You’ve seen her on TV, but who exactly is Alice Barry?

Actress Alice Barry, who plays Lillian Tyler in C4 comedy series Shameless
Actress Alice Barry, who plays Lillian Tyler in C4 comedy series Shameless
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You’ve probably seen her in Shameless, Phoenix Nights or Clocking Off, and you probably assume TV star Alice Barry has had a great life.

But a woman who got into acting late and has to be one of the most down-to-earth celebrities around, has had things far from easy.

Barry, who is in her mid 60s (she won’t tell me her exact age: ‘you don’t ask a woman her age,’ she says) and lived in Bispham until a couple of years ago, had a brutal and often abusive Catholic education and was then subjected to sexual advances from her uncle at the age of 12.

Her mother, who worked in a cotton mill, suffered a horrific accident in which she lost her arm. The teenage Alice attempted to escape from the domestic misery that followed with an overdose of aspirin.

Her 26-year-old brother died of cancer and later her beloved husband Terry passed away – a loss that almost defeated her entirely.

It was only then that she decided to throw herself into a career as an actress, and finally had some much-deserved good times in her life.

An interesting back-story to say the least, which means her autobiography, Who The Hell Is Alice? (she’ll be at Waterstones in Blackpool town centre on Saturday at 2pm to sign copies of the book), could be worth a read.

Speaking to Alice on the phone, she admits writing the book was cathartic but it is clear she doesn’t really want sympathy for the tough times. “You get ups and downs in life, that’s the way it goes,” she said. “My motto is life is like a lemon, you have to squeeze it all you can. Whatever it throws at you, you just have to carry on.”

Alice grew up in Burnley and after going through heartaches galore, got her big break when she landed a part on Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights in 2001.

“I decided to have a go at acting and worked as an extra for a while. That went on for about 12 months, then I got picked up by a director who thought I would be a good character actress,” she said.

“I’ve not been out of work since, which is quite an achievement given I’ve never had an acting lesson in my life.”

Alice is best known to viewers for her role as Lillian in Channel 4’s Shameless. She was a major part of the show until the final episode a couple of weeks ago and claims she’s been recognised in Australia and Singapore. “They seem to love it everywhere,” she said.

Home for her throughout her acting rise was Blackpool. “I lived in a bungalow in Bispham and loved it,” she said. “I went to the Grand Theatre a lot and all the shows on the piers - Joe Longthorne is a big pal.

“Pat Mancini was also a big friend and I used to go to the Queens Hotel, where everybody went. Unfortunately after she died everybody seemed to go their own way.”

Alice, who has just finished filming an episode of Benidorm (“in Benidorm – it was lovely!”), is at Waterstones from 2-5pm.