Former Corrie star Tracy Shaw on her return to acting

Tracy Shaw in The Cat and the Canary

Tracy Shaw in The Cat and the Canary, at Manchester's Opera House this month - Credit: Paul Coltas

Our beauty editor talks to the friend he has made up for many Coronation Street red carpet events and who is back in the acting business and appearing on stage in Manchester in The Cat and the Canary.

Many of my chats with celebrity friends for Cheshire Life would not have been possible without my next interviewee – Tracy Shaw – the darling of the soap world back in the late 1990s and early noughties as Coronation Street’s Maxine Peacock. Until her character met an untimely end at the hands of the murderous Richard Hillman. 

Tracy was the first soap star to make the covers of papers and magazines with her stunning looks and joyful personality, which, coupled with a high profile breakup with her then-fiancé Darren Day, ensured she was front and centre at red carpet events. 

I first met Tracy in 2000 through events planner Susie Mathis who was organising Tracy’s wedding and was looking for a makeup artist.

Tracy and I clicked straight away and have been pals ever since. It was through Tracy that I met Shobna Gulati, Denise Welch and Sally Dynevor and 21 years later I caught up with my lovely friend as she takes to the stage in the thriller The Cat and the Canary at the Opera House in Manchester
We chatted candidly about her life, beauty regime and return to theatre. 

Tracy Shaw

Tracy Shaw, styled for her red carpet appearances by makeup artist and beauty presenter and writer Armand Beasley - Credit: Armand Beasley

Tracy, can you believe we have known each other for 21 years? What are your thoughts when you look back on those years? 
I can’t believe it has been 21 years. I’ve matured but now I need you more than ever to work your magic. I’m a very different person from who I was then and who I am now. 

You spent years treading the cobbles as Maxine Peacock. How did you get the role? 
I went to the Arden School of Theatre at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. It was one of the ITV casting directors who saw me in our end-of-year production and invited me for an audition where I landed my first TV role in September Song with Russ Abbot and Michael Williams. The same casting director then gave me the role of Maxine.

Can anything prepare you for the attention and spotlight that Coronation Street gives you?
Nothing can prepare you for that especially when you’re young and in the press. There were highs and lows but it was a tremendous time. The viewing figures were incredible at that time – I mean 20-odd million viewers. Nothing gets that kind of figure now.

I remember my great-grandma pulling up a chair to watch Coronation Street and nobody could talk to her for that half-hour, so when I got that role I immediately thought of her as she would have been so proud but sadly she passed away when I started drama school. But I had some incredible matriarchal figures in the Street that took me under their wings, such as Sue Nicholls (Audrey Roberts), Liz Dawn (Vera Duckworth),  Amanda Barrie (Alma Baldwin) and Jill Summers (Phyllis Pearce). They were amazing. 

Growing up in Derby, did you always want to be an actor? What was the response like from your family? 
I started off as a dancer doing tap, ballet and modern. My great-grandmother always encouraged me with my dancing, which I did for years. I still have the little pink costume dress she made for me when I was five years old and won Best Dancer in Derbyshire. 

When I was 16 I felt as if I needed another string to my bow in case I got an injury as a dancer, so I  studied performing arts at college prior to drama school and I loved it. Being dyslexic I looked to performing as a way to communicate a story – I couldn’t read books so I wanted to perform them. My family really supported me in my passion, which is why I have always supported my sons with whatever they wanted to do.

Tracy Shaw and Britt Ekland in The Cat and the Canary

Tracy Shaw as Annabelle with Bond movie legend Britt Ekland as housekeeper Miss Pleasant in The Cat and the Canary, at Manchester's Opera House from October 25 to 30 - Credit: Paul Coltas

I always remember having so much fun with you, getting you ready for the red carpet at the NTAs or BAFTAs. Did you have a favourite look that you can remember? Did you enjoy those events or did you see them as a necessary evil? 
Me, you, James Roberts (hair) and Kyri (fashion designer) had the best time preparing. Getting ready with my mates was the best bit of those events. I didn’t believe in myself; it was you guys that made me look and feel fantastic and confident. 

Julie Goodyear  Bet Lynch)said at the time, ‘if you find a good makeup artist keep hold of them’ and I certainly have. You’re not going anywhere, Armand! 
There are so many favourite looks but the best was when you suggested I wear a short dark wig and it took a while for the press to recognise me but it made the front pages… I loved that one. 

