I've quit the Street to help my Josh beat his dyslexia; EXCLUSIVE: BEV CALLARD ON WHY SHE'S LEAVING AFTER NINE YEARS.
"I've got something to tell you, Josh," she said gently. "I've made a very big decision - I'm going to leave Coronation Street."
Josh blurted out: "Oh no, oh no! Have you been sacked?" then promptly burst into tears.
Bev put her arms around him and said: "No, I haven't been sacked. It's me that's decided to leave."
"But why, Mum?" he kept saying over and over again.
Bev explained that after nine years playing mini-skirted, flame-haired temptress Liz McDonald, it was time for a change.
But it wasn't just that Bev wanted to play new characters - Josh himself had played a big factor in her decision to quit.
Eighteen months ago Bev and her husband, Steve, discovered that their son was dyslexic.
It explained why, despite being very intelligent, he was having trouble with his school work.
They found out everything they could about dyslexia and sent him to boarding school in North Yorkshire so he could get the best education to help him overcome his word blindness.
But Bev's punishing six-days-a-week schedule on the Street - and no Sundays off - meant it was becoming harder to see Josh when he needed her most.
"I feel Josh needs more of my time," says Bev, talking exclusively to The Mirror of her decision to quit.
"Kids can go through agonies with dyslexia, thinking they're thick or in some way not normal educationally.
"Fortunately Josh's dyslexia was spotted when he was seven and a half and I hope he hasn't gone through that. Once we knew what we were dealing with we all coped very well.
"But when he went to boarding school, the only day we could visit him was Sunday - and I work every Sunday on Coronation Street.
"And who would rather work on a Sunday than be with their son? Sunday's the day you spend with your children, isn't it?
"Josh is very clever and has an exceptionally high IQ, so he needs stimulating constantly.
"In the last couple of years I haven't seen as much of him as I would have liked to, because things have been so busy, so I feel I have to give him that time now.
"Josh is very funny and loving and I just don't want to miss these years. As a working mum you always feel a certain amount of guilt.
"Coronation Street does take over your life and the lives of your family and although I've always put my family first I just think they deserve more of my time.
BUT Josh didn't want me to leave because it was all he'd ever known.
"He was just three weeks old when I started as Liz McDonald. He thought it was normal to have a mum on the telly.
"He was very upset for a week but once he got used to the idea he was quite pleased about it.
"He started to think, 'Oh, this will be good because my tea will be ready and Mum will have the time to ruin it properly'.
"I told him that I was going to do panto, which kids can relate to, and how much fun it would be.
"He didn't try and change my mind. He knows I wouldn't do anything without giving it a great deal of thought first.
"I think he knows when I've said something big, whether it's 'no, you can't have that' or whatever. Josh knows I'm a very decisive person who doesn't change her mind."
Three-times married Bev, 41, who has a 23-year-old daughter, Rebecca, from her first marriage, auditioned for the part when Josh was just two days old. "I was very ill when I was pregnant with Josh and I couldn't work at all," says Bev.
"I started to think, 'I'm never going to work again.' It had been the same when I had Rebecca, that's why there's such a big age gap between my children.
"When Rebecca was little I didn't go to work until she was five years old and had started school.
"Back then I was doing acting jobs on the Equity minimum and teaching 28 aerobics classes a week," says Bev, who is also The Mirror's diet and fitness columnist.
She met Steve, 33, when she was taking a class. He was playing snooker and was immediately smitten with the curly-haired slim blonde in Lycra. When she was 17, Bev had a short-lived marriage to a painter and decorator which produced Rebecca. In 1980 she married a second time to a teacher.
When that marriage broke up after eight years, Bev was not looking for anyone new but Steve refused to give up and they married in 1989.
"When Josh was born I started to feel better again after such an awful pregnancy," says Bev. "Then out of the blue my agent rang and said Mervyn Watson, the then producer of Coronation Street, wanted me to go in for an audition.
"I'd been in the Street before as a totally different character, and he'd remembered me.
"I was still recuperating really, but I just felt so well after feeling so ill. I also had those most enormous boobs which probably helped me get the part of Liz.
"When they said I had the job, Steve and I just leapt up and down and hugged each other. It was fantastic.
"It was such a relief not to be pregnant any more, to have this beautiful baby and also the best job in the world."
OVER the next nine years, fiery Liz McDonald would become one of the Street's best-loved characters.
Her stormy, on-off marriage to Jim produced some of the most memorable storylines - as did her screen love affairs.
On November 13, viewers will see Liz totter out of the Street forever after leaving Jim - crippled in an accident - for his handsome occupational therapist, Michael. It's a new start for Liz and also an exciting new chapter for Bev Callard, now back on an even keel after her own personal dramas.
Last year Bev revealed how she had split from her husband and manager Steve.
Steve never stopped being Bev's manager, but now they are back together as man and wife.
"You never know what life is going to throw at you, but we're very happy together at the moment," says Bev. "We never stopped working together anyway and I don't think we ever will.
"The decision to leave Coronation Street had absolutely nothing to do with my marriage, not at all.
"Your family does have to come first, especially where children are concerned, but I never let personal things affect my work."
Steve was the first person Bev told when she started to think about leaving the Street more than a year ago.
"I think Steve would have liked me to leave earlier and do something different," says Bev, who starts rehearsals for panto in Cambridge next month.
She also has two new TV dramas in the pipeline. "When you're on the Street you're offered so much work, but are not allowed to take it because the producers want to preserve the magic of the programme's characters.
"I almost left last year. I agonised over it. I said to Steve when the contracts came up for renewal, 'I don't know if I should stay or go,'" says Bev.
"I was still happy there but I wanted to do something different.
I STAYED that time, but this year I just said to Steve, 'I'm gonna go.' He supported me one hundred per cent.
"My mum was horrified. She kept saying,'Are you sure?'
"I mean it takes great courage to go, to leave the number one show in the country.
"I've always said that as long as the Street gives me a buzz I'll stay.
"I wasn't bored with it - how could you ever get bored with Coronation Street?
"I still felt the buzz but the time was right to strike out, both professionally and personally. I'm really excited about the future."
Bev's Diet Club: Pages 26 & 27
TOMORROW: WHY I'LL NEVER WEAR A MINI-SKIRT AGAIN
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Nov 9, 1998|
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