THERE is an upside to lockdown for soap queen Claire King: She won’t have to strip off and jump into bed for sex scenes.
The Emmerdale actress, 58, says it was embarrassing enough in her twenties.
But as her man-eating character Kim Tate embarks on yet another affair — with ex-con Will Taylor, played by Dean Andrews — Claire is relieved the sexy plots have been put to bed for now.
Claire returned to play Kim in 2019 after a 20-year absence following her first stint from 1989 until 1999.
She says: “There is talk of her and Will but thankfully bed scenes are forbidden because of social distancing. I got out of that one.
“I’m glad I don’t have to do bed scenes.
“It was bad enough when I was 25 but now? No!
“I’m in my late fifties and would like a few less fat rolls and fewer lines. So let’s not. Let’s use our imagination instead.”
But Claire, who remains in terrific shape, is well up for more mischief as the Home Farm minx with two affairs and three marriages behind her.
First husband Frank (Norman Bowler) threw her out on Christmas Day 1992 for a fling with dashing stockbroker Neil Kincaid (Brian Deacon).
They later remarried but split again as Kim rolled in the hay with young farmhand Dave Glover (Ian Kelsey).
‘Kim is always in trouble’
Kim’s second husband Steve Marchant (Paul Opacic) landed in jail after she framed him over an attempted horse theft while third husband Graham Foster (Andrew Scarborough) died early last year.
Claire adds: “Kim is one of the best soap characters on TV and I am so lucky to play her.
“She is always in trouble, always meddling.”
As well as her latest love drama, the character will be embroiled over the next few months in a bitter battle to keep Home Farm.
Claire says: “Kim is like Marmite — you love her or hate her. Or you love to hate her! But I go with anything I am given. It’s only a soap and it reflects village life.”
In contrast to Kim, Claire is funny, likeable and a woman’s woman.
After a very public divorce from her ex-Emmerdale actor husband Peter Amory in 2004, she has no plans to remarry and is very happy in her current long-term relationship.
She has never revealed the identity of her partner, a Yorkshire businessman who she has been with for 13 years.
Claire laughs about winding him up with recent talk of “walking down the aisle” — meaning she longs to get on a plane for holidays abroad.
She says: “I turned to him and said, ‘The best thing I would like to hear now, as I walk down the aisle . . . ’ You could see him twitching before I then added, ‘Cabin crew, take your seats for landing’. He laughed and went, ‘Oh, thank God for that!’
“We should have been in South Africa now, on holiday, and I can’t wait to be able to travel again.
“I’ve got a place in Spain but I don’t think Europe particularly likes us at the moment [due to Brexit] so it could be difficult.
“My partner and I are fine — we are good as a couple just bumbling along.
“We don’t need to prove anything and the only reason we would get married — this is really romantic! — is probably for tax reasons.”
She pauses, then smiles and quips: “Or if he suddenly gets a bone of romance in his body. He is a Yorkshireman . . . ”
Claire, who lives with her partner near Emmerdale’s Yorkshire studios, is grateful for what life has given her . . . including a few wrinkles.
She says: “I am in a happy place. You get to this happy place and the lines and bags are part of my life and history. I wouldn’t have got those if I hadn’t lived my life and I have had a great and full life.
“I am more than happy. I have a lovely partner, a great job, a beautiful house, I am not starving and I haven’t — touch wood — got anything life-threatening. You do have to remember those thoughts each day and keep positive.”
To that end, Claire largely steers clear of social media to avoid falling foul of online trolls.
She says: “I don’t get the point of engaging with people you don’t know who are going to turn around and say, ‘You are fat, old and wrinkly’.
“I can’t be bothered with it all. I see Instagram girls who all seem to look the same and they are falling out with friends. But you are not going to be friends with everyone all your life.
“You make friends on the job but you don’t take the whole cast with you. Fame can turn people, in a way that is not very nice.”
But does she enjoy being in the spotlight? Not really, Claire insists, adding: “I’ve never been into the fame thing. I don’t like being the centre of attention and wouldn’t know what to say anyway.”
The chaos and stress of the pandemic made Claire appreciate her family and friends all the more, along with life’s little joys.
Both her parents are in their eighties and need round-the-clock professional care. And Claire herself has good reason to take all possible precautions.
At 28, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a long-term illness that can cause pain and swelling in the joints. So she understands the importance of taking care of your health.
She says of lockdown: “I am lucky I have a nice, large garden.
“I am in a fairly high-risk category but always like to keep myself busy and never get bored.
“I feel safe and everyone is very respectful now I have come back to work.
‘I’ll go for a bath with a glass of sherry’
“We want to keep Emmerdale going for the audience, us and ITV. It would be disastrous if it had to stop.
“We are so lucky to be some of the few actors who are working at the moment [along with the casts of other soaps]. There is hope with the vaccinations but it is going to take a while.”
To stay spritely, Claire tries to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet, rich in fish and vegetables.
She says: “I don’t think you need to eat as much when you are older, anyway. You aren’t as hungry as when you are 25.”
But Claire does allow herself treats. She says: “Half of it is staying positive, so I will go for a bath in the evening with a glass of sherry. It helps my joints!”
Now she is firmly back on board at Emmerdale, the soap’s army of fans will be hoping this colourful member of the Home Farm family sticks around for a while yet.
Claire is coy on the subject of how long she will stay on the soap this time.
She says, with a wry smile: “I am there as long as my contract — and that is currently until the end of this summer. You are only as good as your last contract and I never get too big for my boots.”
But the star is clearly happy at work. She says: “As an actress, you couldn’t have a better job at the moment. I had my 20-year break and I did films, TV dramas like Bad Girls, theatre tours and panto.
“I did what I wanted to do as an actress. But it got to a point where I didn’t fancy going off touring again and living out of a suitcase. I am settled now and I live 40 minutes away from work. It’s so great to be near. Everything that happens in life is part of my character. I wouldn’t change a thing — and I’ve got family and friends who I love dearly.”
- Emmerdale airs every weekday at 7pm, with an additional episode each Thursday at 8pm.
30 YRS ON THE FARM
THERE’S never a dull moment with Claire’s character Kim Tate. Here are some of her highlights over three decades.
Claire joined the Yorkshire soap in 1989 as Kim, the second wife of Frank Tate and stepmother to his two kids Chris and Zoe. The family lived on Home Farm.
She fell for stockbroker Neil Kincaid in 1992 after Frank started drinking heavily.
Frank discovers his wife’s illicit relationship during a Christmas special. She divorces him and becomes Kim Barker.
After a plane crashes into Kim’s stables in 1993, she and Frank rekindle their relationship and marry for the second time.
Kim can’t remain faithful for long. In 1995 she quite literally enjoyed a roll in the hay with toyboy David Glover.
Having learned that docs have warned Frank to take it easy, Kim sleeps with him, hoping to induce another heart attack.
Kim falls pregnant but isn’t sure whether David or her husband is the father. Frank offers her £1million to name him as the dad – and she accepts.
Everyone thinks Kim has died in a car crash in 1997 but she returns. Husband Frank is so shocked that he suffers a fatal heart attack, which Kim watches dispassionately.
Widow Kim weds Frank’s business partner Steve Marchant, who she then tries to blame for a hit-and-run.
After hitting her former stepson Chris over the head with a paperweight, Kim flies off in a helicopter with her son James in 1999, leaving Emmerdale.
Released from prison for the hit-and-run, Kim returned to Home Farm in 2018 and begins a relationship with ex-Army man Graham Foster.
Kim pays for Graham to be bumped off but evil Pierce Harris kills him instead and later kidnaps her.
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