, Sarah, can attest.
O’Brien was a few years older in real life when her character gave birth to Bethany when she was just 13, and was frequently turned away from nightclubs and grown-up films at the cinema, when people assumed she was the same age as her soap character.
After missing out on the part first time around, however, Lucy knows this is a small price to pay.
She admits she was at a career crossroads, before finally landing the job.
Following in her older sisters’ footsteps, Lucy had taken up drama and dance lessons as a toddler with the Barbara Jackson Theatre Arts Centre. While her siblings eventually went off in different career directions, she decided to pursue acting, studying performing arts at Blackpool Sixth Form College and applying for places on foundation courses at London-based drama schools. But, training proved ‘too expensive’.
Rather than give up though, she decided to focus on going straight for the all-important auditions, instead.
For the past two festive seasons, Lucy has appeared as a dancer in the Grand Theatre pantomimes. “It sounds cliched, but it’s like fate, in a way, that I didn’t go to drama school,” she says now. “I couldn’t go to drama school, and then this happened, it felt like a blessing in disguise. I’m learning everything here.”
Feeling neglected by her mum Sarah, who is just 13 years older than her, wild child Bethany flees from Milan, where they live, and pays her family in Weatherfield an unexpected visit.
But it’s far from a peaceful family reunion. After fobbing off a cabbie with a tall tale to avoid paying for the ride, she dupes Andy Carver into buying her booze, and proceeds to get rip-roaring drunk in the Rovers.
She also had to learn to throw a vase at O’Brien, who returns to the cobbles a few weeks after Bethany, without causing any lasting damage (“That was really funny!”) and get beyond the initial embarrassment of being rude to her on-screen grandmother Gail, played by Corrie veteran Helen Worth.
“I felt so bad,” said Lucy, who previously held Saturday jobs in Next, New Look and Subway.
“She’s just so nice. The things that Bethany says to Gail are like the things a typical teenager says to her mum, but I wouldn’t be horrible to my nana.
“At first I was like, ‘I’m sorry I’m being really horrible to you!’ But Helen just laughed.”
Aside from the initial nerves over those gobby exchanges, she is taking the job in her stride.
The cast have been universally ‘lovely’, with co-star Tisha Merry, who plays Steph, doling out plenty of helpful hints on adjusting to life on the Street.
“Me and Tisha share a dressing room,” Lucy explains.
“She gave me loads of advice on different things, took me to the canteen and made sure I wasn’t on my own. But also, the Platt family were amazing.”
Tisha also talked to Lucy about the increased attention she can expect from being in the nation’s living rooms every week.
As someone who, by her own admission, “is no wild child”, preferring nice long baths to all-night raves, she isn’t worried about any skeletons coming out of the closet.
That said, she appreciates fame can be a double-edged sword.
“It’s a difficult one,” reasons Lucy, who might host a Corrie Curry evening for her family, friends and boyfriend to watch her first appearance in the soap.
“Obviously, it’s quite scary, but the main thing for me is the part, and I’m not really that bothered by the whole fame thing.”
At the moment, she’s on a six-month contract, but she’s unfazed by the possibility of taking on big, heavy-hitting storylines if she stays on longer.
“I’d be fine with controversial storylines, I just go with the flow.”
n Coronation Street continues on ITV on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Lucy Fallon makes her debut on Friday, March 20