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CLAIRE GETS A CLOSE CALL-UP Jun 8 2002
Daily Record

Ex-Brookside star reveals she's going back to her favourite soap and backs Marti Pellow's bid to revive his career in the West End


BROOKSIDE exile Claire Sweeney yesterday revealed she is set for a return to the soap in which she made her name.

Claire, who now has a flourishing stage career and a record contract, will return for a another spell as downtrodden Lindsay Corkhill in Brookside this summer.

The actress, whose career took off after she appeared in Celebrity Big Brother, walked out of the Close two years ago, but had always left the door open for a return.

She revealed she left the soap because people were beginning to think she and Lindsay Corkhill were the same person.

Claire recalled: "I was raped, smuggled drugs and had a lesbian affair. What made me laugh was that a lot of critics thought I was just like my character.

"That's why they got such a surprise when I did Celebrity Big Brother because I'm so different from Lindsay.

"I still watch it. I'm going back into Brookie for a couple of weeks at the end of the summer. At the end of the last run, I got into a taxi and said, 'I'll see you soon, dad,' because I had a job in Newcastle. That door was wide open.

"I don't know what the storyline is yet. I trust Phil Redmond it will be a great storyline. I left and promised that I would go back at some point."

Meanwhile, Lindsay, who played Roxie Hart in the sell-out show Chicago in London's West End, has backed former Wet, Wet, Wet singer Marti Pellow to be a big hit in the show.

She is certain the Scot - who has fought back from heroin addiction - will shine during his 15-week London run as sleazy lawyer Billy Flynn, which begins next week.

The 31-year-old beauty said: "Marti is a great singer. He is very charismatic and will pull through even if he is nervous. I'd say to him to enjoy it and not to put too much pressure on himself.

"It is demanding, because there are two shows on Fridays and Saturdays, but if you love what you are doing, it's not an ordeal. It's a pleasure.

"I love the music in Chicago and my role was just so feisty with a lot of comedy. It was a great part and it's a great musical. It is the best show in town.

"Marti's part doesn't require a lot of dancing and he won't need to throw himself around the stage, so he'll be fit enough to handle the demands. I wish him lots of luck."

Before returning to Liverpool, Claire also plans to launch her pop career with a special showcase at London's 20th Century Theatre.

Following her success on Celebrity Big Brother last year, she signed a deal with Telstar records and began working on her debut album, called Claire, due out on July 15.

The album features her versions of classic songs such as The Look of Love and This Girl's In Love With You.

But Claire doesn't want to be lumped in with the dozens of soap stars who have switched careers - with mixed fortunes.

She said: "Soap-star-turned-pop-star suggests I haven't had a singing career before, but I've been singing since I was 14 and gigged, too.

"It's been 16 years of hard work for this supposed overnight success that I've got."

She added: "I love singing. I did a tiny bit of singing in Brookie and I'm very proud of the album."

Her first single, When You Believe, is out on July 7 and was written by Wendy Page, who penned Martine McCutcheon's first single, Perfect Moment.

That track topped the charts, but Claire has more modest ambitions.

She revealed: "All I wanted to do was to sing songs that I really loved and not to feel compromised by the experience.

"I don't know if I will even get on Top Of The Pops. I'm not setting goals for myself in case I get disappointed. My goal was just to be proud of the album.

"I did one track in Los Angeles and one in Abbey Road. The one brilliant thing was being in the Beatles studio recording when I was surprised by Michael Aspel for This Is Your Life.

"The studio is steeped in history. If someone had told me a year ago that I'd be recording in Abbey Road and have that happen to me, I wouldn't have believed them."

MEANWHILE, Claire has laughed off rumours that have been circulating that she is expecting her first child.

She said: "The papers said I was pregnant, but it is the immaculate conception. I was waiting for the three wise men to appear.

"I think what it was is that I was doing a video shoot and had just had a hearty lunch and I was rubbing my stomach. Photographers can really catch you at an unfortunate angle."

Claire added: "There's no baby. I would like children in the future, but I'm single at the moment. So, until I'm with a partner, it's not a consideration."

Instead, she plans to concentrate on her career.

Claire said: "I get all these wonderful opportunities coming my way. I'm single. I don't have a family. I don't have to rush home from school and get school lunches ready and all that stuff. I've just got myself to think about and I'm just going along with all the opportunities."

The turning point in her career came when she appeared on Celebrity Big Brother, an experience she believes changed her life.

She said: "The offers came fast and furious after Big Brother. I had four record companies who wanted to sign me, but I wanted to do Chicago first.

"I could have cashed in and done an album straight after Big Brother, but I refused because I wanted to take my time and choose the songs carefully. My manager has told me it's a marathon, not a sprint."

Like most of the nation, Claire is intrigued by the latest batch of Big Brother guinea pigs.

She admitted: "I have been watching it. The current lot all knew what they were getting into. They know why they are going in and they've seen the previous Big Brothers. It brings out the extremes in people.

"I enjoyed being in the house. I keep in touch with Anthea. We got on well. I'd do it again because I enjoyed the experience and the money which was raised by Comic Relief made it all worth it."

Claire has also been working with Queen legend Brian May on his song Too Much Love Will Kill You.

She said: "I wrote him a letter with a CD of the song. He told me he was prepared to say no because he was so busy, but when he heard what I had done with it, he made certain he found time to play on it because he thought my version was lovely.

"He's a legend and I'm a big Queen fan. When that guitar kicks in, it just takes me back."