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Denise Welch was so pleased with her toyboy hunk in her new TV role that she rang casting to thank them.

The part of feisty dance teacher Trish Minniver in Hollyoaks could have been written for Loose Women favourite Denise.

In real life, the fiery 62-year-old star is married to a younger man and has an active sex life.

Trish is set to ruffle feathers and Denise, whose Oaks debut is this week, is already loving the role. She has been enjoying shooting scenes with on-screen love Tom Benedict Knight, who plays Brad King.

She says: “On Tom, I did phone the casting people and say well done. When they said I’d have a boyfriend, I thought they’d get someone who’d been in Dad’s Army.

Denise Welch is pleased with her toyboy hunk
(Image: Lime Pictures)

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“I was delighted when I heard it was him. We bonded quickly, as much as you can during Covid filming. There’s great chemistry.”

And Denise’s new role has also had quite an impact on her artist husband Lincoln Townley, 47.

She said Lincoln, who she married in 2013, has been hitting the gym more to compete with Tom and in case he is needed as a body double to film raunchy scenes during lockdown restrictions.

Denise says: “They’re ­considering our real life partners as body doubles. Lincoln has never been out of the gym since I mentioned it.

Denise at a wild party in 2009
(Image: XPOSUREPHOTOS.COM)

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“Trish has a younger lover, Brad, who’s a bit of a player. They clearly have an active, intimate relationship.

“The age thing is not the issue. She’s very much in control and I love that. They’re writing for a 62-year-old woman who has an active sex life – like me – and yet it’s not the main part of the ­storyline. I think it’s ­wonderful, it’s one of the things that attracted me to the part.”

Denise, who was previously married to actors David Easter, 61, and Tim Healy, 68, has two adult sons. Louis, 20, and rock star Matty, 31, who is frontman for The 1975.

She is now busier than ever and is flying the flag for older, glamorous, successful women.

It’s a far cry from where Denise was a decade years ago – battling ­clinical depression.

Denise shows off her weight loss
(Image: Instagram)

Her first episode was sparked by the birth of Matty. She wrote about her debilitating mental health struggles and ­addictions in book The Unwelcome Visitor.

The life-affirming, humorous bestseller shared Denise’s journey from her wild, self-destructive times to self-acceptance and gave solace to anyone whose life had been affected by depression.

Now eight years sober, Denise hasn’t suffered any ­relapses for well over a year.

She says: “It’s been uncharted territory for everybody the past year. Mentally, I’ve been very good. I’ve been very fortunate to have survived 2020 without any ­episodes. I’m 62 and I’m busier than I have been in a long, long time.

Denise with ex-husband Tim Healy
(Image: WireImage)

“I’m juggling lots of balls. I feel personally very lucky. It’s another thing to say to people, that you don’t have to be defined by your mental illness.

“Look at me now – I’m starring in another fantastic soap despite having this illness.”

Denise attributes her good fortune to positive thinking.

She says: “You have to change your mindset. You can either be like, ‘Oh my God, I’m 62. In eight years I’m going to be 70’. Or think, ‘Hang on, I’m only 62’. That’s my narrative. 62 is no age these days.

“I’ve got an amazing role in a number one soap, I still do Loose Women.

Denise attributes her good fortune to positive thinking
(Image: ITV)

“I’m a spring chicken on that show. And to keep young, on Hollyoaks I have a lover who’s 44. In real life, I’ve got my husband, who’s 47. It’s great for me and good for other women to see. It feels good.”

Denise has a history of younger on-screen lovers. During her three years as Natalie Barnes on Coronation Street from 1997 she seduced Kevin Webster, played by Michael Le Vell, and they had an affair.

Kev moved in with Natalie, abandoning his kids and wife Sally, who slapped her love rival. Denise, who also spent four years as Steph Haydock in the BBC drama Waterloo Road, had no intentions of returning to a soap.

“I’m very aware of the hours. As I’ve got older, I like to be at home a lot. This part was too good to turn down.”

Denise starred as Natalie Horrocks who was in a relationship with Kevin Webster in Coronation Street
(Image: ITV)

She adds: “Four mornings of 5am-8pm was a shock to my system.

“But when you’re driving to work in the dark, cold and wet and don’t mind, then you know you’ve got a good job.”

Her first scenes were a baptism of fire. She had to perform a dance routine with former Corrie star Nikki Sanderson, who plays Trish’s daughter Maxine.

Denise says: “It was so cringe. It was tough doing it in front of people I hadn’t met before.

“I have to keep having dance rehearsals and that’s something I never thought I would be having to do at my age.

Denise with her husband Lincoln Townley
(Image: Getty)

“I was under the­ ­impression I’d just be barking orders at people, not that I’d actually be doing the ­dancing. I was surprised there was as much dancing as there actually is.”

Trish’s ­wardrobe has also been a bit of an eye opener for Denise.

She says: “Her workout gear is very Olivia Newton-John. She loves a bright pink leg ­warmer and a turquoise headband.

“She spends more on her clothes than I do, so some will be coming home with me.”

Denise stars as feisty dance teacher Trish Minniver

Brad immediately takes a shine to Maxine.

So will he drive a wedge between mother and daughter?

Denise says: “There’s a darker side to her and Brad’s ­relationship and that’s really interesting to me. It’s an actor’s dream. I don’t know where it’s going but it’s got me on a cliff edge and I can’t wait.

“I’ve known Nikki since she was 14. We’ve latched back into our mother and daughter role very easily.”

Nikki, who was Candice Stowe on Corrie, is not the only familiar face. Denise was in Waterloo Road with Chelsee Healey, who is Goldie in Hollyoaks, and fellow Loose Woman Kéllé Bryan plays Martine.

Denise admits: “I ­contacted a few of my Hollyoaks friends and ­pretended a good friend of mine was thinking about joining the show.

“Across the board, ­everyone said it’s one of the happiest places they’d ever worked. I’ve never had a welcome like I did at Hollyoaks anywhere I’ve worked over the past 40 years.”

With a year contract at Oaks, could we see Denise hang around a little longer?

“I’ve learnt at my age to never say never to anything so who knows how long I’ll be here. I said once I would never do a reality show, then I went into the Big Brother house.”