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Interview Suranne Jones: Me get married? Don't bet on it; Coronation Street star Suranne Jones reveals why being a bride for real is the furthest thing from her mind. By Sue Crawford.

Byline: Sue Crawford

As soap weddings go, this one is a real shocker. What started as a jokey wager, ends with loudmouth factory worker Karen getting hitched to Coronation Street's wideboy Steve McDonald. But the odds on Suranne Jones, who plays the not-so-blushing bride, doing something so rash in real life are vast.

"Like Karen, I'm quite cheeky and mischievous, and I'd happily bet that I could get a man to take me for dinner or on holiday, but Karen takes it one step further," says Suranne.

"Marriage is a huge step and never in a million years could I do it for a bet. If one day I do get married, then it will be for real - with the big wedding, the house and kids and a dog sitting in front of the fireplace, but at 22 with so many opportunities ahead it just seems so far away."

A month ago, Suranne moved into a flat with her friend and Street co- star Naomi Russell, who plays Bobbi Lewis. And she is determined to enjoy being young, free and single.

"I just can't picture myself in a wedding dress walking up the aisle," she says. "Some women my age dream about it, but I don't have it in me to get married at the moment. I'm too young to settle down and, anyway, I've not met the right man.

"I've just come out of a long-standing relationship. We were together for two years, but our lives were going in separate directions. We were both young, I was busy in Coronation Street and he had his own business. Eventually we agreed it wasn't working out. It was very amicable and we both agreed to move on."

When she does find Mr Right, Suranne's wedding will be nothing like her surprise screen one. In the Street, Karen is caught up in a bet with Janice Battersby, who suggests that Karen's boyfriends never take her seriously. To make sure she wins the ensuing wager, Karen persuades boyfriend Steve to propose to her in front of everyone in the Rovers. But when Janice refuses to pay up until she sees them walk down the aisle, Steve goes ahead and books the register office. Because it all happens so quickly, Karen nips to the shops and buys the first thing she sees for her big day - a loud, pink tiger-striped dress.

Although it's hardly a fairytale romance, this week's storyline is still a dream come true for Suranne. Last year she was living with her parents and working as a barmaid. Now, eight months after joining the Street, she is marrying an established character, played by Simon Gregson. It's still not all quite sunk in yet.

"When I was 13 I'd go on the Granada Studios Tours," she says. "There were pictures of all the cast on the wall and my auntie used to point to them and say, `You fancy Steve McDonald, don't you?' He'd just joined the show then and was a bit of a heartthrob. I'd get very embarrassed and deny it.

"The other day I started to feel sad that I'm not going to be Karen Phillips any more, I'm going to be Karen McDonald. I had to pull myself up and remind myself that it's not real. I'll still be Suranne Jones!"

Named after her great-grandmother, Suranne grew up in Oldham, Lancs, with her older brother Gary, a computer programmer. Her mum Jenny is a clerical officer and her dad Chris is an engineer. The family's only links with showbusiness are Suranne's cousin Elizabeth O'Grady, who used to be in Hollyoaks, and a great aunt who was a circus tightrope walker and tap dancer.

Suranne set her heart on becoming an actress at ten when a teacher suggested she join the Oldham Theatre Workshop.

"I think it was because I was a loud kid and was always singing," she says. "I loved it from the first day. Other than that, I didn't enjoy my schooldays. I was always a bit of an oddbod and wanted to do drama while everyone else went to the park and drank beer and messed about. I was bullied a bit because of it. People would call me names, but I have a tough personality and it just made me stronger.

"The teachers didn't understand why I was so determined to be an actress either. One of them used to call me `Missy Actress' in a sarcastic voice in front of the class, but that drove me on even more. Another teacher told my parents that his brother was having a hard time trying to get into comedy and acting, and that I should choose something else. Well, his brother was Steve Coogan and I ended up in Coronation Street, which just goes to show that you can make it if you really want to."

Suranne went to drama college for two years, appeared in a national tour of Rita, Sue And Bob Too, then spent eight weeks in eight different musicals on the Isle Of Man. But when she returned home the acting jobs dried up and she started doing barwork.

On the verge of giving up on her acting ambitions, she was cast in a TV advert for Maltesers. A small role in the drama My Wonderful Life followed, and then she got auditions for Corrie's barmaid Geena Gregory and Emmerdale's Charity Dingle.

"I reached the final four for Charity," she recalls. "But I knew I wouldn't get the part of Geena. I remember sitting at the audition with my dad and seeing Jennifer James bouncing out of the door. She looked so beautiful and confident that I just knew she'd get it."

She was right, but a few weeks later Coronation Street bosses called again, saying that they had a new character - a brassy, loud, northern factory girl - and would Suranne like to join the show for three months. That was eight months ago and now, with her screen marriage, she is sure to be in the show for some time.

"A year ago I was working in a bar, living with my mum and dad and couldn't afford a car," she says. "Now I've got a car, I've moved into my own home and have a fantastic job. I sometimes sit in my flat at night and think, `How on earth did I get here?' I've worked hard, but I know I'm lucky that someone up there has decided to give me this chance."

She is close to her family and still visits her parents every weekend. They have always been big Corrie fans and were overjoyed when she landed the part of Karen.

"They've supported me throughout and have taped every single episode I've appeared in. They store them under the spare bed," she says. "I know they're incredibly proud of me. I actually appeared in Coronation Street when I was 17, playing a fashion student called Mandy - the girlfriend of Chris Collins. Just that one episode would have been enough for my mum. For me to be actually marrying Steve McDonald is like a dream come true."

Although for poor Karen, getting hitched to badboy Steve means the odds are they probably won't live happily ever after.

l For the latest Coronation Street storylines, see Soap Box, page 21

CAPTION(S):

BIG DAY: As Karen with Steve
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 19, 2001
Words:1229
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