Lynette McMorrough as Glenda Brownlow (later on Glenda Banks) was for a decade one of the most popular members of the Brownlow family.
She also was part of some of the groundbreaking storylines in the series, including rape and a test-tube baby.
How did you first get the part of Glenda Brownlow in Crossroads?
I was with a London agent and they just sent me for the audition but I originally auditioned for the part of the Salvation Army girl Jane Smith, but I wasn’t right for that and then they came back a couple of months later and said “would you read for this part?” so it was sort of a process of elimination really!
The character first arrived as a ‘run away’ hiding from her parents. She left the motel when she heard her parents (originally played by different actors to the ones we came to love) were on their way to Kings Oak. After finding little success in London Glenda headed back to Birmingham, however on the way became a rape victim of a dubious lorry driver. Can you tell us a little about that storyline?
I think I’d run away to be a dancer with Pan’s People (laughs) they were always very extreme storylines! And I’d hitch-hiked to London I think and then I’d got a job at the motel and then my parents arrived to take me back I think and then that’s when the family sort of came in and we got our own set and everything.
Your screen mother Kath was a very caring, maternal character but your screen father Arthur was notoriously cantankerous. The original Kath was played by Hilary Martin and Arthur by Brian Haines. However, we all recall the more popular actors Pamela Vezey and Peter Hill, who made the parts their own. What were the latter like in real life?
Actually quite similar to the parts they played, to be honest! They’re both dead now sadly, but Pamela, she didn’t actually have any children of her own funnily enough but she was a perfect mother figure, you know. Peter was a bit narky sometimes (laughs) but they were lovely, they were really nice people.
Is it really true that people took the show seriously, actually believing it was a real motel?
Oh God yeah! Well, you remember Roger Tonge (Sandy), he used to get people who would like, punch his legs in the street, because they couldn’t work out how he was standing up, why he was out of his wheelchair. And when I was pregnant people used to come up and wanted to touch my tummy which I always thought was rather bizarre!
So you used to get stopped in the street a lot?
Oh gosh yes, even now actually all these years later some people still remember.
Glenda’s husband Kevin had an affair with your screen cousin Iris and later with Carol Sands. What was the public reaction like to those storylines?
Well, David was actually going out with JoAnne Good who played Carol Sands so that confused people a lot, but yes I used to get a lot of people coming up to me and telling me “I think you ought to know” (laughs) and “we don’t like to do this but we think you ought to know” so they took it very seriously. But they were both great mates of mine anyway so, you know, that was all right!
In 1983 you had a storyline which took the public by surprise when Glenda had a test tube baby, Katy Louise. How did you find that storyline and what was the public reaction like?
Well, I think it might have been the first time a test tube baby was on television, I think it was the first time it had been covered, but it was quite funny because I was pregnant in real life so they wrote that in as well so I was able to go right though, you know, the real pregnancy sort of thing and people mistook the test tube storyline for my real life and kept asking me how my test tube baby was coming along, so that wasn’t so great (laughs) but that was good because everyone used to look after me a lot ‘cos I worked right up to 6 weeks before I had her, so that was a nice time actually.
It got some stick for making it look easy to have a baby in that way. But the show did show another character who had been trying years to have a test tube child, I think those complaining didn’t watch or they’d have known that.
Your screen daughter was actually played by your own daughter Emily. Is she showing any signs of following in her mother’s footsteps and pursuing a career in acting?
Well she’s 18½ now and she’s just left college and she studied drama at college so she’s just sort of joining the ranks of the unemployed at the moment (laughs) but she’s looking for work and hopefully, she’ll get something, but she does want to be an actress.
Crossroads was famous for having been filmed “as live” which meant that most minor mistakes stayed in. Did you ever experience a scene where things went wrong but you just had to carry on?
Oh God (laughs) millions of times! One of the best ones was when a floor manager, you know the man who is in charge of cueing the scene and tells you when to start the scene, and we had a big Irish floor manager who was very well built like a sort of rugby player and he was putting his arm up and down to cue somebody but didn’t realise that the actor was actually standing in front of him and garrotted him on the back of the neck and the actor passed out! (Laughs)
And another really good one was somebody didn’t hit their mark, you know they give you a little mark to get onto when you’re doing a scene, and they hadn’t got time to stop so the floor manager crawled on his tummy and moved the actor’s feet while he was talking and the actor just carried on, he wouldn’t stop you see (laughs). They just had to do anything to keep going! Oh God, there were always different things happening, in fact, they don’t do many things “as live” any more but it was funny.
