Steph Davis on ‘whirlwind’ Corrie comeback – and ‘relating’ to character

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Stephanie Davis makes a triumphant return to our screens this week in ITV's Coronation Street, and has opened up to OK! about the "whirlwind" comeback.

The 30-year-old actress says she's in the best place she's ever been – loved-up with boyfriend Joe McKalroy, 26, and bringing up her "amazing" son Caben, 6.

The former Hollyoaks star tells us about her journey “to hell and back” to get where she is today, and reflects on all that she’s been through.

On a stunning family shoot in the lavender fields, she shares her wedding plans, helping other women achieve sobriety, and hints about her hopes for “spicy” new Corrie character Courtney Vance.

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There was a time when actress Stephanie Davis was rarely out of the headlines, and many of them were far from complimentary.

She spent years battling her demons in the full glare of the spotlight, following her break-out role as Sinead O’Connor in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.

But the Stephanie that’s sitting down to chat with us today, preparing to make her incredible on-screen comeback, is no longer that “little girl”. After turning 30 earlier this year, she’s older and wiser, of course – but she’s also humble, thankful and incredibly happy.

“When I look back to that little girl and at who I am today, I’m grateful to know all that I know,” she tells us. “Everybody goes through ups and downs at different points in their lives, but these hard times are where you grow as a person, learn the most valuable life lessons and get redirected on to the path you are meant to be on.”

In her darkest hour, Stephanie’s mental health hit rock bottom and she considered taking her own life.

“I don’t recognise the girl from my past, and sometimes I find it hard to believe that was me at all, and to see what she went through,” she says. “But I have so much compassion and care for her. I’m so proud of her and all she went through and endured. It’s made me the strong and resilient woman I am today.”

After our stunning family shoot with her partner Joe McKalroy and son Caben, six, Stephanie is sitting back at home with a Coronation Street script on her lap, and son Caben and dog Sandy running around the house. Proving she can pull it together when it counts, she jokes about her day in the lavender fields.

“I can’t deal with any type of bugs,” she laughs. “My legs were like jelly, I couldn’t walk. I was petrified! It was my worst nightmare, I don’t know how I did it. You’d never know what was going on behind the scenes – it was hell!”

Now fully recovered, Stephanie is clearly bursting with pride and excitement – and why shouldn’t she be? She’s making her acting comeback with the role of her dreams, is happily and healthily sober, and is settled in a brilliant relationship with 26-year-old Joe.

“You know when you’re younger and your mum says about a boy, ‘You’ll know when you know’? Now I know what she meant – I just know!” she beams. “Joe’s amazing. I’m so blessed to have him in my life. He’s an amazing person, an amazing dad, and he’s got the most amazing heart.

“And Caben’s an amazing kid. It’s like he’s been here before, he’s got a really good head on him. He’s my world, my everything. Joe and Caben’s bond is really special. I didn’t think I could love Joe any more until I saw their relationship.”

Stephanie and Joe are not officially engaged yet, but from what she tells us – that they’ve already “planned the wedding and everything we want” – a trip down the aisle might not be far off, if she can find the time between filming and looking after Caben.

“I know the proposal will be perfect, but he says he’s going to do it when I least expect it!” she smiles. “He’s always joking and getting down on one knee. To be honest, I’d say yes wherever he asked me!”

Stephanie made headlines again recently – for an entirely positive reason – when she began filming her scenes as Coronation Street newcomer Courtney Vance, who makes her glamorous entrance on the famous cobbles this week.

By her own admission, Stephanie has been to “hell and back” and spent years “fighting to show” the confident, caring, and reflective woman we’re seeing today.

While she started acting professionally as a baby-faced seven-year-old, she’s of course best known as Hollyoaks’ Sinead O’Connor, who she played from 2010 to 2019, with a three-year break in the middle.

After returning to the set, she again demonstrated her fighting spirit, going on to win the coveted Best Actress gong at the 2019 Inside Soap Awards, beating her EastEnders and Emmerdale competition.

Battling an addiction is incredibly difficult without the added pressure of being a household name and the regular subject of tabloid gossip columns, which she agrees takes it to “another level”.

But Stephanie has a wise head on her shoulders. Having already been through more than many people experience in a lifetime, she’s now sober, attends regular recovery meetings, and even acts as a sponsor to other women.

