Strictly Champion Alexandra Mardell On Corrie And A Love For Leeds


After leaving Coronation Street last year, Leeds actress Alexandra Mardell has won the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special and has plenty in the pipeline, as Bethan Andrews discovers (photos by Harry Livingstone)

From the very off, Leeds born and bred actress Alexandra Mardell is an infectious character to be around. As we sit and chat about all manner of life since leaving the set of Coronation Street last year, you can’t help but be captivated by her warm, passionate and bubbly outlook on life. It’s refreshing, and it’s clear that there’s a real Yorkshire hospitality deeply engrained in her. You can take the girl out of Leeds… 

Last year was quite the one for Alexandra, from making the decision to step away from her role as Emma Brooker in Coronation Street (a role she well and truly won the hearts of the nation in) to the year culminating in her winning the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special. That festive success was rather apt, looking back. “I’ve got videos of me doing Christmas performances as a young child and forcing my family to watch me do a show,” she laughs. 

Ali Chair

“My parents always took me around to musical theatre and drama classes, so it felt like it was the only thing I ever wanted to do,” she continues. “I probably started taking it seriously after high school, as school was very academic. Still, for me, I thought it was really important to get the best grades I could. I wanted people to know I was choosing to study to be an actor, but that I could do other things if I wanted to. I went to drama school and trained at Guildford School of Acting for three years before getting an agent and starting auditioning and making my own work.” 

A true Yorkshire grit and resilience is something that Alexandra thinks is an important element of making a career out of performance. “You’ve got to really believe in yourself, but be able to take the knockbacks,” she says. “You’ve got to be able to enjoy auditioning, too, which I really do. You never know if you’re going to make it or not, it’s just up to you how much work you put in.”

What’s clear from talking to Alexandra is how much she lives and breathes every aspect of performance, and one of the most exciting elements of leaving Coronation Street behind is to be able to pursue opportunities across theatre, radio, voiceover, and TV. In fact, theatre is clearly something that holds a special place in her heart. But another thing that holds a special place in her heart is the way in which she’s always managed to, accidentally in many ways, champion opportunities and the arts in the north. “I started my career on Vera with Brenda Blethyn on ITV so that was my first television role. She actually trained at the same place as me, and she’s really supportive of new graduates and upcoming actors, and championing the north,” says Mardell. “She came to watch me in a play that my theatre company put on and she asked me to audition for Vera. Playing against Brenda was amazing as my first job, she’s so lovely and I learnt so much from her. It was my first role, I was terrified and she really looked after me. It was so nice to be in the north. At drama school, you kind of get the fear that everything is in London or that you’ll have to change your accent, but then I realised I could champion where I was from. Most of my TV work has been in the north, and I’ve loved it. The work is out there for young, budding actors in the north!”  

I wonder what the highlights have been for Alexandra in her career so far. “Oh, I mean, definitely Corrie has to be a highlight! It was always something I dreamed of doing when I was younger, and I used to say to my friends that one day I’d be on it. So, when it happened I was like, see! So that was a massive dream come true,” she smiles. “I think when the storyline came out that I was part of the Macdonald family was amazing and getting to briefly work with Angela Griffin. She’s always been one of my role models, another Leeds lady, mixed race as well, I’ve always looked up to her so that was the cherry on top for me. Even now, I can still message her for advice.”  

Alexandra thought life might feel quiet after the hectic schedule of Coronation Street, but she was pleased to find that 2022 was incredibly busy, with lots of voiceover work and some new TV projects. Although not Yorkshire, Alexandra’s most recent television project saw her starring in ITV’s show The Family Pile, based in Liverpool and also representing the north. Unsurprisingly, given a brilliant cast and storyline, it was met with high acclaim, and it was a project that Mardell loved getting her teeth stuck into. “I worked with some stunning actresses who really looked after me, and I feel really lucky to have such amazing support on jobs,” she smiles. “It was such a lovely summer and we became a little family.” 

Clearly, variation is the spice of life for Alexandra, and she throws herself into every opportunity. “I can’t say I was expecting to win the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special!” she laughs. “I was terrified, but I thought I’d give it a go. I didn’t see that coming, but the opportunity to go on something like that is so lovely – I was honoured to be asked. Next, I’d love to do some theatre. At the moment, I’m kind of in a comedy TV genre even though I didn’t think I was very good at comedy in drama school, I was more about the serious parts. I’d love to do some crime drama, but getting back in the theatre, where you can really feel everything, is something I really want to do. I love having a live audience.”  

Joe Parker And Ali

Speaking of things she loves, Alexandra is clearly passionate about showcasing her love for Yorkshire and her hometown of Leeds. She also loves how much Yorkshire nurtures the arts. “I love being from Yorkshire,” she beams. “The Leeds Playhouse is great and I love Leeds so much, there’s lots of opportunities and more going on in the north now for young actors – ITV, Emmerdale, too. With self-taping, too, you don’t have to be in London.” Besides the arts and opportunities, Alexandra simply lives and breathes everything Yorkshire has to offer. “Leeds is so fancy now, it’s stunning, and all my family and friends are still there. Oh, and the tap water is just so much better in Yorkshire,” she laughs. “We have a tradition in our family of going to log cabins in Pickering in North Yorkshire once or twice a year, so I love having that as a tradition in Yorkshire.” 

So, what’s next for Alexandra? “Everything I did last year were all first series so there’s the possibilities and talks about some coming back round for second series so that’s really exciting,” she smiles. “I’m back auditioning again, and really enjoying the process.” With so much in the pipeline and such infectious enthusiasm for her craft, it’s definitely a case of watch this space for what’s coming in 2023 for Alexandra Mardell.

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