After you left the Street in 2003, you divorced in 2004. Tell us about what happened next? 
I was told I wouldn’t have children so when I had my two sons in 2005 and 2006, I really wanted to focus on them and be there for them one hundred per cent for every milestone in their lives. I was in the fortunate position where I could afford to take that time out for them. My priorities changed… it was all about my boys. 

Do you keep in touch with any of your former Corrie castmates? 
Occasionally, I see Denise (Welch) and Angela (Griffin). I was lucky enough to see Sue Nicholls when I presented her with a special award at the British Soap Awards a couple of years ago for her outstanding work on the Street.

I speak with Sally-Ann Matthews and, in fact, we performed together a couple of years ago in the nationwide tour of Mum's The Word. I’m also in touch with the lovely Shobna (Gulati) who’s currently on tour and in the movie of Everybody's Talking About Jamie.

I had a client whose makeup I did just before the first lockdown and she still uses your bestselling DVD, Tracy Shaw Salsacise, to keep in shape. Do you remember when you did that? James Roberts and I had fun doing your hair and makeup for those videos.  How do you keep in shape now? 
Oh, wow! Really? That’s fantastic. Well, now I play a lot of tennis as my sons started to learn tennis eight years ago. I used to punish myself with an exercise routine, whereas now I’m happier with my body and its curves. But now you have mentioned it, Armand, I'm going to dig out my videos as I loved doing them – so much fun.

What made you return back to acting?
I had separated from my boys' father and really started to miss performing. Bill Kenwright cast me in The Cat and the Canary. It’s a great role and right now theatres really need the support.

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There is a family of theatre people who have been sadly disregarded during the pandemic and it seems to be a dying art but nothing moves you quite like live theatre. I’m really thrilled to say that the tour has been really well received and we are really feeling the love from the audience. Bill has been so passionate about getting theatre back up and running telling stories and giving people escapism and joy. 

How do you compare theatre to television? 
The basis of all acting is theatre. Every moment is live – I go on a two-hour journey every night and I love it. Theatre is never well paid but we do it because we love it. Television is great to grow a character over a period of time though, which I enjoy too.

You’re 48 years old and look terrific. What are your thoughts on ageing and looking after yourself? 
Eating well – you are what you eat. You always told me to drink lots of water; I do that and it really makes a difference to my skin, especially the alkaline water.

We reconnected for British Soap Awards 2019 when you were asked to present a special award to Sue Nicholls and I suppose, it was the first time the TV audiences had seen you for a while. You asked me to help style you and get you ready for the awards. How did you feel about being asked to present the award and also being back in the public eye? 
It was such an honour. In fact, it was Sue who asked for me to present the award to her and it was incredibly moving for me.

The reception I had was very positive, which is lovely although people’s perceptions of me don't affect me as they used to. But I couldn’t have done that evening without you as you got me ready and looking and feeling fab. I had two gorgeous dresses, one from Mark Melia and one from Kevan Jon plus stunning diamonds from Boodles and hair by the lovely Thomas Hope from Artisté. I felt fabulous. Thank you.

You’ve done a lot of theatre and TV over the years. Is there a particular role you’ve loved playing and that you would like to revisit? 
I would have loved to have seen what Maxine would have been up to at the age that I am now.

What are your earliest memories of your mum's beauty routine?
Mum always used Clinique and Clarins. When I was about 14 or 15 I was modelling so I was always good at doing my cleanse, tone and moisturise. Calvin Klein’s Eternity was my first perfume because my mum used to wear it.

What are your favourite skincare products? 
I have a mixture but I need to get into a regime… you’ll have to help me with that.
But I love your Pro Body Glow as a body moisturiser and it gives a gorgeous gleam to my skin.

And your favourite makeup products?
Lancôme's Definicils mascara, as the wand is perfect for my lashes
Sisley's chocolate lip pencil – my favourite colour and the best lipliner.
Touché Eclat from YSL to brighten around my eyes. 

Have you been tempted to be involved with any reality shows? If so which one would you like to do? 
I would love to do Strictly or SAS Who Dares Wins. Quite different aren’t they?

If you could give your younger self some advice, what would it be? 
Slow down, take a deep breath and be kind to yourself. I love this quote: I have been many women In my lifetime: I’ve been the protector and provider, a lover and fighter... but the woman I value the most will always be the survivor.