Sacha Parkinson on playing Connie Hawkins in ITV’s Mr Selfridge

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Ex-Corrie star Sacha Parkinson reveals she was a huge fan of Mr Selfridge before joining the new series, which airs Sunday nights on ITV, as Kitty Edwards’ fiery younger sister, Connie Hawkins.

“It’s amazing to be part of Mr Selfridge because I had watched the show from the very first series and really loved it. It’s a show my family and friends are massive fans of too. They were already avid watchers before I was cast in the series and I really like that they are true fans, and won’t just be watching because I am in it.

“It’s a bonus to be stepping into something with a massive fan base around it. I think it’s an amazing thing to be part of and I feel very lucky.

“I love period dramas. It’s interesting to see a piece of our history and even though a lot of them are based on historical facts, there’s still something magical and fairy-tale in their style. I think they are so beautiful, in particular the costumes!”
Sacha shot to fame at the age of 16 playing Sian Powers in Coronation Street. Since leaving the cobbles in 2011, she has gone on to star in dramas such as The Mill, By Any Means and The Driver.

Speaking about her blooming career and aspirations Sacha says: “Filming a drama like Mr Selfridge is so different to Corrie. The pace is a lot slower and there aren’t so many scenes shot in one day, which allows more time for creativity. But I love soaps because they have roots and are easy to watch. For me it’s a nice contrast. As an actress I enjoy different experiences and every set is a different experience.

“I think if you’re rooted to one place for so long, you can exhaust the experience and it can become a happy routine. I’m looking to keep on working on different projects and exploring different characters. I love meeting so many types of people and by taking on new roles I can never lack new material and influences, which is great.”

In Mr Selfridge, Sacha plays Connie Hawkins, who is introduced to audiences as the sister of Selfridge’s Head of Beauty, Kitty. Kitty has come a long way since starting her career at the store and is now married to journalist and author Frank Edwards. When we meet Connie, it’s clear Kitty and Frank have concerns about Connie’s troublesome and carefree attitude, particularly when it comes to her job in Selfridge’s loading bay.

“Connie is an unrefined fireball of energy,” says Sacha about her new character. “Her attitude towards the world is the polar opposite to that of Kitty. She is a real tomboy and totally fearless. She is straight talking, confident, and unaware of other people’s standing in society.

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“Connie is so different to her sister. Her manner puts Kitty and Frank on edge because they never know what she is going to do or say on a day-to-day basis.

“When I took on the role it took me a while to figure out if Connie is so stubborn and abrupt to people because she is uneducated as to how to behave in high society, or whether she just genuinely doesn’t give a damn what people think of her! But as the series progresses, she adapts to her new lifestyle, learns to like people and gradually becomes more ladylike.

“Connie is so fun to play because she is such a huge character with a lot of personality. She doesn’t stand for any rubbish and certainly wouldn’t be intimated by anybody. She can also be really sweet, even though sometimes her actions get her in trouble.”
Sacha continues: “Connie works in the Selfridge’s loading bay as one of the women employed when the men were off at war. It’s now 1919 and the ex-servicemen have returned to their jobs, working alongside the women. Connie hates the fact she is being told what to do by men who haven’t been there in a long time and don’t know what is what. She will not be told she is in the wrong and patronised by men.

“I can imagine that when the men came back to reclaim their jobs it must have been upsetting for women to be pushed to one side and looked on as second best. It shouldn’t have been like that. In the story the issue is only touched upon for a couple of episodes with Connie’s character because as soon as she realises there is nothing she can do she moves on and eventually claims another role in the store.”

When the women have to leave their jobs in the loading bay, Connie is lucky enough to gain a job in the store is an assistant in the fashion department, working with Miss Mardle.

“Kitty helps Connie get a job in fashion,” explains Sacha. “It’s good for her, especially seeing as at the beginning of the series she has a lot of energy and it could have been risky to put her on the shop floor in fashion when they didn’t know how she would be with customers or what trouble she might cause next.

“I think it is great for Connie’s journey to be put on the shop floor in fashion, right in the mix of it all. You can see her really mature. She doesn’t lose any of her bolshiness, but she definitely finds something that she’s is good at and has an interest in.
“Miss Mardle really takes Connie under her wing. She has a natural talent for sales and Miss Mardle nurtures that. They develop a really nice partnership, which is so lovely to see. Connie has someone to keep her on the ground and focussed.”

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Sacha spent much of her time on set filming on the main shop floor in Selfridge’s fashion department. So, did Sacha enjoy being surrounded by the latest fashion trends from 1919?

“I came straight onto Mr Selfridge from the set of The Mill, another period drama. For that drama I was covered head to toe in dirt as it was set in a grimy period about the industrial revolution. Therefore, even though Connie is far from glamorous in comparison to other characters, she felt glamorous to me.

“Walking onto the set of Mr Selfridge for the first time was amazing. The shop floor sets are beautifully designed. All the clothes look stunning, as do the actors in costume.

“It’s lovely to go into work and get made up. It took me about 40 minutes in hair and make-up because I had to wear a hair-piece at the back. Connie’s costumes are quite confortable for the period. She wears an ankle length skirt and a blouse.”

Sacha continues: “If I could have kept anything from costume it would have been a pretty clip that sits around the collar like a tie. I would definitely wear that today with a nice shirt. I also really liked some of the period jewellery we used.

“If I had the chance I would love to live in that period of time. I think everyone looked so clean cut and elegant. My style is far from elegant – I tend to wear trainers, hoodies and a bomber jacket or denim. Much of the time I look like I closed my eyes and picked things out of my wardrobe!” laughs Sacha.

Sacha admits she enjoys shopping in Selfridges in London and in her home city of Manchester.

“Selfridges is a shop I go in regularly. There’s a massive one in The Trafford Centre and another in Manchester close to where I live. When I was filming Mr Selfridge I went into the one on Oxford Street. I thought the one in Manchester was big enough but the one in London is absolutely huge!

“I really enjoyed going to Selfridges. I can’t believe the main structure is still there after all these years. The store has stood the test of time, which is an amazing thing.

“I stood in the store and thought, ‘I’m filming how the store began’. It was really surreal and fascinating.

“Harry Selfridge achieved so much and it’s interesting to learn about his life and how it all began. He was a very modern man with modern ideas, so brave and positive. The whole experience for me has been a real history lesson that I’ve really enjoyed.”

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.