After Arthur died his work-shy cousin Wally, played by Max Wall, came and stayed with the Brownlows and caused a lot of unrest in the family. What was Max Wall like to work with?
Amazing! Absolutely amazing, I mean you can imagine can’t you, he didn’t take anything seriously (laughs) and they used to play the Crossroads theme in the studio at the end of the recording and one of the funny things he said, somebody shouted that the music was still playing and they were trying to get them to stop and somebody shouted “Kill the grams” and Max said (impersonating Max Wall) “Well at least wound them!” (Laughs)
He was always, you know, he always had a funny line, he was lovely!
Max Wall was very spontaneous was he?
Oh God, yes, and I mean he’d never say what was written either, do you know what I mean? (Laughs) He’d just make up his own funny endings and it was too late to do anything about it, you know, so he’d just say what he wanted!
When you first came into the programme, the motel was still presided over by Meg Mortimer but during your time with the programme, it had been through all sorts of changes, especially after Philip Bowman took over. What did you feel about all the changes?
Well when Phillip Bowman took over David and I were written out anyway and that was very hard because I’d been in it all through my twenties really and that was quite horrid but there were so many changes after that I think a lot of people missed the way it had been really; because they tried to make it more upmarket and then there were much more, what can I say, sort of “posh” people, you know what I mean, but it was still very popular.
But I think when Noele Gordon went, I think from then something went really anyway, I think that that was the heyday really wasn’t it when she was in it and Sandy and Benny and all those old characters, you know?
Were you very disappointed when you and Kevin were written out of Crossroads?
Yes, I was devastated at the time because I’d been in it since I was 21, well I got it on my 21st birthday and it had become my family really more than a job, do you know what I mean? But sort of now I look back and think it was probably for the best because at least then I was still young enough to sort of try to do other things. But I did miss it, I missed the people more than anything but you know life goes on, doesn’t it?
I think the friends I made there, and which I still have, so many have died sadly, but as you talk about Iris and Kevin … do you remember Mr Paul – Sandor? He’s a great friend of mine! The friends I made then, you’re talking about golly, 20 odd years ago, are the best I’ve made in my life and I think that’s probably the best bit that came out if it.
Have you been watching the new Crossroads and would you consider returning if asked?
Oh gosh, I haven’t seen it very much because I’ve been doing theatre work which is great and obviously you’re working at night time but oh God yes I mean when it was originally mooted to be coming back I thought “Oh I wonder if I’ll get the phone call” or whatever but you know work is work and in this business, you can’t be too proud (laughs). Obviously, the only thing I would say is that my mum always says “you can’t go back”, you know what I mean, and I think Kathy Staff went back for a while and I think she sort of said you can’t recapture the old days really.
And it’s so different now isn’t it, my goodness, so racy (laughs) all sorts of things going on!
I think that most of the fans would like some people to return just so that it’s recognisable.
I think they should have at the beginning had a few more maybe, I mean I never understand why they didn’t approach Paul Henry as Benny because if you ask anybody who they remember most from Crossroads it’s Benny isn’t it, and Miss Diane. I still see her now and again, she came to see me in a couple of things.
Were you aware of all the Crossroads websites which have sprung up over the last couple of years?
No, do you know I wasn’t because I’m absolutely useless as far as computers or anything like that goes, so I’m amazed!
Who out of the old cast are you still in touch with?
Iris, David who was my husband Kevin, Sandor, Janet Hargreaves – do you remember who played Rosemary? She’s still a friend of mine. Kathy Staff of course who I’ve known from the very first day, so that’s going back a bit. Tony Adams I still see him I’ve done panto with him, he’s lovely!
Do you still get a lot of people coming up to you now and asking you about Crossroads?
Yes, it amazes me because it is a long time but yes it goes in phases where there’ll be like a couple in a day and you think “golly”, you know, “that’s weird because it was a long time ago”. But yes it was very good to me and I had a fantastic time all through my twenties, you know.
Finally could you tell us a little about what you’ve been doing since you last appearance in November 1985?
Well I’ve been doing theatre really, at the moment I’m touring around the country in “The Railway Children” and I always do pantomime, this year I’m doing Stevenage playing Fairy Godmother so I’ve just been doing plays really, touch wood I’ve kept going and just do whatever I can do and I’m still at it (laughs) still trying to earn a living!
Interview conducted by Daniel Landsberger for the Crossroads Fan Club, 2001.