SHE’S just seduced a man 10 years her junior in Coronation Street but actress Kate Ford’s nerves on the set had nothing to do with the age gap.
Kate, 35, who plays toxic Tracy Barlow, says she was anxious about doing the intimate scenes simply because she’s out of practice kissing men other than her husband.
And if Kate isn’t careful, anxiety can plunge her into a nightmare of panic attacks and even, as she reveals today, obsessive compulsive disorder which turns life into a constant repeat of ritualised tasks and checks.
In the soap, she’s bedding cobbles hunk Ryan Connor, played by Sol Heras, 25, and she admitted: “I was quite nervous. I’ve been married for six years and not kissed anyone else. You feel out of that whole thing.”
Her life with TV director husband Jon Connerty, the father of her four-year-old son Otis, has changed her outlook and reduced her tendency towards panic attacks.
“A few years back Tracy seduced David Platt, but at that stage in my life I was dating. I’d only just met Jon,” she said. “So I was kind of into that whole thing of going out and snogging people. The age difference made it slightly embarrassing too – I’m in cougar territory now!”
Not that Kate is against age-gap relationships. “I had a younger boyfriend once,” she said. “I was 28 and he was 21. It lasted six months but it was more of a fling.
“My grandad was younger than my gran. He lied about his age after writing to her when he was in the Army at 19 and he said he was six years older because he wanted gran to take him seriously.
“He even persuaded friends to throw a 25th birthday party when he was 19. They had a cake and everything. He didn’t tell her his age until after they married. She was furious. They’ve passed away but they were happily married for 60 years.”
Kate and Jon live in south London and juggle work with looking after Otis. Yet, as happy as they are, Kate is honest about the impact of a child on a relationship.
“It doesn’t make it easier, if anything it makes it harder,” she said candidly. “We row a lot more now. We bickered every day until Otis reached two, because we were so tired. We never used to argue in quite the same way.
“I don’t think children necessarily bring couples closer. People imagine that will happen but most divorces are in the first two years of a child’s life.
“I think you have to really work at things once you have a child but then it does give you a different dimension to your relationship, because you’ve got so many more shared experiences.”
Otis started school last month and Kate took two weeks off to settle him. There are no immediate plans for child No2.
“I think I’d like another one, maybe in a year or two,” she said cautiously. “At first Jon was like, ‘Oh, I think we’ll just stick to one,’ because children are quite tiring – you don’t realise until you’ve got one. But then the other day he said maybe he would like another.”
Kate divides her time between London and Manchester’s Coronation Street studio. She is a devoted mum but admits she has always been a worrier.
In the past, she has talked openly about her experiences with anxiety and panic attacks, but now she reveals she also suffers from OCD.
“In my 20s I did have really bad OCD,” she said. “I’d check things continually. I could check the oven 20 times before going to bed and all the sockets had to be turned off. It’s like your brain gets stuck in a loop. I do still have a bit of OCD.
“When I’m in Manchester, I do this thing on the phone with Jon every single night, where I go through a checklist of things he needs to do before he goes to bed.
“I say, ‘Have you checked the oven’s off? Have you checked you’ve locked the back door? Is the car locked? Is the intercom on to hear Otis? Is the alarm on?’
“I do it every night – I’ve never missed. I have to do it. One time I couldn’t get in touch with him and I couldn’t get to sleep.
“Jon indulges me in it. He probably hates it and I don’t know whether he’s really checked or not, but he says yes.”
Now Kate tries to keep her anxiety under control with a healthy diet and lots of sleep. “Now when I check things just once, I feel I’ve done really well,” she said.
“If you’re tired, you’re more prone to it. I’ve had problems with anxiety and panic attacks in the past and if I’m not looking after myself, not getting enough exercise, eating the wrong things and drinking too much, I’m worse.
“So I’m trying to swim two or three times a week and I don’t eat junk food. I’ve never eaten a
McDonald’s in my life.”
Cheerful, self-deprecating, funny and open, Kate has little in common with her scheming alter-ego Tracy Barlow.
She had a happy childhood, growing up in Salford, Manchester, and then the Lake District before moving to London to study at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art.
She joined Coronation Street in 2002 and left five years later to pursue other roles. Tracy was written out – jailed for the murder of boyfriend Charlie Stubbs. She returned in 2010, freed after a miscarriage of justice, and has been causing trouble since.
Even her fling with toyboy Ryan is partly motivated by a wicked desire to annoy his mum Michelle Connor, who is now dating Tracy’s ex-husband Steve McDonald.
“Ryan put the idea in her head when he started flirting with her,” Kate said.
“Then she saw his mum Michelle in the doorway and realised that he was doing it to get at her.
“So then she thinks it’s a really good idea,” Kate laughed. “She throws herself at him actually! I don’t mean to be blunt but she’s liking the sex.
“For him it’s more of a relationship but for her it’s a bit of fun – she really fancies him and enjoys getting at Michelle.”
To add to Michelle’s horror, Tracy announces this week she is pregnant. Ryan, not surprisingly, is shellshocked, while Michelle is convinced Tracy has only done it to spite her and Steve.
Later Tracy takes great pleasure in announcing in the pub that she is going to be the mum of Michelle’s grandchild. Not surprisingly, with such great plots, Kate is happy to stay on the cobbles.
“Definitely for the next few years, if they’ll have me,” she said. “I used to get itchy feet, but my priorities have changed. I love Coronation Street. I need to make money for my family and I know which side my bread is buttered.”