WHEN ACTRESS MALANDRA Burrows accepted a Bafta
award on behalf of Emmerdale this year it was her proudest moment.
She had no idea then that just a month later bosses at the farming
soap would put her out to grass.
MALANDRA HAS STARRED in many of the biggest emotional dramas of
the series in her 17 years as tragic cafe owner Kathy Glover. But
Kathy is off to Australia on December 20 - and Malandra is seething
at the way she has been treated. She says she gave up a promising
singing career, a movie part and her love life out of loyalty to
the show, but wasn't told she was being axed until 10 days after
newspapers found out and rang up her agent. "To find out I was sacked
in that manner was... well, shabby," she says. "I was hurt. I don't
know why they did it like this." Emmerdale's longest-serving actress
says she was not even given a leaving party by executives. And when
the cast and crew threw one for her it was ruined when actress Sheree
Murphy was ordered to leave with her baby.
TALKING FOR THE first time about the sacrifices she made for the
show, she recalls how she was rushed to hospital after being injured
on set and producers rang her the same day to ask her to return
to filming. And she lifts the lid on the way other cast members,
including Emmerdale favourite Fraser Hines, have been sacked over
the years. "I don't want this to be sour grapes," Malandra Insists.
"I know there are so many people In the world worse off than me.
I wouldn't have stayed so long If I hadn't loved the cast and crew
so much. But I have had to give up a lot for Emmerdale." Although
she has been engaged twice to TV presenter Mark Granger and graphic
designer Jonathan Armstead she has not married. She wants children,
but at 35 she feels time to start a family is running out. "Look
at me," she says. "I joined Emmerdale when I was 18 and I'm 35 now.
Emmerdale is why I am sitting here as a single woman, still not
married and with no chap In my life. "I am optimistic that I will
still find love, but I don't want It to happen when I'm in my seventies.
On Emmerdale, you have no time for friends and family. You can be
getting up at 4.3Oam and not getting home until 10pm six days a
week. "In 17 years, not one person has said to me: 'Have three months
off, go and travel.' You have to be prepared to give up your life
for Emmerdale and that's what I did. But it has to be a two-way
LIVERPUDLIAN MALANDRA LEARNT she had been axed when reporters approached
her agent for a comment in June. She says: "I rang the office to
find out what was going on, but nobody would give me an answer.
It was 10 days before I got a call to come into executive producer
Keith Richardson's office and was told it was true." She adds quietly:
"If I had employed somebody for 17 years I couldn't have got rid
of them in that way. People stabbing you in the back, that's the
business. Some people build up immunity, a thick skin, but I haven't.
"If I had been staying out late and not learning my lines, then
that's fair, but I will always give 100 per cent to any thing I
do. "They said they had run out of story- lines for Kathy, but I
just don't believe that. I could think of 20 storylines before drawing
breath." Executives marked her departure with a hasty presentation
ceremony on her last day of filming a month ago. There was no lavish
present-just a bunch of flowers and album of photographs from her
time on Emmerdale. "It was done very sheepishly," she recalls. "All
I wanted them to say was: 'We would like to thank Malandra for her
17 years', but they were obviously embarrassed and It was left to
me to rescue the situation. "Of course, you don't do the job for
a nice leaving present, but I didn't even get a bottle of champagne.
"So SHEREE MURPHY, who plays Trish, and SAMANTHA GILES, who plays
Bernice, threw me a soiree in the company bar. They bought me the
most beauutiful Tiffany cut-glass vase. "Nearly all the cast and
crew had made an effort to come along, but even my party went wrong.
Sheree has a gorgeous five-month-old baby called Taylor, and she
was thrown out because they said the baby wasn't allowed to be in
the bar. They wouldn't make an exception."
A TALENTED SINGER, the actress tried to keep her options open over
the years. Her single Just This Side Of Love reached No 11 in the
charts In 1990. Two more singles followed in 87 1997 and 1998. But
she ditched her bright singing career for the sake of the show.
