She’s known to millions for her top TV roles, but Middlesbrough’s Elizabeth Carling has been back on home turf for her latest part. And as Gloria McShane discovered, she’s an actress that takes great pride in her Teesside roots.
SHE may have lived and worked in London for years, but Teesside actress Elizabeth Carling is a fierce defender of her home territory. And after the Channel 4 property show Location, Location, Location recently named Middlesbrough the worst place to live in the UK, she joined the angry backlash. “People are always knocking Middlesbrough,” Elizabeth fumes. “I mean, what’s that about?
“The show’s visuals were in the worst areas. Every town has bad areas.
“It’s about time Middlesbrough got credit for all the regeneration that’s been done.”
Perhaps best known for her recent role as police surgeon Dr Selena Donovan in the long-running BBC drama Casualty, Elizabeth has notched up dozens of TV and theatre credits over the past 20 years.
These include playing Phoebe in Goodnight Sweetheart, Linda in ITV comedy Barbara, and Charlotte in Border Café, to name just a few.
So what was her favourite role?
“I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done,” she says, before deciding on the Border Café series.
“I played a rock star in it and that was cool.”
But despite her showbusiness success, she often visits her family, who still live in the North-East.
And the actress, Middlesbrough born and bred, hasn’t lost her Teesside accent.
One thing she has discarded, though, is the name Liz, which most people may know her by.
She now prefers to use her full name.
“When I was younger it used to seem like a mouthful,” she laughs. “But now I have the confidence to ask to be called Elizabeth.”
And it was under this billing that she recently starred in the much-loved North-East drama The Fifteen Streets at Darlington Civic Theatre, a production to mark the theatre’s centenary.
An epic tale by blockbuster Tyneside novelist Catherine Cookson, this was a “pro-am” production, with non-professional local adults and youngsters working alongside professional actors.
“I think it’s good that people who enjoy the theatre could take part in this,” says Elizabeth. “Theatre is for everybody.”
Elizabeth dedicated her performance in the drama to her parents, Norma and Fred Carling, “because I’m proud of the way they brought me up”.
And she believes that her down-to-earth roots have contributed to her success.
“Coming from somewhere like Teesside, you’re prepared to work really hard.
“You know nothing will be handed to you on a plate and you will have to graft,” she says firmly.
That graft, plus loads of talent, took Elizabeth from the Oaklands School and the old Stockton-Billingham Tech through to many amateur productions on Teesside.
She took the plunge straight into professional acting after appearing with the National Youth Theatre, and she landed the regular part of Laura in ITV’s Boon in 1989.
Although Elizabeth has been busy on the stage and in front of the camera since then – not to mention her singing and radio drama work – she has found time to help a Teesside cause that is close to her heart.
She became a patron of the Holistic Cancer Care Unit at the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough after her twin sister Laura received complementary therapy there whilst battling breast cancer.
The centre, a self-financing charity, offers such treatments as hypnotherapy, reiki and aromatherapy for cancer patients registered with the hospital’s oncologists and their carers.
Recently Elizabeth took part in a glitzy fundraiser at the Riverside Stadium to raise money for the service.
Steven Bell, owner of Chapters Hotel and Restaurant in Stokesley, North Yorkshire, organised the event and Fame Academy star Alistair Griffin also made a guest appearance.
“We raised £26,000,” Elizabeth says proudly. “It was a fantastic evening.
“I think most people in the UK are kind-hearted and generous,” she adds.
“There are lots of great things, lots of unsung heroes.”