Julia Haworth took acting lessons to combat shyness . . . and went on to land a plum role in the nation's favourite TV soap. She spoke to JOHN ANSON. . .

WHEN she was nine, Julia Haworth's mum decided her shy daughter needed bringing out of herself. So she enrolled her on a course of Saturday morning drama workshops at Burnley Mechanics.

The young Julia took to the classes so much she soon became a member of Burnley Youth Theatre and by the age of 12 got her first role in a children's TV series.

Twelve years later, that same shy Burnley schoolgirl has become one of the newest faces on one of Britain's top TV programmes, Coronation Street.

Julia has landed the role of Claire, the nanny to Ashley Peacock's young son Joshua -- and she's thrilled by it.

"I've always been a fan of Coronation Street. We've always watched it but to be actually in it is brilliant," she said.

"It was the fourth time I'd been for a part on Coronation Street and I couldn't believe it when I got it."

Although delighted with her new role, Julia did have one concern about playing a nanny.

"I don't have any experience with children at all," she said.

"I've never even babysat for anyone.

"The nearest I've come is working on the mother and baby counter at Boots!

"When they told me what my part was I went straight down to Burnley Library and was trawling through all the books on baby care I could find.

"My mum just laughed at me, She said 'you can read up all you like but it won't help you deal with a real baby.'

"She was right!"

Initially given a three-month contract, Julia will now be on our screens at least until Christmas.

"People will be seeing more of me in the coming weeks," she said.

"I've just picked up the next batch of scripts and, although I can't say too much, it does look very interesting."

Born and bred in Burnley, Julia's parents still live on Todmorden Road and she returns to see them as often as she can.

After attending St Stephen's Primary School in the town, Julia went to St Christopher's High School in Accrington before doing theatre studies at Nelson and Colne College.

Even then she was a regular performer with Burnley Youth Theatre and was regularly appearing in small TV roles. Manchester University followed and again Julia combined her studies with TV work.

"I've just been so lucky," she said.

"I've always seemed to be working."

After university, Julia had 18 months in Peak Practice and then a similar spell in Merseybeat, but her latest role is her biggest break yet.

"I was so nervous on the first day on set," she said. "What made it worse was that GMTV was doing a live broadcast from Coronation Street and they decided to follow me on my first day.

"But everyone is really friendly and they made me feel really welcome.

"It's really weird when someone who is known to millions of people comes up and introduces themselves. You feel like saying 'I know who you are, I've been watching you for years'.

Since she's been in Weatherfield, Julia has already seen her character being accused of having an affair with Ashley, played by Steven Arnold, by her jealous boyfriend.

"Steven is terrific to work with," said Julia.

"We have got to have a chemistry between us for our scenes to work and we get on so well.

"Off set we're always having a laugh and constantly get the giggles.

"But that's Julia and Steven.

"On set we're Ashley and Claire and we tend to be serious -- well, most of the time!"

In recent years more more and more younger faces have started to appear on the Street.

"There is a really good vibe about it.

" I've certainly got no complaints about the social life," she laughed.

Away from the set Julia is putting together ideas for a radio play and she is also an accomplished artist.

"Since I finished university I've been trying to write a novel but I haven't got very far yet," she said.

Although she is set for an extended run on the Street, is Julia at all worried about the thought of being typecast as a Coronation Street actress?

"I think you've just got to go with it while it's there," she said.

"There's no point worrying about things like that.

"You should just enjoy it.

"I'm here until Christmas at least and after that who knows?

"But that's what being an actor is like."