THE FAMILY FROM HELL!; MEET THE BATTERSBYS: You either love 'em or hate 'em - and most people hate 'em! They're the Battersbys, the fearsome foursome who've been making waves in Weatherfield since they first hit the Coronation Street scene. But who's behind the family from hell? GAVIN BLYTH and JON CLARKE report...
Whether it's head-butting Curly Watts, dealing in stolen goods or bad- mouthing Percy Sugden, the Battersbys are right up there with soap's best- known rogues. And much of the responsibility must lie with head of the family Les. For actor Bruce Jones, the chance to play Coronation Street's latest hardman was a childhood wish come true.
Bruce was brought up in Manchester, just a few miles from where the programme was filmed, and would often stop off on his way home from school to hang around outside the set. Now, even with an impressive list of TV and film credits under his belt, Bruce still admits he's thrilled to be in the programme.
The actor is well-known for his role in the BBC oil rig drama Roughnecks, as well as appearances in Band Of Gold, Hillsborough, A Touch Of Frost and Heartbeat.
But he says: "I dreamed of being an actor for so long and it was Coronation Street that first really got me interested. It's taken a long time but I finally got here!"
Bruce, 44 - who lives in Stockport, Cheshire, with his second wife Sandra - reckons landing the plum role of Les makes his arrival doubly special.
"He's a rogue and a wheeler-dealer who will try anything to make a fast buck. But I hope in time people will see that Les has got some redeeming features and come to like him."
Bruce's background makes him retain a strong feet-on-the-ground attitude to his latest success. "I'm the youngest of six kids from a working-class family and I was a pipe fitter for 10 years. These things have an effect on you, and I am certainly not a `luvvie' type.
"When I've finished my day's work, I am just like any other bloke - I like to go home and relax and forget about work - leave it all behind. It's just a bit harder to do that nowadays!"
ACTRESS Vicky Entwistle has been bringing Les's motormouth wife Janice to our screens. Thankfully, she's a sight more pleasant off it than on.
Petite Vicky was initially brought into the show in February for just one episode as a worker at Mike Baldwin's factory. But, seven months on, she finds herself still making the long journey to the studios from her home.
"I'm a Lancashire lass but I now live in London and have to travel up to Manchester for filming," says Vicky. "It means staying in a hotel or with my parents, who still live in the area. But it is more than worth the travelling.
"After that `one-off' episode, I found myself being asked to stay for a few more and was eventually asked to become Janice, the `mother from hell'. I thought, `Have I really been that bad?'"
Vicky, a former holiday camp entertainer as a Pontin's Bluecoat, admits she only got into acting as a schoolgirl "because the drama class
was more fun than PE. But it's a good job that I did because I can't do anything else!"
Although Vicky loves playing Janice, she's quick to point out that she bears little resemblance to her light-fingered character.
"I hope I'm not too much like her but she is a survivor and I think that's one thing that we do have in common.
"I left home for drama school at 18 and I had to learn to look out for myself and how to survive pretty quickly."
Although the role of Janice is a dream to play, Vicky also has ambitions in a very different direction. "I like period dramas and would love a part in one - they are so challenging. They certainly would be for me - I walk like a bloke and wave my hands around all over the place!
"To have to play someone who was quite reserved, dainty and pretty would be nice - if a bit tricky!"
RESERVED and dainty certainly aren't descriptions that spring to mind on the subject of Vicky's screen daughters Leanne and Toyah Battersby. They're rough, tough and make other streetwise teenagers look like they are fresh out of nursery.
Pretty - but also pretty wild - Leanne is played by Jane Danson.
At just 18, she is already something of a television veteran. She began her acting career at the age of 11 in Alan Bleasdale's highly-acclaimed drama G.B.H. And, after catching the acting bug at such an early age, Jane has gone on to appear in hit programmes including The Ward, The Bill, Out Of Tune, Sloggers, and, most recently, ITV's period drama The Grand.
She says: "I was very green to the whole business during the G.B.H. days but I'm adjusted to it all a bit more now. That said, though, I'm still learning with everything that comes along."
The young actress admits she couldn't quite believe that she had landed the role of the terrible teenager until she had actually signed her name on the dotted line of the contract.
"It was all too good to be true and it was only when I walked on to the set for the first time that it really hit home.
"After being in The Grand it was hard to imagine things getting much better - but they have. Things are so good for me at the moment. I do like the business - it's great. But I recognise that being in the spotlight does give you a higher profile than you would have doing other jobs.
"Some of my friends' mums say to me, `Oooh, you're doing so well, Jane'. But they may be doing just as well at college, university or in their job.
"It is just that the nature of this business means that you are in the public eye more than elsewhere and people see how you are progressing."
THE honour of playing Leanne's step-sister Toyah goes to Wigan-born Georgia Taylor, a newcomer to the world of television. Georgia's only previous acting experience was treading the boards in amateur stage productions.
She was studying for her A-levels when she was offered the role of the tempestuous Toyah. Georgia, 17, reveals: "I was still at college when I initially auditioned for the role of Zoe, the youngster who had a run-in with the Mallets.
"I didn't get that but when I auditioned for Toyah I was more successful. When I got the call to say that I'd got the part I just sat there open- mouthed, hugging my best friend. I could barely believe it.
"It is all very different than being on stage - it's not quite so intense because your audience isn't right there in front of you. But it's a very different type of satisfaction, working much faster with storylines and characters developing all the time."
Such a high-profile television role is sure to make Georgia a household name. But did she set out to be famous?
"Yes, I suppose I knew that would come with the job but I'd rather be respected as an actor and have recognition for my work. That would be more than rewarding enough for me."
Only time will tell whether or not that recognition will arrive for Georgia. But one thing is for sure - all four of the Battersbys have become among the most recognisable faces on our screens. And, in the soap ratings war, that's a triumph for them all.
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|Author:||Blyth, Gavin; Clarke, Jon|
|Publication:||The People (London, England)|
|Date:||Sep 7, 1997|
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