|DARING stunts are all part of
a day's work for the cast and crew of TV's latest
firefighting drama. Steel River Blues (ITV1) continues
with a dramatic crash, when a vandal changes the life of
one fireman for ever.
Bury actress Joanne Farrell joins Blue Watch in next
week's episode as new driver Nicky Higgins. And by the end
of the series she's plunged into action to help rescue the driver of
a 4x4 vehicle which has fallen over a viaduct.
The spectacular scene involved Joanne abseiling 70ft.
"I spent three days walking backwards off the viaduct and
just hanging around," she recalls. "It was scary at first,
but you do feel completely safe. There's a fantastic stunt
team to support you. I didn't feel like I was in any
"I did an abseil once on holiday in New Zealand. On my
first day of filming, the producer, Ken Horn, asked me:
`Are you scared of heights?' He hadn't asked at the
audition. But I was up for it."
No-nonsense Nicky causes quite a stir when she reports for
duty with the Middlesbrough lifesavers.
An ex-military girl, she later astonishes her colleagues
by tackling an infestation of rats in the control room,
killing one with her bare hands.
"She's very sure of herself and it's clear she is there to
make her presence felt," explains Joanne. "The guys are
expecting a `he'. When she appears, I think they get the
wind knocked out of their sails a bit."
Joanne met a female firefighter working with the west
Yorkshire force as part of her research.
"She handled the guys very well - very witty and dry. And
then she told me how she was getting her nails done for a
wedding. So it was nice to see the tough side and the
Like other members of the cast, Joanne has nothing but
admiration for real fire crews.
"Firefighters have to be completely fearless and they need
to depend on each other in the most incredible way.
"It's a real team effort that gets them through it. They
have to tackle things that our senses naturally drive us
There was another, unplanned, encounter with the fire
service while staying at a hotel during filming of
interior scenes in Leeds.
"We all had to evacuate," reveals Joanne. "The whole cast
stood outside while the real fire brigade ran in.
Fortunately, it was a false alarm."
Joanne now lives in London, where she trained at the
Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. She has a background
in musical theatre.
Several West End stage credits include the role of Sandy
Previous TV parts include Sarah-Jane Harvey - who turned
out to be Louise Dixon - in the ill-fated revival of
Crossroads, Angela in the final series of Cold Feet, and
other roles in Dream Team and Holby City.
Hopes are high that ITV bosses will give the green light
to a second series of Steel River Blues. Whatever the
writers come up with, it's bound to involve another spot
of pole dancing.
Like Joanne, Stockport-born co-star Kelly Wenham, who
plays rookie firefighter Julie Priestly, was also dropped
in at the deep end - down the fire station pole . . . not
a favourite with either actress.
"In one scene, I lost my grip," explains Kelly, "and ended
up going round and round.
"I was lucky that I didn't hurt myself. I landed on my
feet, which was OK, but I was pretty shaken up. I started
laughing, and then I started crying.
"That was really scary and I had a bit of a fear of it for
a while about doing it again. For a few weeks, I didn't
want to get back on the pole, but I had to do it in the
But one thing Joanne's looking forward to is actually
getting behind the wheel of a fire appliance.
"Nicky doesn't actually drive it in this first series. I
wanted to, but I didn't get the chance."