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Local theatre actress Hannah Ellis Ryan has recently been cast as Liz and Jim McDonald’s mysterious daughter in Coronation Street. Born in Australia, Hannah is a well-known face in Manchester. Like many actors, she has another job – working in the bar and box office at the Hope Mill Theatre. She is also co-founder of local theatre company Play With Fire.

We caught up with this busy actor before her first appearance on the cobbles is screened.

You are about to feature in Coronation Street. Is it nerve racking, waiting for your episodes to air?

It really is, but I have such a supportive community around me. Being my first TV job, I haven’t had that experience yet of watching myself on TV, so it will be surreal to say the least. Also Corrie has such a dedicated and active fan-base, so there is a part of me that is nervous about how they will respond, naturally. We all want to go down well with the die-hard fans.

Tell us a bit about your character

I love Hannah. She’s a dream to play. She has so much going on. She’s led an interesting life that’s gotten her to where she is today, and that was so fun to explore. I won’t say any more than that.

How did it feel the first day you walked onto the set?

It’s no exaggeration to say that everyone at Corrie is wonderful. Charlie (Lawson) rang me a few days after I’d been cast so that we could meet and chat a bit before that first day. It’s a very fast-paced environment and there isn’t a lot of time for chit-chat in between takes, so I felt more comfortable, thanks to Charlie, than I may have otherwise. The set is so warm and encouraging, all the directors were wonderful – as are all the actors – so I honestly just felt like part of the family straight away.

Do you think your life may change once your arrival in Corrie is aired?

Corrie came at the perfect time. I’m an actor and producer, but the producing has taken over these last few years. I’m hoping that this will re-establish me as an actress, which is my key passion – and being able to do that full-time over these last few months has been a dream.

Tell us about Play With Fire, the theatre company you co-founded

I started it with my best friend, Daniel Bradford. We trained together in Australia back in 2007 and have always been passionate about making work that pushes boundaries, while giving voices to the invisible and daring greatly. We’ve had a remarkable run since establishing in 2014 – staging work at the iconic Hope Mill Theatre and now producing on the Oldham Coliseum main stage. It feels like the hard work is really paying off and we are very grateful.

You are about to stage The Effect by Lucy Prebble in Oldham. What attracted you to this play?

The Effect is special. It’s a love story that asks the big questions, explored through complex, endearing, funny and flawed characters. It’s the best kind of writing, and most importantly, it’s the perfect bridge between the challenging work Play With Fire is known for, and the work that The Oldham Coliseum are passionate about programming. We couldn’t be more excited about the collaboration.

Why should audiences come and see The Effect?

The Effect is breathtaking, and we have put together a fine creative team, including director Jake Murray, who most recently directed Jesus Hopped the A Train at HOME. It’s important to show large venues that it’s worth supporting the independents and coming out to support cracking local theatre. You won’t be disappointed.

Should actors have day jobs?

To be honest, I’m shocked it’s a debate. There are many old jokes about acting. ‘I’m an actor’ ‘Cool. What café do you work in?’ and many more. We all know that acting is a difficult industry where you can be in work one day and out the next. I’m appalled that anyone could shame an actor for being out of work and having to earn in another industry. Some of the most talented people I’ve ever met are yet to book a professional job. And many of us have multiple passions also – I’m lucky that I still have my job at Hope Mill Theatre, where I still merrily pull pints and work on box office. That is a true actor’s life.

What do you love about Manchester?

The community and the wealth of opportunities. I came here with nothing. I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t have any connections at all. I just knew that I wanted to throw myself in and meet as many people as I could and Manchester quickly embraced me. If you’re a hard worker, and you’re prepared to graft, Manchester will deliver for you. It’s a remarkable place with such a vibrant creative scene that’s only growing and getting better.

The Effect is at Oldham Coliseum from 25th – 27th September 2018.

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Glenn is a freelance journalist and film and media tutor who loves theatre, gigs and cinema. His second home is HOME and he can usually be found sitting in the stalls somewhere enjoying something live on Manchester's vibrant arts scene.

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