Coronation Street star on "chaotic" Dee-Dee role and career journey
Welcome to Screen Sisters, a collection of conversations about what it means to be a woman working in television both in front of and behind the camera.
As well as recognising their contribution to the industry, the series will also examine the highs and lows of working in media, how far television has progressed, and how much further it still has to go.
To celebrate International Women's Day, we spoke to Coronation Street star Channique Sterling-Brown about her experience playing Dee-Dee Bailey, the biggest lessons she's learned in her career so far and the women who inspired her.
Channique joined Coronation Street last year as the newest member of the Bailey family – Dee-Dee Bailey. Dee-Dee had often been mentioned since the Bailey family moved onto the Street in 2019, but her arrival meant viewers could finally see how she interacted with her loved ones, having moved home from America.
After arriving on the cobbles, Dee-Dee – a lawyer – began to help her brother James, who had been dropped by Weatherfield County, and also played a role in the Stu Carpenter storyline – which saw her join forces with Alya Nazir.
"Dee-Dee is a force of nature," Channique said when describing her character. "She knows who she is and isn't afraid to be her authentic self, even if that is a bit chaotic. She's a career-driven woman, with a lot of love to give, she cares passionately about the people around her and I think there's so much strength in that.
"I think one of my favourites has to be the very first episode when she lands in Weatherfield. She's only returned to see James (and her family) after his cardiac arrest, and as soon as she finds out his club is trying to screw him over she jumps into lawyer mode and fights her brother's corner. We had so much fun filming the boardroom scenes with the club managers and I loved getting the chance to show she could hold her own from the get go!"
Describing the viewers' reaction to Dee-Dee, Channique said: "For the most part the response has been so wonderful and people are so behind the character which I'm very grateful for.
"You always get people with negative things to say, and that can be hard; the internet can be a very unkind place sometimes. But I think it's so important to concentrate on the positive. I'm just a woman blessed enough to get to do what she loves every day and doing my best at it, so I'm really grateful for the people who appreciate that."
With female characters taking centre stage in soaps since the first episode of Corrie in 1960, does Channique think the soap genre has led the way with strong female representation, when other TV shows might have been slower to catch up?
"Definitely," she insisted. "I think the history of Corrie means we have seen so many female powerhouses over the years. But they're also super relatable women, who could be your mum or sister or aunty and it's a great reminder that being a strong woman doesn't always look like being an ice queen. Women are such multifaceted people in real life and I think soaps do a really great job of showing that, flaws and all."
As talk turns to her own experience in the industry, Channique has a refreshingly healthy take on the roles that weren't to be.
"Like any career, it has its ups and downs," she said. "Especially as an actor you face a lot of rejection regardless of how hard you work. However, I'm a firm believer in what's meant for you, won’t pass you by. So every no is for a reason, every person you meet, or audition, or workshop is an opportunity to learn and grow, until it's your time.
"I think [my first paid gig] was a career in social work ad, towards the end of drama school. A great campaign for a really important career. When I was about six, I'd say I want to be an actor and a princess, so I've always had big dreams!
"In some ways acting wasn't my plan A as I thought it was a really difficult path to set myself on, originally I wanted to go into Law, which makes Dee-Dee feel like such a full circle moment. However, I was fortunate enough to have a drama teacher who really believed in me, and a mum who trusted I knew myself and knew because of how passionate I was, I would work hard at it. That's how I ended up pursuing the arts and it's the best decision I ever made."
Reflecting on some of the more difficult parts of being a woman in the industry, Channique admitted: "I think it can be tricky. There are definitely more female actors than male and when you need most casts to be an even split, that naturally means there are less opportunities.
"Factoring in being a Black woman slims those opportunities down too. But I see it neither as a limitation or a benefit. We all have something unique to offer and it's more about trusting that the role that is the right fit for you will come along when the time is right.
"I think we are getting to see a lot more variation in the roles we see women in. It's brilliant to hear different stories from women of different, races, class, sexual orientation, faiths – just different communities. Art should reflect life and the more we diversify the stories we tell, the more people get to feel seen and represented. And that's a truly beautiful thing in my opinion. It's one of the best ways to break down barriers.
"I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some brilliant women in this industry and city. There are also many women whose careers I've admired such as Michaela Coel and Noma Dumezweni and I have definitely been inspired by them.
"But I guess my biggest mentor would be my mother. She has always worked so hard, she loves her work as a healthcare professional even when it's difficult, especially the last few years. She is such a good and kind soul. I couldn't ask for a better role model even though our industries are completely different."
And as for the biggest lessons she's learned along the way, Channique said: "Being a genuine and kind person really counts. This industry is notorious for being a bit cutthroat, but ultimately we all just want to work with people who are good at what they do and nice to be around.
"You meet people who remember you and value you as a person and that can lead to great relationships and sometimes opportunities. But you've also got to be yourself. So many people can play characters, but this industry is much more about being a people person and authentic people are the ones you remember!"
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm on ITV1 and streams on ITVX.
Read more Coronation Street spoilers on our dedicated homepage
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