She says: "I still have a letter from one of the producers, Mervyn
Watson, saying: 'Malandra, you've got to decide what you want to
do. It's either Emmerdale or you do your own thing.' I did make
that choice. I chose Emmerdale. I also had to turn down a role in
the film Shirley Valentine because of commitments to Emmerdale,
even though Willy Russell wrote a character Just for me." Malandra
says the cast are at the beck and call of producers and shows me
a 4 inch-long scar on her left knee from an accident during filming
in 1989. I got this when I slipped running out of a barn in a pair
of wellies," she explains. "To begin with, everyone just laughed,
but when my jeans and thermals were peeled back by one of the wardrobe
ladies she just yelled: 'Get an ambulance'. "The skin was split
open right down to the bone. It was absolute agony. "I was rushed
to hospital and bandaged up. To stop the Injury getting worse, I
was told to keep my leg straight and rest and prescribed strong
painkillers. That afternoon, when I was back home, I got a phone
call from the office, who said to me: 'The producer thinks you might
be able to carry on filming and if we sit you down that it might
be all right'. "I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I refused
to go back that day, but I think the reason I scarred so badly was
that I returned to work too soon. "The wound wasn't able to heal
properly because I was moving and the stitches were pulled around.
The cut took four months to heal up." It's not just her own treatment
that makes the usually bubbly and easy-going Malandra angry. "Frazer
Hines played one of the most popular characters, JOE SUGDEN, and
I thought he was treated very badly when he left," she says. "He'd
been In the show 21 years and I think he took some time off to do
theatre. Basically, he was told not to come back. Fraser wasn't
given the send- off that he deserved. He had given his life to Emmerdale.
"Then there was Jim Millea, who played PETE WHITELY. In 1990 he
read in the script: 'There's a car, screeching of brakes and a shadowy
figure is knocked over'. "He rang the office to find out what was
going on and they said: 'Oh yes. It's you. Sorry, didn't anyone
MALANDRA SAYS MORALE was at its lowest after Brookside creator Phil
Redmond was appointed creative consultant in 1993 in a bid to halt
sliding ratings. In came spicier plots and more love scenes that
appalled older actors. Scriptwriters wrote in a plane crash on the
village as a device to axe 10 of the close-knit cast. Malandra says:
"The PLANE CRASH was handled dreadfully. We were called in one by
one and told if we were dead or alive. It was a horrible thing to
do to what was at that time a very solid company. The cast complained,
but there was nothing we could do." Mind you, nothing that has happened
to Malandra during her long stint has been quite as awful as the
disasters that kept befalling Kathy. She has been married three
times and widowed twice, jilted at the altar, had a miscarriage,
seen her brother jailed, nearly been killed in a hit-and-run accident
and held hostage. Malandra's final scenes include Wet Wet Wet's
Marti Pellow, a personal hero, serenading Kathy live in The Woolpack.
But she is disappointed by the low- key way Kathy has been written
out. After kidnapping her niece Alice from her new home in Australia,
Kathy returns to Emmerdale with Alice's mother Elsa in pursuit.
Elsa flees back to Oz with Alice and Kathy decides to emigrate there.
"It's all an anti-climax. I just drive off from The Woolpack to
the airport,'~ Malandra says. "I wish they had killed me off."
THE ACTRESS, WHO was put under 24-hour police guard and had to flee
her home two years ago when a stalker escaped from a mental hospital,
clearly wants to draw a line under her time in Emmerdale. She has
changed her Image with a choppy new haircut and is keen to look
to the future. "I am a great believer that things happen for a reason,"
she says. When I've had a chance to pick myself off the floor and
dust myself off, then there will be that feeling of excitement and
liberation that the shackles have been removed. "Now I would like
the chance for a real breath of fresh air so I can be something
completely different. "It's like that great John Lennon line: 'Life
is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans'."
DAILY MIRROR 10/12/01