Brookside brought her fame, but Sue Johnston's also starred in everything from The Royle Family to Waking the Dead. We caught up with one of telly's most versatile stars...
What inspired you to become an actress?
I loved the ballet and theatre from an early age, so acting had always been on the cards. But the real epiphany came when I started taking part in school plays. It was then that I realised performing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
You became a household name as Sheila in Brookside. How did you land that role?
To be honest it was totally unknown territory for me, because I'd only ever done theatre work before. I was absolutely desperate to break into TV, and I went along to audition like anybody else. I was overjoyed when I got it, because as a jobbing actor I'd never had the luxury of a solid contract and a steady part before.
What did you enjoy most about working on The Royle Family?
I was very aware of just how ground-breaking the series was. It's a sitcom about nothing, but it's also about everything – everyday life. So I was proud to be part of it, and it was such fun to work with Ricky Tomlinson and Caroline Aherne. It was a magical three years in my life.
Was any research necessary for your role as a psychological profiler on Waking the Dead?
I was introduced to a woman who does the job in real life and spent a lot of time with her. She was the total opposite to what I expected. She was a very warm and sexy woman – a real person, not a dry academic type. So I tried to bring her characteristics to my role.
Who has influenced you most in your career?
My English teacher, Miss Potter. In my day you didn't have drama lessons at school, but my English teacher would put on school plays and she was such an inspiration. She really opened up the world of literature and performance to me. It was thanks to her that I realised acting could be a viable career choice.