Rosie's return: Helen Flanagan back on Corrie
After a five-year break, Weatherfield whirlwind Rosie Webster is back – but all is not what it seems. Actress Helen Flanagan tells Jeananne Craig that while her character might be softer around the edges, she's no less entertaining
TUCKED into a cosy booth in the Rovers Return, Helen Flanagan is feeling emotional.
The actress is back on the Coronation Street set after a five-year absence, but it's her 19-month-old daughter, Matilda, who's playing on her mind.
"It was my little girl's first day at nursery today, and I knew I would cry," explains Flanagan, who is reprising her role as wild child Rosie Webster in the hit ITV soap. "It's so difficult for any mum, no matter what their job is."
A lot has changed for Flanagan since she previously stepped down from playing Sally and Kevin Webster's troubled daughter back in in 2012. There was a stint in I'm A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here! for starters, plus plenty of sexy photo shoots and gossip column inches before she and footballer boyfriend Scott Sinclair welcomed baby Matilda into the world in June 2015.
After a year-and-a-half at home with her "beautiful baby girl", the 26-year-old received an email from Corrie's producers, inviting her to return. And despite missing Matilda, Flanagan says she's "over the moon" to be treading the cobbles again.
There's the chance to get dolled up as image-conscious Rosie, for one thing.
"I always have the longest make-up time, but that's what I love. When I'm home with Matilda, I have no time to get glamorous at all," says the star, who's dressed in skinny jeans, a grey jumper, and stylish knee-high boots ("My character definitely has the best wardrobe – everybody's jealous of it").
Then there's the joy of being reunited with her on-screen family and "best friend" Brooke Vincent, who plays her sister Sophie.
"It's the social aspect," says Flanagan. "When I've got a scene with Michael [Le Vell, who plays Kevin], Brooke and Sally [Dynevor, who plays Sally], it's like being back in a comfort zone."
Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is getting the chance to catch up with aspiring model Rosie, who waved goodbye to Weatherfield when she landed a part in a reality TV show in London.
Drama was never far away when Rosie last lived in on the Street (who could forget her romance with teacher-turned-killer John Stape?), and her comeback looks set to be just as riveting.
She makes her first reappearance when, much to Sally and Kevin's shock, Sophie returns from a trip to Miami with her "whirlwind" sister in tow. And, unbeknown to her parents, Rosie is hiding a secret.
"Rosie is still very much putting on that she is a glamorous model, but eventually it will unravel that everything isn't quite as it seems," Flanagan reveals. "She meets a man and he stitches her up and the police come knocking. Rosie could be in trouble but she is very innocent about it and doesn't realise she has been set up, which I've enjoyed playing."
This time around, Rosie shows a softer side too. "She has definitely come back a nicer character," says Bury-born Flanagan, who was just nine years old when she first appeared in Corrie. "I much prefer playing Rosie with a good heart. I didn't like it when they made my character a bit too catty, when she was having an affair with John Stape, but she was young and probably a bit careless. I just like the fun comedy bit."
Rosie and Sophie are sure to provide some comic relief when they end up having to dabble in window cleaning to earn a few bob – smug Sally has loved bragging about Rosie's modelling career in America, so her daughter's choice of job will no doubt come as a shock. Co-star Vincent jokes that the pair are "like the Chuckle Brothers – I stand there doing all the work, obviously".
"The window cleaner outfit isn't very glamorous," Flanagan admits. "But I think that will be short-lived... Definitely down the line, I'd like to do some of the more hard-hitting stories, but at the moment I'm just enjoying this," she adds. "Those stories do take a massive toll on you."
With an active toddler at home and regular trips to Scotland to visit Celtic winger Sinclair, there's little chance for downtime between takes.
"Now I have no time to learn my script when I go home because I just want to play with my little girl, so I've been doing them on set. A lot of the mums here learn on set, then leave work at work. I love Cath [Catherine Tyldesley, who plays Eva Price], and ask what she does."
And the three-hour drives to see Sinclair are crucial to Flanagan.
"I really think that's important for us as a family, to have that time together. Scott's been really supportive, as I've been really supportive of his career. I think it's healthy for us to do our own things."
Plus, she adds, there's no chance of getting papped in Scotland. "You never get anything like that there. It's very relaxed and it's nice to take a break."
After her eventful comeback, could Rosie Webster be sticking around in Weatherfield for a while?
"I would love to stay for a little bit longer, as I am really enjoying it," says Flanagan.
"I can't wait to see what they've got in store for her."
:: Rosie Webster returns to Coronation Street on UTV tonight.