Debbie Rush as Anna Windass (2014)
|Coronation Street character|
|Portrayed by||Debbie Rush|
|First appearance||14 November 2008|
|Introduced by||Kim Crowther|
|Home||6 Coronation Street|
Anna's storylines have included a rocky relationship to her boyfriend, Eddie Windass (Steve Huison), a feud with the Platt family, coping with her wayward son Gary (Mikey North), dealing with Gary going into the army, her relationship with Owen Armstrong (Ian Puleston-Davies), adopting Faye Butler (Ellie Leach), a feud with Faye's biological father Tim Metcalfe (Joe Duttine) and his partner Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor), getting into trouble with Social Services after Faye tells her school that Anna has been "abusing" her, helping close friend Roy Cropper (David Neilson) cope after discovering that his wife Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) is dying, being blackmailed into sleeping with Pat Phelan (Connor McIntyre), managing to repair her relationship with Owen, facing bankruptcy and discovering that Faye is pregnant at the age of 12.
Creation and casting
The character of Anna was created as part of a new family unit that new producer Kim Crowther was introducing to the soap opera, consisting of a mother, father, son and uncle. They were originally billed as a storyline device for established character David Platt. An ITV spokesperson said of the character and her onscreen family: "The Windass family are very rough and ready, always ducking and diving. Early on they get involved with David Platt when he helps to fit a new kitchen in the Windass family home. However, Anna thinks the work is shoddy and refuses to pay for it. David goes round, rips out the kitchen and sets fire to it outside the family’s house." Rush said of their entrance and choice of surname for the family: "The Windasses are a very close family, who are just about on the wrong side of the law, but they mean well. And yes, I am prepared for some of the things people might shout at me in the street because of the name!" The character was originally called Donna Windass but was changed last minute to Anna Windass after a series of name changes to all the members of the family since their inception, but before appearing onscreen.
Auditions were held for the part of Anna, with actress Debbie Rush going on to get the part over a number of highly-rated actors. Of this Rush said: "I went for the casting a few months ago and then was called back for the screen test. When I got the part I couldn’t believe it, I was thrilled to bits. I watched Corrie all the time growing up and all the family are tuning in now that I’m going to be in it. It’s surreal, because the cast and characters are already part of your life just from watching it."
The character of Anna has been seen to differ from the rest of her family in terms of personality traits that are not present in the others. This is because she does not approve of the continuous line of scams her husband pulls, as well as the life of crime Len and Gary indulge in. Anna is often described as the only nice Windass.
Anna first appears on screen with her boyfriend Eddie (Steve Huison) when they are involved in a storyline in which they refuse to pay Joe McIntyre (Reece Dinsdale) for a kitchen refit, which then sees David Platt (Jack P. Shepherd) trying to force them to pay up, after they won't he makes a series of threats, which results in David, Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) and Graeme Proctor (Craig Gazey) setting fire to the Windasses' kitchen. In a storyline which would cement the feud between the Platt and Windass families, the characters are introduced to the helm of the show, on 8 December 2008, Anna moves into Number 6 Coronation Street with the rest of her family. She has a heart-to-heart with new neighbour Gail Platt (Helen Worth) to make peace as she wants a fresh start in Coronation Street even though the rest of their families are feuding and convinces Eddie to make peace with Gail's partner Joe. This ends badly at Christmas, as Gail's invitation for the Windasses to stop in for dinner soon leads to Joe throwing food at them and forcing them out of the house.
As the New Year begins, Anna is dismayed as she senses Eddie sinking back into his con artist ways and she always objects to them as her character shows her desire to live a free life without having to steal and scrounge money from society, and as the feud between her son Gary (Mikey North) and David Platt grows more volatile.
In March 2009, she is relieved when Gary is cleared of assaulting David two months previously, during the period before the trial, Anna is seen making a series of attempts to influence characters Gail and Tina into making David change his mind about the charges. She is also seen breaking down on number of occasions trying to hold her family together.
In April 2009, Roy Cropper (David Neilson) gives Anna a job working in the café. Initially his wife Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) is sceptical but is impressed by Anna's work ethic and she continues working there. Hayley also takes Anna's side when Eddie steals and poses as Roy in a scam to receive free alcohol from the cash-and-carry.
Anna is dismayed in 2010 when Gary decides that he wants to join the army. Fearing for his life on the front line, she eventually comes to terms with his career decision. However, Anna is later dismayed when Gary is reported as being AWOL, after she comforts him over his secret fears he returns to duty.
