Sally Lindsay tells the real story of how she was cast in 'The Royle Family'

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 19: Sally Lindsay attends the Channel 5 2020 Upfront photocall at St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel on November 19, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)
Sally Lindsay in 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Marsland/WireImage)

Sally Lindsay says she was cast in classic sitcom The Royle Family after her 'amazing agent' Melody Thresh put on a night for casting directors that she paid for with a credit card.

Known for playing Shelley Unwin in Coronation Street as well parts in Mount Pleasant and in Madame Blanc — airing on Channel 5 at the moment — Lindsay spoke to Kate Thornton on the White Wine Question Time podcast about working hard to get the roles she wanted.

The actor, writer and producer, who now runs her own company, credited her agent, who died 'far too young' during the pandemic, with 'getting her face out' and in front of casting agents who could get Lindsay the roles she wanted.

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She said that the story of how she landed the role of Michelle in The Royle Family, written by and starring Caroline Aherne, Ricky Tomlinson and Craig Cash, had been mis-told and that many thought she had been in an Alan Bennett show when she was spotted for the role.

Of her agent, Melody, Lindsay said: "She was amazing. She took me and she said: 'I don't understand why you're not bigger'.

"And she'd just set her own company up in Manchester. So she'd put me in front of all these casting directors in Manchester. Literally, I was 24 or 23, and she would put me up for parts of like 17-year-olds."

New Rovers Return barmaid Shelley Unwin, played by Manchester actress Sally Lindsay, on the Coronation Street set in Manchester, 24  April 2001. Shelley will be the 33rd barmaid to pull pints at Coronation Street's Rovers Return pub.   *She will carry on in the timeless tradition of glamourous barmaids like Bet Lynch and Raquel Watts when she gets her feet behind the bar next month. 19/06/2003:  The pub in the fictional TV soap Coronation Street is set in Weatherfield in the north west of England. According to a new survey, Thursday June 19, 2003, the north west is the cheapest place in Britain to buy a pint of beer.  SALLY LINDSAY   (Photo by John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Shelley Unwin, played by Sally Lindsay, on the Coronation Street set in Manchester, 24 April 2001 (John Giles - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)

Lindsay said she has 'always looked every year of her age' and was 'quite proud of it'.

She added: "I was this big doofus walking into a little 17-year-old part. And they're like: 'What are you doing here?'

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"But what she was doing was getting my face out, because my agent before was was just appalling. And I'd been in a theatre show for like 18 months, just stuck in the show. Anyway, so she got me out there."

She said Melody then decided to set up a night and invite lots of casting directors to see the actors on her books – and that she was going to pay for it all on her credit card.

"She invited all the fantastic northern casting directors to this night," Lindsay explained. "And I think that was the night that changed my life. I was match fit because I'd been in theatre for 18 months.

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"And everybody decided to do really, really dramatic crying kind of thing. I didn't, I did an excerpt from Her Big Chance, by Alan Bennett.

Sally Lindsay hosting Tenable (Endemol Productions/ITV)
Sally Lindsay hosting Tenable (Endemol Productions/ITV)

"So I wasn't actually in the play, I just did a section. Obviously my mum was there, and she said it was the weirdest thing because everybody was getting a bit bored with everybody coming out crying.

"And then I came out and brought the house down with this two minute piece. And she said the casting directors were just getting their books, getting their pens out and marking.

"And that was it. So then the next day I was in The Royle Family."

LONDON - MARCH 1: Craig Cash, Caroline Aherne and Sue Johnston, take part in a Red Nose Day special episode of The Royle Family, on March 1, 2009 in London. (Photo by Comic Relief/Getty Images)
Craig Cash, Caroline Aherne and Sue Johnston, take part in a Red Nose Day special episode of The Royle Family in 2009. (Photo by Comic Relief/Getty Images)

She told Thornton that the audience reaction when she came off stage was 'so massive' and that about five of the casting directors came over to her with ideas and asking to see her.

She said: "It was mad. So don't get me wrong, it didn't just happen like 'that'. But that was the night, the next day I was in The Royle Family because they wanted an unknown.

"June West was was the casting director. She was amazing, June, and she put me in Coronation Street as well.

"And June West said I think I've got I think I've got Michelle for you. So I wasn't even seen by [Craig] Cash and Caroline [Aherne], I just turned up. They just went alright then, we trust you. And I just turned up."

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