Last year, Jenny James and Lee Boardman stopped in Halifax on their way to the British Isles Show in Toronto. This year, Samia Ghadie, aka Maria Sutherland in Coronation Street did the honours. Mike Shacklock, leader of the Downeast Streeters, was instrumental in the event, organizing and coordinating a group of volunteers. The crowd this year was disappointing. Only about 75 people showed up so the huge Schooner Room was woefully underfilled.
Still, those of us die hard fans who came out to the event were rewarded with a chance to talk to Samia , who answered questions for an hour and a half and then signed autographs and posed for photos for another hour and a half.
When she first arrived in the venue, she was a bit nervous but she was excited and friendly, chatting a mile a minute. She said she was scared what kind of questions she was going to get asked but I think she was pleasantly surprised as she was earlier in the day which was filled with media interviews. She liked Canada so far but was surprised at how cold it was although it wasn't as cold as she thought it was going to be. (Halifax was experiencing bitter cold temperatures that day!) She was wearing low slung jeans and a black top that had long open crocheted sleeves. Her hair was shining and straight and she didn't have loads of makeup on. She looked pretty, healthy, happy and was really sweet! She patiently answered a lot of questions, tried not to give too many spoilers away though a few slipped through. We got lots of back stage information and got to know here a little better as well.
Samia plays Maria Sutherland. She is 20 years old and has been in show business since she was 6, doing some catalogue modeling and non-speaking acting work. Her first speaking part was on the British drama, Cracker when she was 11 and, she told us, she appeared in a Boyzone music video a few years ago too. Her current cast member, Keith Duffy, a former member of the band, didn't remember her though! She's been in a number of dramas and has appeared in a couple of movies too, most recently "There's Only One Jimmy Grimble".
She was born in Salford, Manchester and has an older brother, Tariq. Her mother is British and her father is Lebanese and she was named for her Aunt Samia. Her mother was a singer with a band and met her father while on tour. Samia can't sing much though so didn't inherit those genes. She did say that coincidentally her grandfather grew up on a Coronation Street!
And she's a Manchester United fan. Go figure!
You want to hear the gossip though, right? She talked about Alan Halsall who plays Tyrone. She and Alan have been friends since their early teens so she said was kind of weird having to kiss him because he's like her brother. Alan played a practical joke on her before one kissing scene, chowing down on garlicy cole slaw before the shoot. It sounds like there's a lot of practical jokes going on between takes on the set too. Another fact about Alan, previously unknown to me at least, is that he does really good impressions of the other characters cast members, in particular Ashley and Dev.
Kissing Adam Rickett was "lovely" she thought. Nobody asked her about her alleged real life fling with Adam. I wasn't sure if they knew and I decided to keep my mouth shut too! Kissing in a scene is pretty technical though, so it isn't very romantic. She loyally said Alan was the better kisser because they're old friends but you just *know* that was hedging it a bit!
One of her close mates is Georgia Taylor (Toyah), who's real name is Claire, she told us. They and some of the other younger group go out on the tiles sometimes once a week. Someone asked her if she liked dogs since her character was originally a kennel maid. She actually looked embarrassed and admitted she was frightened of dogs. She's made friends with one or two smaller ones that cast members bring on set but overall isn't fond of them. She's not overly fond of cats either though has made friends with the ones that Georgia has.
She told us what a typical day on the set was as well. They get their scripts a week ahead, sometimes 2. They get the schedule for the coming week on Friday so they have the weekend to go over their scenes. Filming starts on Monday and often they will do all the Rovers scenes for the week in one go. Filming is fairly rushed, generally only 1 to 3 "takes" so you've really got to be on the ball and know your lines. In between scenes they hang out in the green room backstage and eat toast all day. They also have theme songs that the sound people play when they come on set. Hers is "I Will Survive". She also mentioned the one that Jimmy Harkishin gets, the theme from Saturday Night Fever. Everyone laughed at that, well able to picture Dev smoothly strutting into the Rovers to that background music booming over the speakers. Very appropriate!
Her most memorable scene was probably Tyrone's proposal up the Blackpool tower, partly because she's scared up so high and the tower was swaying in the wind a fair bit.
Samia said she isn't very much like Maria because the writers have changed her character a lot from when she started on the show. Maria was a home loving, sweet girl. She returns from Canada ready to change and change she does and now has become quite a hussy, with a wardrobe to match! Shorter skirts, lower cut tops, not Samia's style at all! She says playing Maria is fun though, she's always changing and it's amazing to be part of a show that has been on the air for 43 years! She hopes to be on the show awhile longer but doesn't really know. She's going to reassess things when her contract is up this year and see where the writers plan to take the character. She's very happy there at the moment though so we can only hope Maria will be on screen for awhile to come!
I thought she was a lovely person, and I thoroughly enjoyed the event. There are some photos I've posted and there will be more added when Mike uploads and sends me his. Samia also brought a signed script for the raffle and she signed a Women Of Coronation Street book for the raffle as well as a stack of beer mats. Tickets were sold on a breakfast with Samia for one lucky fan.
My Coronation Street page with links to the write ups for previous star visits.