When Waterloo Road returns to BBC One later this year the staff and pupils of the troublesome secondary school will find a new face occupying the head teacher’s office following the departure of Rachel Mason (Eva Pope) at the end of last term.
Acclaimed drama actress Amanda Burton, known to audiences for her roles in Silent Witness, Peak Practice and The Commander, joins the show for the new run as Karen Fisher, a warm, but disciplined, mum whose top priority is encouraging well-rounded and well educated pupils.
Determined to lead by example and keep her work and home life separate, Karen is hiding a tragic past which she and her family are struggling to come to terms with. Like any busy working mother, she finds it hard to cope juggling the demands of a hectic job with the task of keeping her family together.
Buton says it was it was this aspect of juggling the work/life balance that attracted her to the role.
Amanda says: “I think one of the interesting things about the character is she is very much a mother in the series. Having three children means you see her domestic life and all that goes with that.
“It has been a very good counter-balance, as you are not just seeing a woman who is holding down a responsible job but running a family too.”
Amanda says a lot of people will be able to identify with her character’s situation of coming into a new organisation and taking over from a popular boss.
“I think it’s quite realistic that any new person coming in feels slightly on the back foot, thinking how is this going to be, how are they going to react to me?
“She does have to make some sweeping changes on behalf of the LEA. There are regimes that come in to play in the school which not everyone will agree with which, again, I think many teachers will be able to identify with.”
Playing a head teacher means that Amanda is following in the family tradition, as her father was a headmaster and she also has two sisters in the profession.
She says: “I was taught by my father. He was head of the primary school so I went to his school until I was 11 – I was the youngest of four daughters and we had all been taught by him.
“But I didn’t really enjoy my secondary education that much, probably because I am a very physical person and don’t enjoy sitting at a desk all day. I just dragged myself through GCSE and A Levels, so it suited me very much to go on to drama school, which was very active.”
For Amanda, going to drama school meant leaving her home in Northern Ireland and moving to Manchester. Waterloo Road is filmed on location in nearby Rochdale and Amanda has enjoyed the experience of living back in the area.
“It’s the first time I have moved to be on a location for a long time and I felt very much like it was a big adventure,” says Amanda. “I packed my car up and arrived up here with my dog in the back. Everyone has been so welcoming right across the board, from the actors through to the crew.”
But the sound of the school bell hasn’t convinced Amanda that she should swap acting for the classroom permanently.
She says: “No, I always wanted to be an actress. I would never have changed anything in the past. I have been acting for 32 years now and I feel so lucky to be able to have done exactly what I wanted to do.”
Waterloo Road returns to BBC One later this year.