On a bright and sunny autumn day, I headed off to the Bistro in Weatherfield. I had been invited by Coronation Street's press team and was really looking forward to the day, We had been encouraged to wear Christmas jumpers - call me miserable if you wish, but they're not my favourite garment even on 25 December. Some willing souls had obliged and one guy had a shirt patterned with polar bears, wearing Christmas hats. Very jolly indeed. The press team were as good as their word and had dutifully dressed up.We were served a range of delicious Christmas snacks and mulled wine! Wonderful! Then it was down to business.
I interviewed Rhea Bailey, who plays Caz, and is currently Maria's nemesis. This is what she had to say.
How are you enjoying playing a Corrie villain?
It definitely comes with a lot more baggage than I anticipated. A lot of people who watch the show have a hard time differentiating between actors and the characters they play and I find that quite difficult to be honest. That wasn’t something I was prepared for.
The general public are also getting more used to Caz and getting more excited about her being conniving and devious whereas before, just because they’re so loyal; the fans were so loyal to Sophie – everywhere I went people were saying, ‘Leave that Sophie alone!’ and I was like, ‘We’re cool [Rhea and Brooke Vincent] We go shopping together. Don’t worry about it!’
I’ve found that quite odd but people are now getting a bit more excited and enthused about her. It does take a while for an audience to accept a new character. And we’re at that stage now…thank goodness.
When you joined did you know you were going to be made into a baddie?
In my audition I did have to switch, yeah; I went from being a loving fiancé and then I had to show a nasty side too. When I started I was only supposed to be doing six episodes and then they asked me to do a few more, and then they asked me to stay, and so what I thought was just going to be a storyline with an arc where she did go a bit crazy quite quickly, has really panned out and dragged out and got a lot deeper.
A lot crazier. Have you ever thought of getting a t-shirt made that says, ‘I’m just playing a character! I’m not really Caz!’
At one point I was speaking to my friend Micah Balfour who I was in The Bill with and he plays, like, a paedophile in Emmerdale and we were talking about this. He’s had people shouting ‘Oi! Peado!’ at him. That’s a horrible thing to shout to a person who’s just trying to do their job. I said we should get hoodies printed up that say, ‘I’m just an actor!’. I was seriously thinking about it.
But if you are seen to complain too much people will think, ‘Well, what’s she complaining about? She’s on the telly. She must have a great life.
My mum says to me that people are really investing in your character, which shows you’re doing a great job and I say, ‘Yeah, but I need people to know that I’m not actually crazy!’
What would you say is Caz’s frame of mind as she embarks on this creepy plot to frame Maria?
She feels that everything she’s doing is completely justified. In her mind she’s been rejected by everybody; she was rejected by her family growing up, now she’s been rejected by the army, she then fell in love and thought she was going to start a new life with Kate, but then she got rejected by Kate so Maria, unfortunately, is the straw that broke the camel’s back.
She’s thought, ‘I’ve had enough!’ and she’s going to unleash terror on everyone around her because she thinks, ‘You guys have hurt me so badly and now I’m going to hurt you.’ In her head she’s just trying to get justice and she doesn’t see her behaviour as unreasonable. She’s so damaged that to her, this is just what you do when someone has hurt you. You get back at them.
So there’s no guilt about Maria being framed for murder?
I don’t think she feels any guilt at all. In a lot of ways I think she’s just still trying to get attention. I think in her head she still thinks she can make everyone like her somehow at the end of all of this.
Would you say that she’s not necessarily a psychopath, then?
I would say that because I went upstairs and said to the producers, ‘Is she a psychopath’. I’m reading the scripts and I’m like, ‘can you let me know, how am I playing this? Do you want me to play like she’s lost the plot?,’ And they said, ‘No, we genuinely want it to be believable,’ so it’s all coming from a place of brokenness and vulnerability and necessity as far as Caz as concerned. They didn’t want her to be just two-dimensional mental, they wanted her to be somebody that was so broken and so damaged that she thinks everything is justifiable so I’ve tried to keep it as realistic as possible, even if she’s doing completely unreasonable things.
Can you sympathise with her?
