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Meet the Yorkshire Actress Swapping the Cobbles for the Dales

Meet the Yorkshire Actress Swapping the Cobbles for the Dales
January 2024
Reading time 3 Minutes

Former Coronation Street actress Paula Lane is joining the cast of Emmerdale

We meet her to find out more about her career in acting, and what to expect from her new Emmerdale character Ella Forster.

Originally from Hebden Bridge, Paula has lived in the Yorkshire countryside almost all her life but at 19 she headed to London to train at the prestigious Central School of Speech and Drama. ‘But I’ve always had the urge to come back home and have fresh air around me,’ she says. She began acting at an early age, having found a natural flair for it. ‘I wasn’t afraid of getting up and performing in front of people,’ she adds. ‘But there was nothing like what there is now with all these drama academies so I had to rely on going to college when the time came.’ Paula initially thought she’d follow in her mum’s footsteps and find a career as a nurse. ‘But my mum was hell-bent on me following my dream, which I guess a lot of parents would often try to steer you away from, but she obviously saw something in me,’ she admits. 

‘After drama school, I was really fortunate to be able to be signed quite quickly by my agent at the time.’ Paula made her professional acting debut in Heartbeat in 2009. Since then she has appeared in Going Postal by Terry Pratchett for Sky, The Royal and Doctors. ‘That was great because there was a little bit of hype around me as well at that time, being fresh out of drama school.’

Paula worked in department stores between jobs but was soon offered a role in Coronation Street. ‘It’s such a busy place to be,’ she reveals. ‘Especially when you’re only used to doing an episode here and there, so I had to learn pretty quickly on that job. It was a brilliant place to work and I quickly built up my craft because obviously there’s nothing like having to learn those scripts as quickly as they do. Paula was cast as Kylie, the half sister of Becky McDonald. ‘I knew that she was going to be a bit of a piece of work,’ she laughs. ‘But I wanted to make her very different to Becky, and I think with the choices I made the audience accepted her. I was fortunate enough to be put with the Platt family so I had a security there and I knew that my feet were under the table and I could settle down.’ 

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Paula’s time on the cobbles allowed her the opportunity to work with an impressive group of actors. ‘I had so many scraps as that character and with some really wonderful people like Michelle Keegan and Katherine Kelly and I think me and Helen [Worth] even had a few moments here and there! She was never quiet was she? She always kept people guessing and I think that’s why people really took to her. I was conscious that I wanted to make her likeable. I was part of the live episode too, and nothing beats that.’

During her time at Coronation Street, Paula married her partner Tom Shaw in May 2014 at Leeds Cathedral. ‘My son is nearly nine and my little girl is seven and a half and I’ve got a mad Labrador who is very much part of the family too,’ she laughs. ‘I’ve got a busy routine with all their activities, and it can be pretty chaotic at times, and me and my husband Tom also run a drama school [the Lane Shaw Academy] that’s local to us.’  Paula has dabbled in theatre too, playing Lily in The Bengal Lily at Manchester Royal Exchange, Lauren in the UK tour of Kinky Boots, and appearing in Road at Oldham Coliseum. ‘Even though I’ve been on screen [since Corrie], I’ve done lots of touring, musicals, panto – much more in terms of variety – and I feel like now is the perfect time to step back into a continuing drama and find a new character that I’m able to play for a bit longer than six months,’ Paula admits. ‘What’s brilliant about continuing drama is that it’s continuing – so you never know what’s next, or what the end point is, which I find quite exciting.’

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Paula has been shooting her first few scenes as Ella Forster in Emmerdale. 'I’ve grown up with Emmerdale,’ she tells us. ‘I think it was one of the first programmes I ever watched way back when Kim Tate was at the helm with Frank, and the Dingles had just come about.’ But this new character is a lifetime away from Paula’s portrayal of Kylie. ‘What I can tell you is that she’s very level-headed, she’s very professional, and she’s a good ally to have on your side,’ she says. ‘That said, she’s not one to be messed with. She’s got good morals and she’s very switched-on – I like that about her as well. She’s very quick off the mark, but not in a scrappy way like Kylie was. She won’t dive in and clobber somebody because they’ve said something wrong, she’ll analyse the situation a bit more and get a better understanding of it. I think she's keen to make new friends in the village.’

Paula says the Yorkshire countryside is in in her blood, and she was quickly made to feel at home in Emmerdale. The crew had warned her how bleak it can get, but she’s used to that. ‘I know what it’s like to be battered by the wind and rain,’ she laughs. In Ella’s first few scenes, viewers will see her sticking up for Mandy Dingle (played by Lisa Riley) at a veterinary ball. ‘Everybody has just been wonderful – so welcoming and warm,’ Paula says. ‘I’ve worked with a lot of the crew previously so it’s been lovely to see familiar faces. A lot of my scenes have been with Lisa Riley and she’s completely taken me under her wing, I’ve not had to ask for anything. It’s like being at school again, going into a new canteen and not knowing who to sit with – it’s like starting anew. So far I’m really happy to have joined, and I can’t wait to meet more people.’

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As audiences look forward to seeing Paula back on their screens, we ask her for her best advice for budding actors. ‘Try to find a local drama group where you can get used to reading plays and performing scenes,’ she says. ‘But also go to watch lots of theatre. That’s definitely something I’ve been working on for the past couple of years because I suddenly realised that when you’re living in this bubble and only going to work, you’re not getting to see what’s out there and also who’s out there. You have to network an enormous amount in this game, and keep those relationships going. It’s about being a people person. Find where you fit within that, and where your strengths are. You’ve always got to be five steps ahead. Have a clear plan of where you want to be and don’t let anyone stop you. It is a really hard business to crack, and insanely competitive, and I do believe I’m one of the lucky few who’ve been able to carve out a career to do this professionally and I don’t take that for granted.’


A Yorkshire actor you’d love to work with?
Judi Dench.

Your favourite Emmerdale storyline ever?
The storm which damaged the Woolpack, which is when Tricia died. That’s vivid in my memory.

What are you watching right now?
I’m obsessed with Selling Sunset and it couldn’t be any further from Yorkshire if it tried! It’s pure escapism. I can’t even work out whether I’m into it because I like them or whether I’m just so astonished by the way they operate.  

Someone who inspires you?
My mum. She works in a hospice and deals with some very emotional situations but in her 60s she still works so hard and does so much for her grandchildren.

What does the future hold for you in 2024?
I want to reconnect with my friends and I used my time in December to reflect on that and nourish those relationships. I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself and I’m just going to let things come to me and look after those who need it most.

Emmerdale airs on ITV and is available to stream on ITVX

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