As seen in June issue of MilliOnAir Global Magazine
AWARD WINNING ACTRESS 59-year-old Denise Welch first appeared on the nation’s TV screens almost three decades ago, playing alongside Ant and Dec in Biker Grove.
She became a household name in 1993, when she appeared as Marsha Stubbs in the ITV drama Soldier Soldier, with Robson Green and Jerome Flynn. She even outsold Cher in the charts with a hit cover version of Cry Me a River. In 1997 she burst onto the screen as femme fatale Natalie Horrocks in the nation’s favorite soap, Coronation Street.
In her personal life, Denise is a tireless advocate for mental health and a champion of the LGBTQ community. She was recently voted Ally of the Year by Diva Magazine.
Her first short film, Black Eyed Susan, deals with the issue of depression, which Denise has spoken openly about over the past year. The film has just won a prestigious award at the Silicon Beach Film Festival in Los Angeles and has been nominated for many more.
The film also stars her 16-year-old son, Louie Healy, who is also winning rave reviews. Denise’s other son is 28-year-old rock star Matt Healy, who fronts the band, The 1975.
Denise has been married to celebrity artist Lincoln Townley for four years. She’s talked openly about her battle with alcohol and both she and Lincoln have been free from drugs and alcohol for over five years.
She’s been a constant presence on UK television, with hit shows like Boy Meets Girl, and she won rave reviews for her one-off in EastEnders last year.
This year sees her fulfill a childhood dream by appearing at The London Palladium in the musical The Wind in the Willows.
You are about to play Mrs. Otter in The Wind in the Willows. If you came back as an animal, which one would it be?
It would have to be a sloth, not because of being lazy; in fact it’s the opposite as my life can be manic. But when I do get home and have the time there is nothing better than getting the make -up off, slipping into the old sweat pants and curling up on the sofa to watch a box set. The kids and my husband laugh when they see me and say I look a bit like a sloth on the couch.
What was your favorite story as a child?
Funny you should ask, but truly my parents used to read Wind in the Willows to me. It was just magical and I would imagine the characters as if they were real. For those old enough to remember, I used to love Watch With Mother and as well as Andy Pandy, the Wooden Tops, and I adored Tales From The River Bank. Of course, I read Wind in the Willows to my children too.
What was your first pet?
My family lived in Monkseaton, Whitley Bay. Me and my younger sister Debbie, who was nine at the time, had always dreamed of having a horse and we came home one day after a picnic to see a great commotion outside our house. My first thought was that something awful had happened, so I ran to where the crowd was only to see my mum and dad and this beautiful horse – and it was ours! We named him Sam and he went on to win dressage competitions. I was 12 years old it was just a dream come true.
Do you have any pets now?
Our dog passed on last year and we were all very sad. We are all away so much it just wouldn’t be fair to take on another animal so we just take joy in our friend’s pets.
You have played in many pantos – which is your favorite character?
Many years ago, I played Jack in Jack and the Beanstalk. I contracted pleurisy but kept going – as a result I fell off the beanstalk and woke up in hospital muttering about getting up the beanstalk.
I drove to my friends late on Christmas Eve – the now sadly departed Daily Mail writer Lester Middlehurst and his partner Paul Cooper – and my car window broke. The snow was piling in and I had to call out a mechanic. All my wages went to him that Christmas!
This year I am playing Mother Nature in the same panto in Newcastle and I’m really looking forward to it.
You are singing in Wind in the Willows. What are your musical influences?
I used to have really short hair at school so people thought I was a Slade fan. But in fact I was just a suede head. My musical influences were more soul and disco. Donna Summers was my favorite and of course Donny Osmond was my crush. Honestly I had dinner with him a few years back and felt that teenage feeling around him all over again. He was just lovely.
Your son Matt is a hugely successful rock star. Have you given him any tips on singing?
Lol! Well I always taught my kids to be relaxed and believe in themselves while staying grounded.
Remember to work hard in your craft. Even though Matt is a brilliant singer, he still takes lessons and works hard. I think the reason he is so successful is because he tells a story through his songs and people feel the empathy.
So many singers can belt out a great tune but they do not feel it. You can tell he feels every moment when he sings. I am just so proud of both my boys I could scream.
Were you surprised to be cast in the role of Mrs Otter?
I was in shock! I am so excited to be working with such an amazing cast and crew. Standing there auditioning with some of the finest performers in the West End was surreal. But as everyone keeps telling me, I would not have got the part if I weren’t right for it. I have been in musicals before but it’s been a while. I almost fell off my chair when the cast album went to number one in Movers and Shaker on Amazon.
Have you appeared at the Palladium before?
When I was a little girl Sunday Night at the Palladium was on and I just loved to watch it. Especially the Tiller Girls. It was the night before school and past my bedtime so I would sit on the couch and hold my breath hoping not to be noticed. But it is a dream come true for me.
Your first short film, Black Eyed Susan, is winning rave reviews – and awards. What inspired you to make it?
Being a strong advocate of mental health charities and talking about my own depression I wanted to show others how it feels to have clinical depression. It has proved to be very powerful and I’m so pleased at the response. It was a total shock to win an award in LA. The brilliant Nick Rowntree wrote and directed it and I was co-producer. My friends Kacey Ainsworth and Angela Lonsdale guest star.
Your son also appears in the film. How did that come about?
Well, we needed a teenage boy to play the role. He was free – and who better? Of course I champion my kids to the hilt but he really was the best for the part. He has a beautiful stillness about him and the camera loves him. It’s something you can’t achieve even if you take hundreds of acting classes. Louie is just lucky he has the natural ability.
If you had to give one piece to the younger you, what would it be?
DO NOT DRINK!
Thank you so much Denise, MilliOnAir lovs you!
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