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INTERVIEW: It's her Faye Corrie Street; Gaynor Faye may be best known for her role in The Street but there's so much more to this born-again Buddhist who was bullied at school.

Byline: PAUL ENGLISH

LIKE many children, Gaynor Faye doesn't know why she was bullied at school. She was tall, pretty, with loving parents - there was nothing that marked her out from other children.

But still her life was made hell as a teenager in Leeds.

Name-calling, physical threats and psychological torment left the depressed teen alone, scared and confused as she suffered in silence.

"I know how wicked children can be," says the 30-year-old star of Fat Friends and Coronation Street. "I know all about the manipulation and mental torment that children can cause - especially if you're overweight or have some part of you different in some way."

For Gaynor there was no physical affliction. It was just a matter of luck - or lack of it.

"I just got bullied," she says. "In my school they decided on day one who they were going to bully and it was me - all the way through high school.

"They caused me absolute misery. They didn't even know me, yet they called me the most horrible names, kicked me and tripped me up, so I fully support the Daily Record's campaign to put a stop to bullying."

Like countless others, Gaynor kept the reality of her harsh days at school a secret from her writer and actress mother, Kay Mellor.

"Mum had no idea it was going on," she recalls. "When she found out, she was like: `Why didn't you say? I would have taken you out of school right away.' "It has a huge impact on the rest of your life - and it can completely destroy people.

"Fortunately for me, I became a stronger person for it, but at the time there were days when I was so, so sad. It was horrendous.

"The most horrible part is that the victims start to believe that there's something wrong with them."

Gaynor weathered the storm and sought sanctuary in close family ties - especially in her relationship with her mum.

It wasn't until she came to write a storyline about bullying for the last series of Fat Friends that she faced up to the subject again.

"I adapted the character Jamie's story - he had been bullied because of his weight and it was quite raw for me, but it was a healthy experience."

Gaynor is one of the UK's favourite actresses. She shot to prominence playing Judy Mallet for four years in Coronation Street and shares a startling physical resemblance with her mum.

The two have written scripts for Fat Friends and Gaynor has starred in Playing The Field, which was written by Kay.

This week they team up for the first time on-screen as mother and daughter in ITV's Stan The Man, co- starring ex-EastEnder Joe Absolom and Cold Feet's John Thomson.

Gaynor remains very close to Kay, perhaps because she found solace from her secret daytime torment in the security of her stable family.

She talks fondly of how her student mum with spiky hair - Kay had Gaynor at 18, and her first daughter Yvonne at 16 - would collect her as a little girl from school in a Hillman Imp, and loves holidaying with her mum and dad, Anthony.

But even though she's now famous and is a happily settled mother - Gaynor is engaged to Mark, the father of her 18-month-old son, Oliver - she still relies on her psychological wounds for acting.

"Sometimes you have to recall things - pull horrendous things back up," says the actress whose bubbly confidence is a far cry from the tortured soul she was in her teens.

"If you have to cry during the middle of a scene - the start of which might not have been upsetting - then you have to bring something up that brings the tears out.

"It's the same with writing - you have to bring the sort of things up that will get inside the heads of people sitting watching what you've written on a box in their living room. To move them, you have to dig really deep within yourself."

In her latest role, Gaynor plays Julie, the single mum ex-girlfriend of Stan, John Thomson's scam-happy entrepreneur.

Stan has come back from London with a trail of failed enterprises, debts and tatty morals, and is shunned by Julie, the true love of his life.

Meanwhile, Kay's character, Margaret, is the typical mother who reckons she's a cut above.

Teaming up with her mother was a bizarre experience for Gaynor.

She explains: "It was very strange acting with her. We'd come into work together, then later in the day I'd see her on the set and be like: `What's she doing here?'

"I got nervous when I was acting with her and she got nervous when she was acting with me.

"But it was lovely - it's so wonderful to be able to work with your mum because the feelings that we have to have as Margaret and Julie are there anyway for us as Gaynor and Kay.

"So it was easy to play the emotion, but Margaret's quite feisty and my mum's not really like that - she's more laid back."

Cynics might scream "nepotism", considering that this is the third time the duo have teamed up, but Gaynor isn't fazed by the suggestion

"I just don't believe that," she says. "A lot of actresses would say that it's amazing to be in a Kay Mellor piece so, if I chose not to be, then I'd be cutting off my nose to spite my face.

"And mum says the same about me. She says: `If everyone else wants Gaynor, then why can't I have her? Why can't I employ my daughter just because she's my daughter, when I think she's a s**t- hot actress?'"

Fair point, not that Gaynor really minds what anyone else thinks.

As a Buddhist, she's centred and focuses on making herself and others happy.

She discovered Buddhism after a chance meeting with a local actress on stage in Watford before she hit the big time. Gaynor heard her chanting in her dressing room, and felt she'd heard it before.

She now believes this is because she chanted in a previous life - Gaynor thinks she'll be reincarnated after death, peppering her conversation with references to chanting, beads and karma.

The lexicon of Buddhism sounds odd spoken in a northern English accent, but Gaynor is willing to chat about it - despite the obvious potential for mockery.

"I chant in the morning and at night, and I no longer have the feeling of discontent that I had before I became a Buddhist," she says. "I love it. It keeps me centred in life. If I can make someone happier in a day, then I've transcended my Buddhism to someone else.

"I have the choice to make someone's life nice - and I can and do.

"Keeping it to myself would be like keeping happiness a secret - and why would anyone want to do that?"

Stan The Man, Monday, ITV, 9.00pm
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Nov 2, 2002
Words:1157
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