What would her late gran say about the ex-street seducer’s new sexy shocker? Well, Eva Pope will no doubt find out.
Even though she left Coronation Street seven years ago, Eva Pope caused such a stir that just the thought of her still brings a smile to the faces of male fans. As barmaid Tanya Pooley, whose curvaceous figure and wily ways helped her pull more men than pints, Eva earned a reputation as a memorable femme fatale.
To avoid being typecast as a temptress however, Eva steered away from Tanya-type roles. But now she’s back in Peak Practice doing what she does best. Eva’s character, Nurse Claire Brightwell, has already employed seduction and blackmail to land a job at The Beeches, and now she’s got her sights set on Alex’s boyfriend, Dr Tom Deneley. A worrying glint in Claire’s eye also indicates she’s got more loose screws than a flat pack bookcase.
‘This is the first character I’ve taken on that could be construed as a similar character to Tanya,’ admits Eva, 33.’Claire is the same in that she is a man’s woman, but she’s far more professional and intelligent. Tanya just used her sexuality as her strength and her weapon, whereas Claire uses everything – brains, body, emotions – to get what she wants.’
Meeting Eva, it’s not hard to see why she should be so in demand as a seductress. Her tall and enviably slim figure shout bombshell, and her straight hair frames her face in the trendy Rachel-from-Friends style. Her big Bambi eyes are what’s most striking though. When Eva fixes her gaze on you, you understand how a deer caught in headlights must feel. Such intensity serves her well in playing women on the edge. ‘I always get emotional characters,’ laughs Eva, dragging heavily on a Marlboro.
‘I think I have a facility to play that kind of character, because I can connect with my emotions very easily. I’m quite a normal person, quite balanced, quite boring, which is why I do enjoy these sort of characters.’
But Eva’s neither boring nor normal. For a start, she’s psychic, and she knows how airy-fairy that sounds. ‘Don’t make me out to be some hippy!’ Eva pleads. ‘I was brought up in Lancashire, I’m a country girl, very down-to-earth, I’m not a weirdo! I just tend to sense things before they happen, or sense things about people, and I see ghosts. I always have, since I was a baby.’
Her first ghost sighting came in the family’s 300-year-old farmhouse near Wigan when Eva was just a toddler. ‘My mother tells me that I was sitting on her lap one day and pointed and said, ‘Lady!’ and started babbling in the direction of this room that had been closed off,’ says Eva. ‘My mum felt the room go cold and the hairs stand up on the back of her neck. From about the age of five, I remember seeing a teenage girl walking in the house.’ When Eva’s parents moved eight years ago, evidence of the ghost’s existence turned up. ‘They took the loft down and found servants’ quarters and there were girl’s clothes that I saw the ghost wearing,’ said Eva. ‘I’d like to say I wasn’t freaked out, but I was and I always am every time these things happen!’ She lets out a raucous bar laugh. ‘People call it a gift, I call it a burden.’
More recently, Eva, who was raised a Catholic but now describes herself as a ‘spiritual person’, has seen her grandmother’s ghost. ‘My grandma died a few years ago,’ she says. ‘I was very worried about her when she died, because she was very frightened, but she’s let me know since that she’s okay.’
But today, here in London, it’s earthly family matters that are troubling Eva. She’s just returned from six straight months of filming Peak Practice, enduring a long separation from her five-year-old daughter Elise, who stayed behind at the family flat in Golders Green, London, with Eva’s husband Laurence Lassalle, a graphic designer. ‘It’s been horrible,’ says Eva. ‘I wouldn’t do it again. Half a year of her life has gone by. Elise and I spoke every morning and night and went through all the tears and the missing each other. She’s my best friend and I’m her best friend, so I do feel I’ve abandoned her. I feel a lot of guilt, because I’m a perfectionist in every way and more than anything I want to be the perfect mother.’
This desire for perfection as both mother and actress has caused something of a tug between Eva’s two loves of family and career. When Elise was born in December 1995, Eva devoted herself to mothering and took a year off. ‘I battled with whether I wanted to carry on being an actress because I wanted to be a mother and that sort of took over,’ she says, ‘That surprised me, and it also makes me quite afraid of having the next one, because I’m so ambitious and love my job. But I do want another one, definitely, in the next year or so.’
Like other working mums, Eva was forced to prioritise. ‘Before, I used to be everyone’s social worker, but now I’m afraid I just don’t have the time,’ she says.
Eva’s Bambi eyes grow bigger. ‘I guess I’m kind of intense,’ she admits. ‘I have a lot of creative energy and get really involved in things. I’m not good at doing nothing.’ Judging by the way she’s stirring things up in the Peaks, there’s little chance of that.