As an actor, you’re taught to never judge your character. It is really hard but I’ve got to the point now, because I’ve been acting for 18 years, that I can watch the telly and step back from it because otherwise you watch it and you say, ‘Oh my Gosh, I look awful!’ or ‘I shouldn’t have done this or that,’ and so now I’ll remove myself and find myself saying, ‘Oh my Gosh! She’s so crazy. Why did she do that?’ I’m also able to shout things at the TV like the audience would such as, ‘Maria! Run!’
I don’t feel sorry for her in any way. I think she deserves whatever’s coming to her but then, as an actress myself, I haven’t been able to judge her because you can’t play it convincingly if you’re constantly saying, ‘But that’s not very nice, is it!’
How has she come up with something so extreme as framing Maria for murder?
Any lies she’s told, even having Maria burgled, got the result she wanted, so she’s decided now she will finally get people’s attention. She’s tried to do positive things, she even tried to help out when the explosion happened but nobody thanked her and said, ‘You were so great. You’re the only woman who helped lift that car.’ So, because of that, she says, ‘I’m going to do the worst things that I can think of doing.’
She’s got time on her hands (She’s not doing anything else; she hasn’t got a job on the Street) so she’s really thought out and plotted and schemed this really extensive plan where she’s going to London to use Maria’s credit card, she’s setting up stuff, she’s starting to manipulate people on the side.
She’s already manipulating Tyrone into thinking, ‘Oh, Maria’s up to her old tricks again, being a bit crazy,’ She’s dropping hints everywhere and making up fake stuff so that when people start to add it up, they’re going to add two and two and make five. so she’s been massively manipulative.
It’s weird for Maria to realise that, while she’s been in London, someone’s been behind her, seeing what she’s been doing…
Yeah, I’m like Coronation Street’s friendliest stalker at the moment. We’ve got a lot of jokes on set that I’m just going to pop out from behind somewhere. We filmed an Aidan and Maria scene the other day at night and they didn’t understand the shot and they kept saying, ‘Why are they doing it from this angle?’ and I said, ‘because I’m back here, guys!’
I’ve been doing a lot of weird things that the audience is going to see and there’s a lot of stuff that we’re not going to see Caz do, but that we find out that she’s done. It’s sort of like a treasure trail but it’s not going to lead to anything good! The worst kind of treasure trail.
Will she be redeemed or is Caz only destined to get her comeuppance?
Well, the human side of me wants her to be redeemed but from the executives’ point of view, it’s so much more exciting to just have a baddie out and about. Everybody likes that kind of drama. I think, long term, it would be better if she was redeemed but I don’t think at this point there’s any sign of that happening.
Does the character have a sell-by date because often villains are in the show for a specific length of time?
Well I think people get away with murder on this show so I don’t know. It definitely makes the road more rocky but it definitely keeps it interesting. At the moment, she’s already done a lot of coming and going….it just means that we have to keep it interesting so the viewers don’t just see her as a hate figure. That’s why I think she’s tried not to just make her evil in a two-dimensional sense. They’ve tried to show why she’s twisted so people can see why she is the way she is.
Some people on Twitter have been quite sympathetic towards Caz and I worry about those people but everybody sees Caz’s behaviour from a sort of different point of view.
Does she still think there might be a chance of her and Kate getting back together?
In her head she still thinks there’s a chance for everybody in Weatherfield to love her. She\s completely delusional at this point. What you’re going to see coming up over the next few weeks is her asking for Kate’s forgiveness and then as soon as Kate offers to forgive her, Caz is like, ‘Oh, shall we go for a drink, then?’ Caz takes it too far and Kate’s saying, ‘No, I don’t want to go for a drink with you, I don’t want to be friends with you, I’m just saying I will forgive you.’ In Caz’s head, the second anyone is nice to her, because she is so needy, she’s going to try to use that.
Caz is proving to be quite the evil genius. If she were to join forces with Pat Phelan, do you think they’d be able to take over the world? Or at least Weatherfield?
