Corrie star on racist trolls: 'Is it preposterous to have two Black women?'

Coronation Street actress Channique Sterling-Brown, 25, on dealing with online trolls and her pride at joining the show’s first Black family.

You’ve landed your big break in Corrie. How did that feel?

I’d been to church the night before and all my church family had prayed for me, so I was feeling a lot less anxious about the whole thing. Then literally the next day I got the call from my agent. I was on a bus but I couldn’t contain my excitement and I was super-loud.

I was like, ‘Shut up! No way! Thank you, Jesus!’ and then I burst into tears. I definitely got a few funny looks. They were happy tears. It was something I’d worked hard for and I felt connected to the character but you just never know, so I felt super grateful.

What’s it like being part of the show’s first Black family?

It’s a privilege. Obviously, it is bizarre to think that in 62 years of the show this is the first Black family but the most important thing is we see that diversity now. I’ve had a couple of fans say, ‘You look like me.’ They’re excited about that representation. It’s a huge honour to be that.

Would you have liked to have seen that when you were watching TV as a child?

You don’t know how much it means to you until that representation is there. Then when you see someone who does look like you, you think, ‘Wow, I could fit in, I could do that, it could be me.’ You get excited if someone’s hair looks like your hair.

I remember going to see Harry Potter And The Cursed Child at the theatre with Noma Dumezweni playing Hermione. I went to the stage door afterwards and when I met her, I burst into tears. I was 19 at the time but I’d grown up with Hermione Granger and because of Noma I could now be Hermione Granger. It was one of those moments in my career when it really landed on me what a big thing it is to have representation.

Do you get any online abuse?

I try to avoid reading the negative comments but I get them about everything, from how I act, to how I look and what my body or my hair looks like. It’s hard as a young woman when your body’s up for discussion.

The people who post these comments should remember these are real people they’re talking about. They probably wouldn’t say those things to someone’s face.

I saw some racist comments when I first started, saying I’d been cast just to tick a diversity check box and for PC reasons. It was crazy, because me being there means there’s now a grand total of two Black women on the street. Is that a preposterous number?

Had you ever auditioned for a soap before?

I’d done self-tapes for roles, most recently for Naomi in Emmerdale, but in Corrie as Dee-Dee is my first big telly job. I’d done some adverts and just before I joined, I was teaching and directing. I also write and perform spoken word.

It started when I filmed one in my back garden in lockdown. I put it on the internet and people seemed to connect with it and I got commissioned. I write about whatever is in my heart, such as the murder of George Floyd, the scrapping of free school meals, body issues and social media.

Do you get demoralised when you’re turned down for jobs?

What’s meant for you won’t pass you by. I believe in a higher plan. This year there were so many roles that I wanted to get and I didn’t. Now I know why, because I wouldn’t have been available for Dee-Dee.

What did you want to be growing up?

As a child I wanted to be an actor, a singer and a princess! In my teens I wanted a career in law but my drama teacher encouraged me to pursue acting, so I turned down a place at law school.

I remember my mum saying to me, ‘If you do law, I’ll get you a mint-green Fiat 500.’ We’re a very humble family, so I don’t know how she thought she would pay for that but she was desperate to bribe me into it!

Are you and Dee-Dee alike?

We’re both bubbly and friendly. Even reading her bio before I joined, I connected with her. But I’m not as adventurous as her when it comes to clothes. I’ll always pick comfort.

How was your first day on the cobbles?

Nerve-wracking. I’d moved house literally the week before, so I was living out of boxes and I’d had two weeks to learn all these scripts. But my first scene was with all the Bailey family and they just embraced me.

What do you enjoy away from work?

I like to sing. I’m in a band at my church. I volunteer at my local branch of the Samaritans. A really wonderful young man from home took his own life in 2018 so I’ve volunteered with them ever since. It’s a privilege to provide that support for people. I try to do it once a week. It can be tricky with my job but I always look forward to doing shifts.

Do you have a bucket list?

I would love to carry on playing Dee-Dee and I’ve always had an ambition to play Lady Macbeth one day.

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