When Julia Goulding got the phone call that would change her life, she was sitting alone on a train travelling back to London. On the end of the line was her agent, who told her that after one audition and a couple of screen tests, she’d got the part in Coronation Street.
Oh and, by the way, she started in a fortnight.
Mark Hayman Julia wears jumper, Boohoo; skirt, Topshop; boots, Zara; ring, Julia’s own
“I’m an actor so I didn’t suppress anything!” jokes Julia. “I scrambled over the lad sitting next to me – god knows what he must have thought – and ran into the vestibule and phoned my mum and my boyfriend and we were just laughing and crying and laughing and crying. I couldn’t believe it. Then I had to get the Tube home and I was on there smiling like an idiot.”
For Greater-Manchester-born Julia, a Corrie super-fan from the age of five, it really was a dream come true. She’d beaten off the competition to land the part of troubled Shona Ramsey, mother of Kylie Platt’s murderer and eventual new love interest of grief-stricken widower David. In the space of a year, she’s become a fan favourite as tough, feisty and flawed but ultimately decent and kind Shona, and two months ago viewers voted her Best Newcomer at the Inside Soap Awards.
The next 12 months look very bright indeed for the 32-year-old actress.
“Winning the award was a pinch-me moment,” she says. “Because it was viewer-voted, it was really wonderful and a genuine surprise. I feel overwhelmed and thrilled with it.
Mark Hayman Julia was voted Best Newcomer at the Inside Soap Awards last year
“It’s been a bit of a whirlwind. I was really nervous when I started, knowing I was eventually going to get together with David, which were big shoes to fill after Kylie died. I didn’t know how the public would react to that or whether they’d like her. But because Shona’s storyline with David has basically taken a year, it’s allowed viewers to get to know her and understand why she is the way she is. She’s a good person who makes bad decisions. So really they’ve embraced her, and I’m grateful for that.”
On Julia’s first day, she walked into the green room where the cast hang out between scenes, and was immediately star-struck.
“I was introduced to David Neilson in his pinny dressed as Roy, and Simon Gregson [Steve McDonald] and that was a bit like: ‘Whoa! This is so weird.’ It was an emotional moment, but one I was only able to reflect on afterwards because at the time it was pure shock. When I was about 10, I had a crush on Simon Gregson. He was a dreamboat – those blue eyes!”
Corrie is Julia’s first break in television, after she left drama school six years ago and based herself in theatre. Her college tutor suggested she apply to drama school (“I was just a working-class kid from north Manchester, I didn’t even know what drama school was!”) and she eventually won a place at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) which she describes as “the other best day of my life”.
Mark Hayman Julia wears jacket, Topshop; dress, Miss Selfridge; jewellery, Julia’s own
An only child, she didn’t grow up in an acting family – mum Lorna, 58, is a town planner and dad Ian, 61, is a teacher in a prison – but a childhood visit to the Corrie set on the old Granada Studios Tour planted the seed.
“I remember telling my mum after that trip that I wanted to be an actor. I always loved dressing up and the make-believe world, and although my parents aren’t showbiz, they are both characters in their own right. My mum is bonkers but that’s one of the reasons I love her!”
Julia with her mum, Lorna, at a Pride parade Instagram/Julia Goulding Julia shares a strong connection with her mum
Julia is particularly close to her mum, who is gay and joined her daughter on the Corrie float at this year’s Manchester Pride.
“I’ve always known, just as other people have known their parents are straight. It’s the same kind of thing,” says Julia. “But I didn’t tell people in school because I was very aware of prejudice and it was just easier not to. She didn’t come out [publicly] until I was 13 anyway.
“I got to a point in life where I’d grown up a bit, I was at college in the gay village and it felt like a safe environment, and I thought: ‘You know what, if anyone has a problem with it they can just go to hell. I don’t care.’
Coronation Street’s David Platt tries to kiss Kylie’s killer’s mum Shona Ramsey
“And the world has changed massively as I’ve grown up. Language has changed. Obviously there’s still a long way to go, but it’s moving in the right direction and that’s what’s important, and long may it continue.”
Shooting six episodes a week is intensive, with long days on the cobbles and Julia, who has now moved from London to near the Corrie set with teaching assistant boyfriend Ben, says it’s been a “baptism of fire”. She firmly puts paid to any lingering industry snobbery about the credibility of soap operas.
Splash Julia with her boyfriend Ben
“Oh f**k it. If there is, I really don’t care. Sorry for swearing, but honestly, it’s ridiculous. It’s such a difficult industry to be in that if anyone is going to be stupid enough to be snobby about a soap, more fool them.
“My friend did a TV drama recently and he told me they filmed about two to three scenes a day, and I thought: ‘Wow, we can do anything up to 15!’ So it’s fast-paced and it keeps you on your toes, but I’m happy.
“It’s a machine, and the number of people who are involved is unbelievable, and none of it could happen without every single one of them.”
Rex Features Julia plays the character Shona Ramsey, pictured here with her on-screen son Clayton
She’s equally robust in her defence when questioned about the recent criticism of Corrie’s darker storylines which have seen kidnap, grooming and murder plots spun out over several bleak months.
“I understand it, but I think it’s important to push boundaries, and if you’re not getting a reaction from your audience something’s wrong. Some people have been bowled over by it and others haven’t, but getting a response either way is exciting, otherwise it gets boring.
ITV Julia said landing her job on Coronation Street was a dream come true
“It’s like seasons of the year – things sweep in and out and I trust the writers and Kate [Oates, Corrie boss] know what they’re doing. The humour will definitely come back. It’s peaks and troughs.”
What has been characteristic of Kate’s tenure so far is the slow-burn storylines, many of which have seen the women in the show taking centre stage.
Getty – Contributor Julia loves the strong female-led storylines Corrie is tackling
“[In the two years] Kate’s been there, the female storylines have been so strong – Eva’s revenge, the Bethany grooming plot, Michelle’s baby loss,” says Julia. “It’s lovely to see strong women taking their time with storylines, not over in a flash… it takes women a bit longer, doesn’t it?”
She erupts with laughter.