That would be awesome. A lot of people online have suggested that as well. They’ve said, ‘She should do something with Phelan!,’ and I’m like, ‘That would be cool. Conor’s such a nice guy. It would be fun to work with him. It’s funny, the reception he gets from the public is very different from the one I get. When you play a female villain, people are a lot happier to hate on you but when you’re a male villain, people just think you’re really, sexy, mysterious and dangerous but when you’re a woman, they just want to damn you and kick you so I feel that we’re quite sexist still in that way. I find that weird because he’s adored by women everywhere he goes…
And Pat’s done some terrible things, hasn’t he?
Yeah. And his has been going on far longer, whereas with me it’s just like, ‘Eurghhhh, she’s horrible, she’s evil!’ And with him it’s like, ‘Ooooohhhhhhh, he’s so sexy when he’s that evil,’ and that is just weird. I find it really odd.
What’s the worst thing a member of the public has said to you in the Street. Has anyone been particularly nasty?
So instead of me giving a normal reaction which would be, ‘Who do you think you’re talking to?’ I have to go (affects patient, friendly voice) ‘Oh, are you talking about my character? Oh, I see.’ You have to be really nice to these people and treat them with kid gloves when actually you want to say, ‘You can’t talk to me like that!’
Get out of my personal space…
Exactly but you know if you did that, it’s going to escalate and then one of you guys is going to write about it and it’s going to be a big deal so you have to treat these people with kid gloves because they’re not necessarily the full ticket. If they think it’s real…I had a group of old ladies boo me the other day. They must have seen me before I saw them and they collectively, as I turned a corner, booed me. And it’s funny now but at the time, I was like, ‘what the heck is going on?’
You felt like you were in a pantomime?Yeah, yeah and I think that’s what we have to remember. To a lot of the viewers, it’s like a panto. They’re booing a character, they’re not booing me.
And they would probably be heartbroken to think they’d actually upset you by booing you…
Yeah but in that respect they don’t necessarily see us as real people because people will talk about you as if the screen is still there. You can be stood right next to them in a queue and they’ll be going, ‘Oh look, it’s definitely her and she does look fatter on the telly,’ And I’m stood right there and my ears are burning but you just have to let it flow over you.
Does this make you quite anxious about what the public’s reaction is going to be when this story does come to a head?
Because it’s been bedding in for a while, I’m no longer anxious about it. If it had happened quite quickly with the whole Sophie, if it had come to a head with that storyline, I was getting quite anxious when I was out and about in public. But now, the sort of reaction I’m getting from people is one of excitement because they are enjoying the drama. It was affecting me a little bit personally…
Were there any moments when you broke down over it?
I didn’t break down but I definitely spoke to my mum about it. I’ve definitely spoken to people here about it. I’ve spoken to other actors here such as Kate Ford because she obviously gets abuse from people on a regular basis and she’s used to it now! So I had a chat with her and I had a chat with Conor and I was surprised to learn that he has such a different response from people. I’ve had to ask people in the building not to refer to me as being evil in the building because we’re at work and if I’m getting it out on the Street, I don’t want people joking about it at work because it does bother me so…
Has it given you a thicker skin?
Somebody said to me that you have to develop a thicker skin and I said, ‘I don’t want to. I don’t want to be a person who has to put up a guard and be ready and armed to be rude back to people on the street.’ That’s not who I am as a person. I don’t want it to affect my personal life. Rather than have a thicker skin, I’ve decided to let it flow over me and just embrace the fact that people are getting a lot out of the drama and I must be doing my job properly.
When you said you talked to people here, what advice did they give you?
Well, the press office said, ‘Do let us know if there’s anything online that’s been particularly nasty,’ and they’d investigate that but it hasn’t gone that far at all. There’s been a few people I’ve blocked making unkind comments but I think that happens to everybody, regardless of your job – that’s the nature of the beast with social media.
Kate’s really good. She’s a really good, honest and genuine person. She said you have to get to the point where you don’t really care what people think of you and, because she’s been dealing with it for so long, she doesn’t really care if that one person in the supermarket does think she’s a bitch in real life because if she’s in a hurry, and she’s trying to deal with her son, and she’s got to be somewhere, and she doesn’t want to listen while somebody is rude to her, she’s just going to be, like, ‘whatever!’. It doesn’t affect her.
