Julie Hes­mond­halgh

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - TELEVISION -

“There was no com­ing back be­cause only death could part her from Roy.”


Julie dis­cov­ered her love of per­form­ing at the ten­der age of eight, when she was made to pre­pare a speech and de­liver it to her class.

She went on to at­tend the Lon­don Academy of Mu­sic and Dra­matic Art. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing, Julie and some of her class­mates set up Arts Thresh­old, a fringe theatre co-op­er­a­tive in a base­ment in Padding­ton, Lon­don. While it wasn’t a mon­ey­mak­ing ven­ture, Julie be­lieves she and the other mem­bers learnt a lot about per­form­ing dur­ing this time.

One thing Julie re­calls from her years training to be an ac­tress was her de­sire to one day be in a pop­u­lar tele­vi­sion drama play­ing a con­tro­ver­sial char­ac­ter, and that’s ex­actly what she went on to do.


Julie made head­lines when she joined the soap in 1998 as timid shop as­sis­tant Hay­ley, who had a se­cret past as a man, and was the first trans­gen­der char­ac­ter to ever grace the screens in a soap opera.

For her por­trayal of Hay­ley, she won Best Se­rial Drama Per­for­mance at the 2014 Na­tional Tele­vi­sion Awards and also Best Ac­tress at the 2014 Bri­tish Soap Awards.

At first the trans­gen­der com­mu­nity was up­set that a trans­gen­der ac­tress had not been cho­sen for the role, but Julie worked hard on and off screen to win them over. The wife and moth­erof-two cam­paigned for the rights of the LGBT com­mu­nity through­out her 16 years on the show and con­tin­ues to do so to this day.

Julie took time off from Corona­tion Street to ap­pear in the tele­vi­sion movie Black Roses: The Killing of So­phie Lan­caster, which tells the true story of a young Goth woman who died af­ter be­ing bru­tally at­tacked. She also be­came the pa­tron of the So­phie Lan­caster Foun­da­tion. In 2015, Julie was awarded a Royal Tele­vi­sion So­ci­ety Award for Best Fe­male Ac­tor in a Drama for her role as So­phie’s mother, Sylvia.

Back on Corona­tion Street, Julie’s fi­nal exit was por­trayed in an un­for­get­table sto­ry­line that sparked wide­spread de­bate about the rightto-die is­sue – her char­ac­ter was di­ag­nosed with pan­cre­atic cancer >>

and went on to take her own life.

It was dur­ing this time that Julie worked with pan­cre­atic cancer char­i­ties to raise aware­ness of the dis­ease. She also at­tended a par­lia­men­tary de­bate in 2014 on the sub­ject of the right to die, in which Corona­tion Street gained an hon­ourable men­tion.


Julie ad­mit­ted she was wor­ried about com­mit­ting pro­fes­sional sui­cide when she left Corona­tion Street for good. She knew there was no pos­si­bil­ity of her char­ac­ter com­ing back to the pro­gramme be­cause only death could part her from her hus­band Roy. Plus, she was in her mid-40s, a tough age for an ac­tress to find work. But Julie de­cided to risk it all and rein­vent herself in her ca­reer.

It was when she took time off from Corona­tion Street to play So­phie’s mother in the film Black Rose: The Mur­der of So­phie Lan­caster that Julie re­alised there were other roles out there that would al­low her to make a dif­fer­ence.

She has ap­peared in the Bri­tish TV se­ries Cu­cum­ber and a stand­alone drama, Taxi for Linda.

In 2016, Julie took on an­other break­through role when she joined the cast of ac­claimed crime drama Happy Val­ley as Amanda Wadsworth, a mid­wife and work­ing mother who has a fraught re­la­tion­ship with her hus­band John.

In April this year, it was an­nounced that she would join the up­com­ing third sea­son of Broad­church.

De­spite Julie’s ini­tial fears, it seems her ca­reer is go­ing from strength to strength. But the ac­tress says she still watches Corona­tion Street and feels proud ev­ery time Hay­ley’s name is men­tioned on the show be­cause it helps to keep the mem­ory of her char­ac­ter alive.

She says even though she cried dur­ing the episode in which her on-screen hus­band scat­tered Hay­ley’s ashes, she feels she picked the right time to leave the show and cred­its Corona­tion Street for the ca­reer she has now.



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