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the interview: GAME'S UP FOR CORRIE HOOKER; Jane Danson reveals how Leanne is caught out by a neighbour.

Byline: By BILLY SLOAN

Coronation Street star Jane Danson couldn't wait to make her return to ITV's No.1 soap after being off on maternity leave.

But new mum Jane - proud parent of bouncing baby son, Harry - was stunned when the show's producer told her: "You're going to be a hooker".

Last February they decided Jane's character, mouthy ex-factory girl Leanne Battersby, was to make her Weatherfield return as an escort girl... with a range of special, if expensive extra services.

"When I discovered I was going to be Leanne the good time girl I nearly died," said Jane, 27.

"Corrie has never tackled prostitution so I thought I would get lynched by the public. To be honest, I didn't really know what Leanne's role as an escort girl involved. I thought she would go out for dinner with a guy just to give him a bit of company.

"When I found out she was actually supposed to go a little bit further I was totally shocked."

Jane can thank her lucky stars Corrie's crack team of scriptwriters were on top form.

They devised a great storyline where Leanne adopted the alter-ego Rachel, a high-class hooker who plies her trade to bored businessmen in top Manchester hotels.

The ex-knicker stitcher had told her dad Les (Bruce Jones) and stepmum Janice (Vicky Entwistle) she was coining it in selling property for a top drawer estate agent.

The writers' razor-sharp scripts meant Jane didn't have to do any field work to perfect her new role.

"Luckily, I didn't have to do much research to play Rachel," revealed Jane, laughing.

"Given Leanne's past - with her rather complicated love life and having been involved in drugs - I was a bit worried she could go back to that. But she is a high-class hooker who wears nice clothes and meets her clients in top restaurants.

"So at least I'm not hanging around a lamp-post at Piccadilly railway station in Manchester. I'm very glad of that."

She added: "Corrie is screened at 7.30pm so my scenes have not been too graphic. I've adopted a posh voice so Rachel can impress her clients and I've been able to play the part with humour.

"I suppose prostitution is a bit of a seedy subject but in true Corrie fashion we've managed to inject some light relief.

"The storyline hasn't gone down the obvious route where Leanne is caught up in some dodgy dealings. I was holding my breath because I thought I'd get negative comments from viewers.

"I began to think: Would Leanne really go that far? But after her relationship with ex-Underworld boss Danny Baldwin she got used to lots of money and having a nice lifestyle.

"By becoming somebody else - the character of Rachel - it's her way of justifying what she does.

"I think Corrie fans have been hooked by the sheer cheek of Leanne thinking she'll get away with leading a bizarre double life."

Tonight on Corrie, Leanne arranges to meet boyfriend Liam Connor (Rob James-Collier) after an appointment with a new client.

She gets the shock of her life when she discovers the punter willing to pay for her services is his brother Paul (Sean Gallagher) boss of the Underworld knicker factory.

Leanne realises he could wreck her cosy relationship with Liam. But Paul is also aware that one word from her could ruin his marriage to fiery wife Carla (Alison King).

"In Liam, I think Leanne has met her match in many ways. She thinks she's a real woman of the world but he's a bit of a Jack the lad," revealed Jane.

"It's easy to see why she's attracted to him because he's a good looking guy. She doesn't want anything to wreck that relationship. Her heart is torn because while she enjoys the financial rewards of being an escort she also knows deep down she can't keep on leading this double life.

"She can almost justify what she's doing because in the job she is Rachel, somebody else with a new identity. When she encounters a client it's almost like she's a totally different person.

"But when she comes face to face with Paul - her boyfriend's brother - it couldn't get any worse.

"There's a bit of mystery over their meeting - did they or didn't they? I think it's safe to say they didn't. But that's not the point - the opportunity was there."

Jane - who first joined the famous Corrie cast in 1997 - worked on the soap until she was well into her pregnancy.

The show's producers had to carefully disguise her expectant mother "bump" in several scenes.

"It was quite challenging during my pregnancy because I finished work at 36 weeks," said Jane.

"In many ways it was good because it meant I didn't have time to get really panicky about having a baby.

"But on the other hand it was exhausting because I didn't have the luxury of putting my feet up in the garden for a few weeks before my baby was due.

"On the set, I looked like a walking Weeble. In one scene in the Underworld factory I had to sit behind a big plastic box of knickers and bras.

"They cut a circle shape out of the side of it so my bump slotted into the gap. By the end of my time I was absolutely enormous."

Last summer Jane and her actor husband Robert Beck - a former star of Channel 4 soap Brookside - became proud parents of Harry.

"Motherhood has made such a big change to my life. I'm boring everybody with how overwhelming it is. It's the best thing ever," said Jane.

"I can't explain how happy I am - it's just fabulous. I know it sounds silly now but even when I was pregnant I still didn't quite believe I had a baby inside me.

"Now I can't imagine my life without Harry."

The actress has been plunged in at the deep end, carefully balancing her busy filming schedule with life as a working mum.

Jane said: "Until it happens you just don't know how you're going to deal with life as a mother. I definitely see things from a different point of view now. Harry is my No.1 priority.

"It's a matter of juggling work around him. My mum and my sister have been very supportive at home. I'm lucky I have that.

"At the moment Robert is not working and he's loving being a full-time dad."

Did she miss Corrie when she was away from the cobbles of Weatherfield?

"I completely forgot about work and for the first time was able to watch the show as a viewer," said Jane.

"It was nice to know I'd be returning to Corrie after I had my baby.

"For the first time as an actor I had the security of knowing in six months time my job was still there. That meant I could relax and concentrate on being a mum."

Jane is relishing getting her teeth into Leanne's controversial role as a cash-hungry call girl.

"The producers have almost been able to reinvent her all over again," said Jane.

"She's had great storylines in the past and my time-outs - when I left in 2000 to try other projects and again in 2006 when I took my maternity leave - helped me recharge my batteries.

"It's exciting to be back because as I'm growing as a person Leanne is growing as a character.

"I have a lovely little boy and brilliant Corrie storylines. So I can't complain... life is great."

'I DIDN'T REALLY KNOW WHAT LEANNE WAS DOING.. WHEN I FOUND OUT I WAS SHOCKED'

CAPTION(S):

Leanne worries Paul will tell his brother Liam about her sleazy job; Paul comes face-to-face with call girl he booked... to find it's Leanne; Pretty Jane is thrilled to be back on the Weatherfield cobbles after taking time out to have her first baby; Buggy life... Robert and Jane juggle work with bringing up their baby boy, Harry
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 6, 2007
Words:1331
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