I’m finding myself being very patient with these people in the supermarket, I’m being nicer than I normally would be because I want them to go away knowing that I really am a nice person really and not like Caz! It’s just a learning curve that you embark on when you’re in a show as huge as this.
Aside from the abuse you’ve received, have you enjoyed playing a villain?
I love opening the scripts and going, ‘Oh my gosh – what is Caz doing now?’ I love how engaging it is. It’s challenging for me; when we do a take, I’ll always be saying, ‘Was that dirty look good enough,’ It’s definitely been more challenging than it would have been…if I was just playing a normal character, I wouldn’t have found it challenging because it would have just been a normal acting job but, at the beginning, I was lying about lying. I’d hurt my ankle in a fight but I was saying that I had hurt my ankle so I’m acting that I’ve got a fake broken ankle but then I’m also pretending that the reason I broke it was a completely different reason so there’s a lot of layers to it that made it a bit more challenging to me because the directors would be like, ‘Oh, can you make it more obvious’ and I’d be like, ‘I don’t want it to be too obvious because Kate’s got to believe it but the audience will know it’s fake. ‘
With this storyline you’ve worked with prosthetics, haven’t you?
That’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy anything like that. I’ve also used fake blood which I’ve also found exciting.
That’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy anything like that. I’ve also used fake blood which I’ve also found exciting.
Would the fans’ reaction to Caz make you think twice about taking another role where the character is defined by their villainy.
I am enjoying how much the audience is investing in Caz but it’s [the adverse reaction from certain fans] something I’ll learn from. I definitely now have learned to deal with people better and not take it as personally and accept it as part of the job and know how to respond going forward.
I said to the producers, ‘Can’t she just work as a mechanic with Kevin and Sophie?’ but no, that’s not happening! But long term, I don’t know I really think this could go on and on and it could take a lot more dark twists and turns. She could go from putting it all on to Maria to causing trouble for Aidan. He’s rubbed her up the wrong way recently so I think that could be an interesting storyline.
She could have a hitlist…
Yes, she could have a hitlist which she could work her way through. It’s getting quite long. Poor Audrey was quite mean to her in the pub the other day and I thought, ‘Okay, I’m adding her to the list!’ She’s a lovely lady but…
When Caz first joined was always going to be in it for a while or was it a short contract that was extended?
It was only supposed to be for six episodes. At the beginning it was just her and Kate were going to be together, then there was going to be a big fight and then she was going to leave and it was mainly going to be a storyline for Kate but I think the producers saw an opportunity to develop something a bit more exciting than that. So they asked me to stay and I’ve been willing to and happy to as long as they’ll write for me because it’s quite exciting.
I don’t know if it’s on the cards but if Caz were to end up in prison, how would she survive?
I actually think, sadly - because the only place she’s ever been happy was an institution – the army, that Caz would thrive if she ended up in prison. I had a conversation with one of the writers who had spoken to someone who had come out of the army and was really struggling. They call it being back on Civvy Street and it can be a real issue for people coming out of the army.
Yeah, they struggle to get back into the day-to-day, organising yourself and arranging for yourself to be somewhere, especially when for years you’ve known when to get up, when to have breakfast, where to be at any given time of the day. I’ve heard that can be a massive issue for people coming out the army but also for people coming out of prison.
Having that structure in her life again, she would feel safe. The writer spoke to that person and they said they were struggling with life after the army so we had a brief storyline, just an episode where Caz was in tears just because she had missed a bus. The writer had to explain to me how important that actually was because when I read it myself I was thinking, ‘She’s just missed a bus…get over it!’ but to Caz, she felt completely useless, she couldn’t even get to a bus on time. But then it was the bus’s fault for being early. So I think if she were to go to prison she’d probably feel a lot more comfortable and not as vulnerable as being out in the world.
I imagine she’s be able to look after herself. She probably wouldn’t get bullied…
Yeah and then she could get another girlfriend. She’d be cool. She’d be happy. Kate would offer to visit and Caz would say, ‘I don’t need you to visit me!’ I think Caz should join Orange Is The New Black!
Ruth Owen, twitter: @ruth1722
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