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'I've never really even been on any proper dates - I'm living through Maria' Coronation Street'sSamia Longchambon, 36, on her dating history, being outdone by her four-year-old's French, and keeping panic attacks at bay.

Byline: Samia Longchambon

It's pouring with rain in Manchester. Big, fat, apocalyptic raindrops are splashing down on the cobbles, and cast and crew members are darting between buildings at ITV Studios, trying and failing to keep dry.

Samia Longchambon (aka Maria Connor), however, is looking dry, tanned and gorgeous, fresh from a weekend in France where she's been staying with the in-laws. Her husband Sylvain, 38, who she famously met when they were partnered on Dancing On Ice, hails from Lyon, and they regularly take their son Yves, four, and Samia's nine-year-old daughter Freya over for family visits. 'I've just been eating cheese and saucisson for days,' she laughs, sitting down on an armchair and tucking her legs underneath her. 'I'm craving a salad and a detox!' After almost 20 years on the street (yes, really!), Samia's a veteran of Soap Land, but it doesn't stop her getting excited when Maria has a meaty story line. At the moment, her unlucky-in-love character is trying her hand at internet dating, with rather comical results So Maria has got some pretty funny storylines coming up Saying Maria is unlucky in love is an understatement. The last couple of months have been fun to film, and I've lost track of the number of dates she's been on. They've been comedic - on one date, the bloke's mum turns up and on another the guy likes dressing up as a dog. I've had to really fight to keep a straight face during filming.

Have you ever done any internet dating? No, because I've been married for a while.

I absolutely do not think I've missed out on much, though, judging by this script! I've never really even been on any proper dates - I'm living through Maria. My love life has been very boring compared to Maria's.

Are you like Maria in other ways? I look like her, but that's where the similarity ends! Our hearts are both in the right place, I suppose. She's a good friend and I think I am too.

Has playing Maria taught you anything about life? I like to think I would spot the signs of murderers now, as she's been engaged to a couple of them. I think Maria trusts people too easily. I don't trust people as much, but I think that's part of being in this industry.

Does it feel like 20 years on the cobbles? I feel old now! I've been on the show for my whole adult life - it's more than half my life, in fact. It's quite scary, although you never have time to get sick of it. The core cast and crew tend to stay the same, and you feel like you're grown up together. Maybe I'm institutionalised! It would be really weird to leave, I'd probably be like a fish out of water.

So you'd never be tempted by another TV project? I feel funny when people ask me about leaving. I'm an actress and I'm in a job where I get to act all year round, so it's perfect. I get to go home and see my family at night - if I left, I wouldn't be guaranteed to work in Manchester and that's my priority.

Do you get spotted lots? I answer to Maria, it's like my second name.

We were in Lyon at the weekend, having a lovely lunch. At the end, the French waiter asked Sylvain if I was on Corrie - he'd worked over in England and loved the show. Sylvain was so surprised that I'd been recognised in such a random place.

You actually had a debut on the show as an extra aged seven. What was that like? It was on location in a department store in Manchester. Martin Platt was in a toy shop and I was one of the children running around in the background. I was really starstruck! My mum used to do a French plait in my hair whenever I was an extra, so that we could always spot me in the background.

How did you end up on the box so young? I was performing and messing about in the aisles of Kwik Save, of all places, and a woman asked my mum if I did modelling. She ended up being my agent for 10 years. Andrew Whyment (Kirk Sutherland) was my first friend at drama school. I remember the moment I met him, aged six, he said, 'Hiya, I'm Andy, do you want a Frazzle?' So glam - Frazzles and Kwik Save.

Do you think Freya and Yves will follow in your footsteps? Freya is definitely a future actor - she can get tears within seconds. Jane Danson (Leanne Battersby) can't believe it - when she comes over she always says, 'Go on, Freya, do that crying thing that you do.' Her little lip will start wobbling and she'll just cry. I don't know how she does it.

Do you ever get broody? I do, yes, but I've got my hands full. I've got a boy and a girl, thank God. I like being able to give them both all my attention, and I think I'd be outnumbered with three.

Are you and Sylvain good cop/bad cop? I'm more soft than Sylvain. He will see it through. When I tell the kids offI end up cuddling them the next minute, whereas he'll leave it for a while so that they know they've done something wrong.

How often do you guys go ice skating? When Dancing On Ice is on I'll go a couple of times, but I never go on my own like Jane does. I love it when I'm skating with Syl. We take the kids at Christmas - Freya's great, she has no fear.

Do you feel like you're becoming a bit French? No, but my French improves when I see his family, because they don't speak much English - there'll be 10 different French voices at once at the dinner table. After a glass of wine I think I'm fluent, though!

Do the kids speak the lingo? Yves is completely bilingual. It really puts me to shame - I have to say, 'What did they just say to you, Yves?' Freya needs to get warmed up a bit, like me. But from birth Syl has just been speaking French to Yves. He already uses it as a little line to people. The kids all play out on the street and we couldn't find him recently. The neighbour came round and she said that he had come up to the back door and said, 'My name is Yves and I speak French.' I was like, 'Wow, he already has a chat-up line and he's four!' You recently trained as a reflexologist.

Have you been massaging your co-stars' feet? I'm definitely planning to. I've asked them if I can do it in my dressing room - I've got my reflexology chair and my foot spa ready to go. I love it, although funnily enough I don't really like feet. I do a foot spa first, so you don't have to worry about any smells.

What's your guilty pleasure? I quite like getting my basket of ironing and putting Netflix on and watching some really rubbish TV. I iron everything, and while I'm doing it I think, 'Oh my God, this is so totally uncool,' but I find it very soothing.

Speaking out on mental health Samia has suffered from panic attacks since childhood. Last year, she spoke out for the first time and now works to raise awareness of anxiety disorder 'Sometimes I wake up and my heart will be racing for some reason. I won't know why, but I won't be able to get my breath. You feel like you are going to die, you can't breathe.' 'It's helpful to talk about it. I know when I've read of other people going through the same thing, it makes me feel like I'm not on my own. Before, there was a stigma or shame attached to it and I felt embarrassed, but not any more. Nobody's life is perfect, and I feel strongly that in the age of social media people shouldn't project a perfect life and just put out a highlights reel.' 'The thing that's helped me more than anything else is yoga. It's my therapy. That bit of time every day that just helps me breathe. If I'm getting stressed during the day, I just come back to my breathing. It helps to really focus on your body and your breath.' NB: Coronation Street is on ITV, weeknights

'I've got my chair and spa ready to give the Corrie cast some reflexology. I love it, although I don't really like feet'

CAPTION(S):

18 and new to the cobbles

With Corrielover - and murderer - Tony

With husband Sylvain, who she met on Dancing On Ice,(left). Below: With the kids, Yves and Freya.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 7, 2019
Words:1478
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