Brookside’s Claire Sweeney opens up about feeling “shocked” at the sudden passing of her friend Paul O’Grady.

Chatting to hosts Bobby Norris and Stephen Leng on the showbiz gossip programme Access All Areas, the actress spoke candidly about her adoration for the television presenter: “I’m just shocked. It was so unexpected. I mean he was doing Annie last week and suddenly he’s gone. He was so fantastic and unique and lovely. He’s going to be so missed. I’ve never heard a single bad word about him. He really was, and is, a legend.” 

She continued: “He was doing it when not many people were standing up for the [LGBTQ+] community. He was there and he didn’t care. I just think he’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful. He had no fear. To go, “I’m a big star, I’ve got my own TV show as Lily Savage” and then suddenly go “right I want to be me now”, that takes courage.”  

Later in the interview, the musical theatre performer responded to being asked whether she would return to Brookside if they were to remake the show: “In a heartbeat! Brookside was brilliant. It was ground-breaking and I loved it. When people used to leave soaps, they were not allowed to cross over into other dramas. People left soaps and that was their careers more or less over. The only one that could really do it was Brookside at the time. So, Sue Johnston left and went on, Ricky Tomlinson, Anna Friel, Amanda Burton. They all went on to do great things.”

Listen to the full episode, also featuring Will Young and Jessie Wynter here.