Coro’s Jane tells
Why I hid from my fans
As CoronationStreet’s Leanne Battersby, Jane Danson has seen it all. She’s been beaten up by her own child, become addicted to drugs, had numerous affairs and even turned to prostitution.
All the while, Jane proved she was clearly born for life in Weatherfield, becoming as beloved as the legends that went before her.
But now, as she celebrates her 20th anniversary on the TVNZ 1 soap, Jane reveals a secret real-life struggle – her overnight fame made her terrified to leave her house for a year. While her co-stars hit the clubs and parties, Jane locked herself away, fearing public abuse for being gobby neighbour from hell Leanne.
Even today, Jane, 38, admits she can still get “overwhelmed” when she realises how famous she is. But she has loved her time on the cobbles so much, she could see herself staying for another two decades.
Jane says, “It’s really weird thinking it’s been 20 years. My contract was initially for three months. I never expected the Battersbys to be so big. In fact, a poll when we joined said 97% of viewers wanted Coro to get rid of us!”
In April 1997, Jane, a former child star, arrived at Manchester’s Granada Studios as a fresh-faced 18-year-old. A huge Coronation
Street fan, she was in awe of Barbara Knox (who played Rita Tanner), Bill Roache (Ken Barlow),
Anne Kirkbride (Deirdre Barlow) and the rest of the cast. But while she couldn’t wait to get to work each day, Jane struggled with instant fame.
“I couldn’t cope with it,” she confesses. “I had this amazing job and by 19, my own little house. But I just sat inside. I’d be scared of someone throwing a drink in my face. Coping with the attention was terrifying.
“So I just sort of stayed at home, ate biscuits and put on a stone [6.3kg]. It was good in one sense. You are young and earning money – there are parties, drink and other things you might have got involved with. So my relationship with my barrel of biscuits was pretty OK really!”
Jane started coming out of her shell when she met her husband, former Emmerdale star Robert Beck, 46, at the 1999 British Soap Awards. Eighteen years later, they have two sons, Harry, 10, and Sam, eight, and are one of showbiz’s most enduring marriages.
“He had been there and done it, and said it would be OK,” smiles Jane. “If I’m brutally honest, I still don’t like being centre of attention. I just see myself as a normal person. I only joined Twitter as someone else was pretending to be me!”
She loves, however, that Leanne “has always had fight in her belly” and feels proud when fans say her tough storylines have helped them.
In the latest, Leanne is struggling with teenage stepson Simon Barlow (Alex Bain), who is physically and emotionally abusing her.
When the domestic violence storyline was first proposed, Jane admits she was concerned because she believed her character was so strong, she wouldn’t take aggression from a child.
“But the way it’s been done is quite clever,” she insists. “Simon’s a child who’s been through so much with his dad, with the alcoholism, and he’s lost so many people in his life. She’s been the one constant, so she’ll never give up on him. Leanne is living a bit of a nightmare at the minute and she doesn’t know what to do. She’s really reached a low point.
“I would like to see her have some happiness, but I think I have to accept that she’s just not one of those characters. At the heart of it, though, she’s still a Battersby and she’s tough.”
Nominated for the British Soap Awards in June, Jane feels especially honoured to be up for a gong in her anniversary year. She says she’s incredibly lucky to have spent 20 years working with Coronation Street legends.
“When I first heard Leanne was going to be working with Rita in The Kabin, I was like, ‘Oh, my God,’” smiles Jane. “I was determined to show her that I wasn’t just some kid messing about. And Bill is just awesome. He never drops a line and he’s so kind.”
Leanne may be currently single on CoronationStreet, but Jane found her real Prince Charming in husband Rob, an actor on UK series HomeFires.
She says, “We deal with things together. We have been through good times and some really upsetting times. We wrote our own wedding vows, and one was to go off and do our own things, which is important.”
While Jane says Coronation Street is her other “family”, she is always aware Leanne can still be killed off.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” she tells. “In the back of my mind, I know Leanne could die at any point. I would be really sad, but sometimes, for the good of the show, things like that must happen.
“The 18-year-old me wanted to conquer the acting world. Now I realise I’ve conquered the world I wanted to conquer. I’ve got two great kids, a gorgeous husband and a fantastic job. You can’t ask for more. “Would I stay in Coronation
Street another 20 years? As long as viewers want me, then why not?!”
Even though she has now “conquered the world I wanted to conquer”, the talented star admits, “I still don’t like being centre of attention.”
A teenage Leanne runs off to wed Nick Tilsley number one (Adam Rickitt). Single once more more, she’s dating Jamie Baldwin (Rupert Hill) ... ... but then has a scandalous affair with his dad Danny (Bradley Walsh). Jane and her hubby Rob – with their boys Harry (left) and Sam – have been together 18 years. Leanneanne experience experiences no end of trouble with Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne). Lovee with Nick Tilsle Tilsley two (Ben Price) fades after a car crash leaves him with brain damage. MARRIED LOVED-UP DANGEROUS BOOZING MARRIED LOVE, THEN IN SECRET AGAIN LIAISON HUBBY & PARTED HEARTBREAK Happy with Kal Nazir (Jimi Mistry), who is killed in a fire minutes after proposing.