Some walk the cobbled street for decades, others leave and return – but what of the characters who are cast out of Weatherfield for good? Thérèse Henkin looks at the paths taken by some of the TV show’s muchloved former residents.
we catch up with some former Coro stars
Millions have fallen in love with the drama of life played out in the cobbled roads and terraced red-brick houses of Coronation Street over the past 55 years. This fictional address causes very real heartache when viewers wave goodbye to some of their favourite characters. But the end for those characters is often a new beginning for the actors who played them, as they go on to grace our television screens and steal our hearts in a number of other significant roles. We look at where the Street has led for six of those stars.
Sarah Lancashire BEFORE
Sarah Lancashire’s connection to Coronation Street began well before she was serving pints behind the Rovers Return bar – her scriptwriter father had worked on more than 100 episodes of the long-running soap and inspired her curiosity for television.
In 1986, the talented creative graduated from the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which also counts among its alumni the likes of Ewan McGregor and Orlando Bloom.
After graduation, Sarah helped support herself by teaching drama at Salford University in Manchester for five years, while also establishing her acting career.
Sarah landed her breakthrough role in 1991 as Raquel Wolstenhulme, the Rovers Return Inn’s scatterbrained, and kind-hearted barmaid, who dreamed of being a fashion model.
After an on/off relationship with bookmaker Des Barnes, Raquel married her long-time admirer Curly Watts. But she walked out on the marriage when newly pregnant with daughter Alice to pursue a modelling job in Kuala Lumpur.
She eventually settled in France and returned to the Street in 2000 for one episode to get a divorce from Curly so she could marry Armand de Beaux, to whom she was pregnant, and to reveal Alice’s existence to Curly.
Sarah struggled with mental health issues for much of her Coronation Street tenure, made worse by her divorce from her first husband Gary Hargreaves, with whom she had two sons. She left the show in 1996 and later admitted that she struggled to cope with the attention the role brought her.
However, after the actress left Coronation Street, she found stability and a more comfortable type of fame in the quieter world of sitcoms and midweek television drama. But it wasn’t an easy ride and Sarah felt her time on Coronation Street cast a dim shadow on her acting prospects.
The 51-year-old star has criticised the prejudice against soap stars held by some writers and producers in the television industry.
She told the Radio Times: “Soaps are a double-edged sword. There can be prejudice from some writers and producers who feel you will lower the currency of their work if you’ve been in one. You have to rise above such ludicrous prejudice.”
Sarah says soap operas are a great arena to learn your craft before moving on, but there is no such thing as soap actors. She says, “We are all actors and we work across an enormous amount of media – radio, television, or standing outside a supermarket in a Weetabix outfit.”
Sarah found further success with roles in UK TV series Where the Heart Is, Clocking Off and the TV film Seeing Red. It was in 2000 that Sarah reportedly became the highest paid actress in UK television after signing a two-year contract with ITV.
In the midst of her blossoming career, Sarah met and fell in love with TV executive Peter Salmon and the pair married in 2001. In 2003 the couple welcomed Sarah’s third son into the world.
The busy mother and actress also made her directional debut on the anthology series The Afternoon Play. After several other costume drama and television roles, Sarah received an Olivier Award nomination for her role as the female lead in the musical Betty Blue Eyes in 2011.
But this wasn’t the end of recognition for Sarah; she went on to win the British Academy Television Award in 2014 for the Best Supporting Actress for her role as Caroline in the contemporary drama series Last Tango in Halifax (2012). That year her leading role as Sergeant Catherine Cawood in the crime thriller series Happy Valley earned further accolades.
Katherine Kelly BEFORE
Born into a family of performers, both Katherine Kelly and her younger sister Grace are actresses.
Graduating from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Katherine played a number of theatrical roles before joining the cast of Coronation Street in 2006.
It was for her role as no-nonsense, feisty Becky McDonald that Katherine won Best Actress at the 2009 British Soap Awards and Best Serial Drama Performance at the 2012 National Television Awards.
Initially only contracted to be on the show for three months, Becky became a series regular after the talented actress wowed the producers.
Katherine admits she sometimes requested changes to the script in order to make Becky’s behaviour more extreme. She says the script would often say that Becky was to slap Steve, her businessman husband, but Katherine felt that was too clichéd and didn’t accurately reflect Becky’s hellraising antics. Instead she would suggest a punch or even a kick in the “bollocks” on one occasion.
Becky became referred to as a Coronation Street icon as viewers watched her transform from a thieving ex-con to a vulnerable young woman, with critics often praising her performances.
Katherine has landed a number of exciting roles since leaving the cobbles in 2012. The busy actress showed off her musical prowess as Baroness Schraeder in the triumphant live broadcast by ITV of The Sound of Music, she starred as Lady Mae in the television series Mr Selfridge, and appeared as Detective Jodie Shackleton in Happy Valley, alongside former Coro star Sarah Lancashire.
After giving birth to her daughter Orla in March 2014, Katherine took a year off from acting, and says she is absolutely smitten with her little girl. As is her husband of three years, digital analyst Ryan Clark, who said at the time of their daughter’s birth that Katherine had given him the best gift in the world.
Most recently, the 36-year-old actress has had a recurring role as a senior civil servant in the spy drama The Night Manager. She is also set to star as Miss Quill in the upcoming Doctor Who spin-off series, Class.
Katherine says she is on cloud nine with her work at the moment, but sees her years on Coronation Street as a career highlight. In saying this, she has also said many times that she wouldn’t return to the role of Becky, because she wouldn’t want to spoil the success and happiness she experienced during her time on the Street.
Suranne Jones BEFORE
Born Sarah-Anne, because her family priest didn’t believe Suranne was a “proper” name, the star says she always wanted to be different. Suranne Jones said she felt stifled at school and she allowed bullying to knock her confidence. But the talkative youngster found solace in performing and landed her first amateur acting role at just eight years old. She later became a member of Britain’s Oldham Theatre Workshop and completed a diploma in performing arts.
Suranne joined the Coronation Street cast in 2000 as Karen McDonald. The sassy character has been described as a “bulldog in hoop earrings” and very quickly stole the hearts of many Coro Street fans. Storylines involving Karen’s whirlwind relationship with husband Steve McDonald, ongoing rivalry with Tracy Barlow, family drama and experiencing a miscarriage gained Suranne significant public attention. Episodes featuring feuds between Karen and rival Tracy Barlow attracted millions of viewers and the episode that showed Tracy’s revelation, during Karen and Steve’s second wedding, that her daughter was Steve’s love child had more than 16 million viewers. Suranne made her last appearance on the show on Boxing Day 2004 after Steve left Karen following her miscarriage.