“When I was in that bad phase, I was suicidal,” she says. “I didn’t see a way out. That’s why I love what I do now, because I can show people that if I can do it, they can too. I can say, ‘This is where I was, and this is what happened, and this is where I am now.’ I can help them through their journey – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

“I’ve grown up and I’ve worked my arse off to be where I am today – hell yes, I’m proud of myself! My dad always tells me there’s one thing I am, and that’s a fighter, and I really am.”

In 2020, Liverpool-born Stephanie took a break from the limelight to focus instead on Caben-Albi, who was born in January 2017 and named after her grandad Albert. Becoming a mum relatively young was a lot for Stephanie but, as she says, she’s made of strong stuff, and it turned out to be the making of her.

She started dating Joe in 2021, then earlier this year decided it was time to get back to doing what she loves: acting.

“I was in Hollyoaks for 10 years, but while I was working, I never got to see Caben,” she says. “Those early years are so precious and I thought, ‘He needs his mum, I need to be there,’ so I took three or four years out.

“This year, I was sitting at home and I said to Joe, ‘I need to do what I love, I need to hear “rolling up” and “action”.’ I was welling up, saying, ‘When I hear that, I’ll be back at home.’”

She approached a new acting agent with only one request – she wanted a part in Coronation Street, and “maybe throw
in a panto”, she laughs.

The following day, her new agent called her about the Courtney Vance role, saying she needed to send in an audition tape.

Courtney arrives in Weatherfield this week as the wife of wealthy Darren, played by Ryan Early (also known as Lee Bryce in The Archers). As her husband focuses on making business deals with Dev Alahan, Courtney sets her sights on Dev’s son, Aadi, played by Adam Hussain.

“I looked at the brief and thought, ‘This is meant to be, this is mine,’” she laughs. “I did a self tape and said, ‘I’m making this the best self tape ever.’ So my mum, my best mate Cath and Joe all got involved. I got all dressed up and acted out each scene as if I was filming it.

“Joe played Aadi, Cath came in for different parts, and we spent the whole day doing it. Because I’m an actress, I was saying, ‘No, you don’t say it like that, you need to take a pause on that.’ They were laughing at me, saying, ‘Oh, here she goes, she’s back!’”

After a few anxious weeks, Stephanie got the call she so desperately wanted.

“I burst out crying,” she says. “I was just so thrilled. It’s a rarity to get a part from a first audition after a long break, and I really wanted it because I knew I could do this character justice.

“It was delayed shock. So a few days later, I was like, ‘I got it!’ and it sunk in. Then Joe and I went out for tapas and ate our weight in food, came home and put on an episode of Corrie!”

As much as she’s thrilled to chat about her latest achievement, Stephanie doesn’t shy away from addressing her low points. She’s open about her past struggles, and isn’t afraid to admit she still needs to put the work in to stay happy and healthy.

“I believe everything we go through is preparing us for something,” she says. “Because I went on that journey of self love and self worth, I now know I’m a damn good actress – I never had that self belief before. I’m really proud of myself, I’m really proud of Caben, and I’m proud of me and Joe and what we’ve built together as a family.

“I achieved so much when I was in such a bad headspace, like winning Best Actress in the Inside Soap Awards, so now I’m excited to see what I can do!”

From what she tells us, Stephanie’s character Courtney does indeed sound like the perfect role for her – she’s “loads of fun”, a bit sassy, but also flawed. When we hint there’s a few similarities between the two, Stephanie agrees.

“I absolutely love Courtney, there are so many layers to her,” she says. “She’s this big bravado person, but deep down, all she wants is to be loved. You can tell she didn’t have a good upbringing and she’s never truly been loved.

“I feel sorry for her, I feel sad for her. I really relate to her. It gave me that extra push to want to play her, because I have that connection with her.

“She’s also loads of fun and causes loads of trouble. I’ve just been reading some scripts and laughing my head off, but I’d love to see some deeper, dark and gritty stuff with her as well.”

Stephanie started filming for the soap back in May, and says learning her lines and being back on set was “just like riding a bike”. But despite being an old pro, her first scene was still a pinch-me moment.

“It was so iconic to film my first scene in the Rovers,” she says. “I stood outside and took a little video of my face to send to Joe and my mum of the director saying ‘rolling up’, and I was welling up hearing those words.

“Acting is my passion and I love everything about filming,” she adds. “I love the lighting, the sound, the directing, the creativity. I live and breathe it.”

With Courtney expected to bring a bit of sexy sass to the cobbles, Stephanie says she isn’t planning any family viewing parties just yet.

“I think I’ll just let Caben watch my opening scenes,” she says. “He’s so young and Courtney is a bit spicy!”

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