It's always exciting when an old soap favourite makes a comeback - but especially when it's an actress as successful as Tracie Bennett.

The 59-year-old Mancunian made her Coronation Street debut as Sharon Bentley - Rita Tanner's foster daughter - in 1982. She left Weatherfield two years later, before reprising the role for a few months in 1999.

Since then, she's become one of theatre's foremost leading ladies. She has starred in West End productions such as Les Miserables and Hairspray, has won two Olivier Awards, and was nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Judy Garland in End Of The Rainbow on Broadway.

Now, she's back on our screens once again as the troublesome Sharon who, when she last graced the cobbles, had a huge falling-out with Rita (because Sharon tried to sell the Kabin so that she could buy a new house in Bolton).

Sharon has said she's back on the cobbles to make amends with Rita, but, following Monday's episode, viewers have now discovered the truth - her nephew is drug dealer Harvey (Will Mellor), and, after he was double-crossed by Leanne (Jane Danson), together they are hatching a plan to get him out of prison.

Here, Bennett reveals more about the drama to come.

What is it about Sharon that makes you want to come back and revisit her?

I was told the storyline was dark. You're interested in the flaws of somebody - especially when it's kind of family-related and there's guilt at the back of that, and duty. Already those things were whirring in my head going, 'Oh god, my acting chops have to come back!'

Certain people were saying to me, 'The pandemic, it's all right for you - you're earning now. Just because you did it [Coronation Street] before, you must have begged them to go back'. Think what you like, but no. I've left myself free for this time, thinking that everything would start back - but, of course, it's not.

I can't bother about what other people think. The thing that drew me back was they knew I'd want a good storyline.

Were you nervous about reprising this role after such a long time?

I was scared to come back because there's a lot of people watching you, with no rehearsals - and you might mess it all up.

I'm older and my memory is not the same. And then also, the pandemic - there's a make-up bag that you have to get out every morning. They've washed your brushes, you have to lay it all out. So I found it difficult to get the routine. But these are all brilliant challenges. I'm skipping to work; I've always loved it.

Did you go back and watch any old footage of Sharon?

I didn't. I tried to remember the essence of her... Sharon was gobby, impulsive. She's got a good heart. She wasn't that horrible, she just had this own logic of hers, and she couldn't see what Rita was meaning. The impulsiveness is still there.

It's really complex; I guess it's my job to make it not look like that. Sometimes it's obvious that she's manipulating because the camera's on her, and sometimes it's not obvious, and you think, 'Is she lying, is she not lying?'

You cut your hair to help you get back into the character...

Yeah. Also, she's had cancer, so I whitened it because it comes back coarse after cancer. And your nails are a nightmare, so I didn't have my nails all done.

It's just a responsibility, and nothing comes easy to me - and it never has. I think I've made myself more nervous by trying to get it right all the time. I used to really beat myself up. But now I'm like, 'If on the day I can't cry, don't force it. I can't cry and that's OK'.

Corrie was a training ground for you in 1982. You must have some great memories...

In real life, we used to have Group Wednesday and all the women would be in the green room. We'd just have a girly gossip. They were northern, strong women. And I was like, at first, 'Why did they want me to join this group? It's Pat Phoenix and it's Elsie Tanner!' Corrie is always on the telly when you're growing up - it was with us. So, you just knew these people.

Have people still recognised you as Sharon over the years?

To be honest, I've never been one to look for it. My sister says, 'Do you not get enough of people staring at you?' I'm like, 'Are they?!' I don't even think about it. And maybe that's helpful.

I've got a big life outside - I always have had. But, say I go and see my mates and we go pub-crawling when I'm not working... It would always be about 12 o'clock at night in the club when everybody was a bit drunk and they'd grab and thrust you over to their family: 'You have to say hello to my mum!' And you would, but I'm like, 'Why? Oh, because of that [Corrie]'. And then you just chat to them because that's who you're doing it for. I was brought up to be nice.

Do you have a first love: TV or theatre?

Honestly, I can't choose. Sometimes, you're doing 8 [shows] a week, and then sometimes Christmas, it's 12 a week. You have to live like a nun, and everything they tell you to eat - salmon, watercress - works. You've got to keep yourself like an athlete all the time. But, quite frankly, I like that discipline. I like that routine, and it's a way of life.

Watch Coronation Street on STV every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday