Claire King Chats To 50connectPosted on: 27 June 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves
The star of Emmerdale and Bad Girls discusses Kim Tate and looking fab at 45.
Claire King is best known to TV viewers for playing the definitive British soap bitch, Kim Tate, and prison governor Karen Betts in Bad Girls. Prior to television her career began in the music industry including time as a DJ and pop singer.
She joined Emmerdale in 1989.
"It was great, I was basically paid to ride horses all day which is perfect for me. I'm from North Yorkshire, near Harrogate, and I've ridden all my life. I've still got five horses myself so it's my big passion."
Notorious for leaving her husband and stepson to die, the character Kim Tate began life as a fairly normal soap secretary. "When we started, the whole Tate family were down to earth," recalls Claire.
So how did Kim Tate go from wholesome horse rider to superbitch? The character developed when a friend of Claire's, Fionnuala Ellwood, who played Lynn Whiteley, left the soap.
I thought English soaps could do with a good old feisty cowbag.
"She played quite a tough character, though not as bitchy - well nobody's as bitchy - as Kim, and when she left I thought, right, there's a niche for a bit of a cow. I thought, I'll try this and make her a little bit harder. I played the lines harder, and the writers started writing her harder as well, and eventually we ended up with Kim Tate."
Where Kim Tate led, many other soap bitches have followed.
"I think it's obligatory now, there's got to be 'the bitch'! They've all got them."
However, Claire herself was inspired by other soap bitches - from the USA.
"It was the time of Dynasty and Dallas and I thought English soaps could do with a good old feisty cowbag. They're just such great characters. Everybody loved Alexis Colby, whether they loved or hated her, they loved the character because she was so entertaining."
Being remembered as Kim Tate wouldn't bother Claire in the slightest.
"If people ask, do you worry about being typecast, I say no because that's my speciality! The way I look, being 5 feet 8 and an athletic build, I'm never going to get cast in the downtrodden victim sort of roles, I'm going to be cast as the tough women, but why not? I'm more than happy with that because they're the best roles. Tough roles are much better to play because you can have more fun with them. You can get away with murder, you can be as big as you like, it's like the pantomime baddie."
After a decade on Emmerdale, Claire left the bitchiness - but not the sensational storylines - behind her, playing prison governor Karen Betts in Bad Girls.
"People wonder what it was like, 40 women all working together, but it was absolutely brill. We had such a laugh, we were very naughty, but I really enjoyed Bad Girls and had a great time."
The location, however, was not quite as inspiring as the Yorkshire countryside.
"It wasn't the most glamorous of sets, working in an aircraft hangar. It was a little depressing going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark for eight months of the year, but we did have a good laugh."
With an episode of The Royal soon to be screened, as well as working on a film and a comedy series, Claire is as busy as ever. "I've been desperate to do comedy," she says.
Many actresses bemoan parts drying up once they get past 40. Claire doesn't believe age is an issue however.
"There certainly aren't as many parts, though the parts are better, but I don't think it's down to my age. I think it's more down to the fact that there's so much reality TV, because it's a lot easier to make those sort of programmes. It is harder when you're older, but there's not a lot you can do about it. You can only turn back time for so many years - I'm never going to be 20 again - so you just have to get on with it."
In fact viewers of Strictly Come Dancing will know that Claire has appeared on reality TV, dancing with Brendan Cole. The partnership proved to be somewhat tempestuous.
"Bless him," she laughs. "We had our moments - but it was good fun."
Those who marvel at the dancers' contortions will not be surprised to learn that Strictly was tough.
"It was blooming hard work. We were doing about 3 to 6 hours a day rehearsing 5 or 6 days a week."
Participating in the programme was made harder for Claire by her rheumatoid arthritis.
"Dancing was probably not the right thing to do but it was better than doing Dancing On Ice I suppose - I think I'd have killed myself on that."
Arthritis is not a disease commonly associated with a rather glamorous TV star like Claire, but she says, "If they could see all my joints then they would notice."
The arthritis was diagnosed after Claire joined Emmerdale in the early 1990s.
"I knew something wasn't right as I could feel swelling. It was a shock, but I have medication which I've been on since that day, and I also take natural products like MSM and Celedrin so that helps. I keep it under control, some days are worse than others, but I just have to get on with it. It just feels like being badly bruised, and I always know when it's going to rain, I'm like a weathervane because my fingers swell up."
Although dancing was not wise for Claire's arthritis, it did help her kick-start a new fitness regime.
"It did help tone up my legs so that started me thinking, right, I've got to continue this. Being fit and healthy helps with arthritis and other ailments too, because I think you heal quicker, and I'm probably better being lighter than if I was overweight because that would probably make the arthritis worse."
I look good - not bad for an old bird.
In fact Claire's efforts to get in shape were so successful that she has now released a fitness DVD and appears in her bikini on billboards to promote it.
"I couldn't believe it, the first time I saw that I was like, oh my word! But I've put the work in and I'm really proud. I hope, think, I look good - not bad for an old bird."
Claire describes how she decided to take control.
"I'd noticed things going a bit south since turning 40 and thought, I've got to do something about it. It's never too late, so I thought, right, this is it, I'm going to start now. In the business it's hard enough for women anyway, and as you get to your 40s that's it, you're over the hill, swept aside and forgotten. To compete with younger people you need to keep your body at least looking good."
Though it can be tough for older actresses in a looks obsessed industry, Claire believes in taking the natural route to stay looking good.
"There isn't much you can do about lines and wrinkles - apart from going under the knife, which I don't want to do thank you very much, I think it's far too risky - but you can do something about your body. Some friends of mine went down the other route of liposuction and surgery and I just thought, no, I don't want to do that. It's too scary. I'll put the work in and try to get my body to look as good as it can."
Mind over matter is important if you want to lose weight, according to Claire.
"You've got to think of that bikini in summer and look at your body and that will give you the motivation basically. It is hard, but hard work pays off, and if you want to reap the rewards then you have to put the work in."
If all else fails, Claire has another tip to look better.
"Use candle light! That's good."
However, the real secret to looking good is feeling good.
"Once you get to your 40s and 50s, you have peace of mind, you know yourself, you're settled in your own way, and if you look after your body and your mind you have more confidence. With confidence there's a certain sexiness, appeal and attractiveness. Taking care of yourself and looking good is basically about healthy eating, exercise, the usual things, which does give you that lift."
Claire hopes her DVD helps women do this and gives them confidence.
"We put the workout hand in hand with an eating plan as well. I've also done make up tips, such as shading certain areas to help those jowls or double chins."
When choosing her exercise programme, Claire wanted techniques that would tone up those problem areas.
"I didn't want to do aerobics as it's all been done. I wanted somebody qualified who could teach me how to use my body in the correct manner, so Tom Clough taught me all about setting my core and tension training. I wanted to concentrate on parts of the body that we women complain about the most, so I've done sections for legs, stomach, abs, bum and bingo wings, then a section that puts the lot together. It's quite a hardcore workout but it only takes about 2 to 3 weeks to reap the rewards. That's when I started noticing the benefits on my body, which was changing and getting firmer and toned up."
Being able to exercise at home was important to Claire, who feels grown up women will appreciate this approach.
"The gym can be a daunting place, particularly if you're in your 40s, 50s or 60s, you don't want to be wobbling about in a leotard in front of 20 year old skinny women. Also a lot of people can't afford to go to the gym as memberships are pricey. It's very time consuming too - to have to get in the car, drive to the gym, find a parking space, go in and do your bit, then come back again - a lot of people haven't got that time, especially if you've got kids. So I wanted something that didn't involve a gym, machines or weights, that people could do at home if they have an hour or spare half hour, where all you need is a bit of floor space."
By Cherry Butler
Claire King's Ultimate Body Workout is available at all good DVD stores, RRP £19.99, or online at Amazon for £12.98.
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