Elaine C Smith on Paul O'Grady, Two Doors Down and her Corrie dream

Elaine talks about dancing, fat suits and why she would love to pull some pints in the Rovers Return.

Actress, writer, presenter, perennial panto favourite… Elaine C Smith has such a long and varied list of credits to her name – meaning there is very little she hasn’t achieved during her successful career.

However, the Two Doors Down actor is once again taking on the role of Miss Hannigan in the Scottish tour of hit musical ‘Annie’ in Aberdeen and Glasgow.

TV comedy legend Paul O’Grady starred as the villainous orphanage owner in the stage musical on-and-off for 20 years before he died suddenly in March 2023.

Elaine met with her old pal in Edinburgh shortly before his passing.

She told What’s On Scotland: “Paul has always been such a supporter. When I was doing Calendar Girls, he had me on his talk show.

BAFTA-winning TV star Paul O'GradyGetty Images

“He loved Scotland. He knew about Jack Milroy, Ricki Fulton, he genuinely was the real deal. He was a huge fan of Two Doors Down.

“I was sent an article where he’d said ‘I’d love to be in Two Doors Down. I’d crawl over hot coals for Elaine C Smith’, which was one of the loveliest things.”

Joining Elaine in playing Miss Hannigan is Strictly judge Craig Revel Horwood and Oliver star Jodie Prenger, who will take over at other venues in the UK.

With decades of stage performance under her belt, Elaine was more than happy to job-share – but she was mortified to discover she would be learning some of her colleague’s dance moves too.

“It’s one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done,” she said.

“I watched the routine and I said ‘you’re not going to make me do that choreography’. I thought it would be an easy box step. It was all Craig.

“I genuinely did think they wouldn’t make me do it. Well they, did! I was in tears going, ‘I can’t to do this!'”

Elaine recalled practicing in her kitchen at 5am until she had the steps down – and like a true professional, she pulled it off.

She said: “I did do it and it was one of the few times my kids texted saying ‘I’m proud of you mum’, because they realised how scared I was.”

Will Craig pick her up for Strictly next?

“I don’t think so,” she laughed.

Elaine has won an army of fans for her role as bolshie Christine in hit sitcom Two Doors Down, which is set to launch its seventh series.

She reckons Covid lockdown had a big part to play in the show’s success.

She said: “People were searching for stuff to watch.

“When I was on my government walk passing people in the street, they were telling me ‘that’s what’s keeping us going Elaine’ and you suddenly realised that it had found another audience that it hadn’t before.”

While Elaine admits the strong, female characters she plays are rather lacking in “glamour”, she believes it has been the making of her.

She said: “As I got older I’ve realised.. When you’re younger you miss out on those parts because you’re not a classic Michelle Pfeiffer beauty and you get more character parts – you get a longer career.

“The first time I played Mary Nesbitt I was 28, preparing to wear a wig and look unattractive and that has helped me a lot.”

She added: “It’s funny the way Christine has progressed. Some of the outfits I go, ‘too nice.’ ‘Too nice.’ ‘That’s ugly, we’ll wear that.’

“I lost something like 40lbs during lockdown and now I’m wearing a fat suit and a wig with no eyebrows.”

But there are still some things left on Elaine’s bucket list – a wander down the famous cobbles is one of them.

She said: “I’d love to do Corrie. I’ve watched it for years and years… The Rover’s Return for a bit.

“I’d enjoy more film. I did the film with Samuel L Jackson, though sadly no scenes with Samuel himself.”

She added wryly: “He was apparently in tears at the thought.. No he wasn’t.”

Elaine said she feels “very privileged and proud”.

“I feel blessed at 64 to still be going.

“Too many pals have passed along the way and you try to cherish it a wee bit more than you did at 24, when you think you’re going to take over the world.

She laughed, adding: “It’s a hard knock life!”

‘Annie’ is being staged at His Majesty’s Theatre in Aberdeen on Saturday May 27 before moving onto Glasgow’s King’s Theatre from May 29 until June 3.

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