2010 also sees Anna and Eddie looking into adopting a child. They both attend meetings to do with adopting (which Becky (Katherine Kelly) and Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) also go to) and have a meeting with a social worker at their home. Anna's brother's son Rory comes to stay while his parents went on holiday, Eddie is seen pushing Rory round in a pram, which makes Becky very upset that Anna and Eddie have been given a child while her and Steve have not. It is later revealed that Rory is Anna's nephew after a heated debate with the social worker.
In early 2011, young Faye Butler (Ellie Leach) comes to stay with Anna and Eddie, with a view towards them both becoming her foster parents. Faye is quite a troubled young girl and this causes a rift to form between Anna and Eddie as he becomes discouraged with fostering. Anna is adamant that she will support Faye, particularly after her biological mother is found dead following a drug overdose. Eddie breaks the tragic news in quite a clumsy way to Faye and this angers Anna a great deal. Eventually, Eddie issues Anna with an ultimatum: to choose between him and Faye. Anna chooses Faye and Eddie moves to Germany as a result.
After Eddie's departure, Anna forges a close friendship with builder Owen Armstrong (Ian Puleston-Davies), whose daughter Izzy (Cherylee Houston) is dating Gary. Anna is dismayed when she discovers that her landlord Jerry Morton (Michael Starke) is planning on selling No. 6. Unable to afford buying the house, she is worried as Faye has finally found stability in her new home. Owen, much to Anna's surprise, buys the house and becomes her new landlord. This brings them closer together, much to Faye's jealousy as she fears that Owen will take Anna away from her. Their relationship goes well, and Anna supports Owen after he discovers his sixteen year old daughter Katy (Georgia May Foote) is pregnant and later helps her give birth to her son Joseph on Christmas Eve 2011. Owen and Anna's relationship is later tested, after Anna goes away to visit her ill brother; Owen looks after Faye, and after discovering that Faye had poisoned the fish he had bought for Anna's garden, slapped her. Faye locked herself in her room, and upon Anna's return – the couple split, with Anna unable to forgive Owen for hitting Faye. Anna's son Gary and Owen's daughter Izzy later discover that Izzy is pregnant, the pair are overjoyed but Izzy later miscarries. Due to her disability, they approach Izzy's younger sister Katy about being a surrogate mother for them, and whilst supporting Gary though the ordeal – she and Owen get back together properly, after months of being on and off. Izzy later decides she cannot put her sister through the ordeal and Owen enlists his employee Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) to become the surrogate, and the family discover that the implantation has worked and Tina is pregnant in December 2012.
Anna is stunned to learn that Gary has developed a crush on Tina after discovering he spent £200 on her late father's wedding ring at a pawn shop after it was stolen. Anna keeps this a secret, but Gary takes things too far when he tries to kiss Tina, but she rejects him. Izzy learns of this and Tina goes into premature labour. Tina gives birth to Gary and Izzy's baby son, "Jake", but Izzy does not want Gary to see him because of his betrayal. After witnessing Gary and Izzy's unstable relationship, Tina decides she wants to keep the baby and raise him with her boyfriend, Tommy Duckworth (Chris Fountain). This leads to Anna insulting Tina on numerous occasions. When Gary confides in Anna about how long a court battle could take to get the baby back, Anna storms into The Rovers and slaps a shocked Tina for taking "Jake", renamed Joe. Izzy and Gary are terrified that Tina will report Anna to Social Services, but she doesn't. Later, Izzy and Gary decide to give Joe up to Tina because they find it unfair how he is being treated like this.
Anna is also stressed when Faye decides to go and live with her biological father, Tim Metcalfe (Joe Duttine). When Anna bans Faye from seeing Tim, she lies to school headmaster Brian Packham (Peter Gunn), telling him that Anna beats her at home. Social workers Nicola Waite (Maxine Burth) and Stephen Bowyer (Dana Haqjoo) arrive to question Anna, and they then question Faye, who reveals that Anna has never hit her. Anna then allows Faye to move in with Tim, but this causes an emotional Anna to break down in Owen's arms. When Tim goes on a trip to Newcastle to continue with his work, Faye tells him that she will be stopping with Anna and Owen, but she instead stops at Tim's flat on her own. Faye is later caught stealing at Dev Alahan's (Jimmi Harkishin) corner shop by Mary Taylor (Patti Clare) and Sophie Webster (Brooke Vincent). Mary and Sophie reveal this to Owen, who tells Anna. Anna feeds a starving Faye and gives her a shower, before angrily confronting Tim on his doorstep about leaving Faye home alone. Tim begins a relationship with Sally Webster (Sally Dynevor), causing friction between her and Anna. Anna is annoyed when Tim and Sally are constantly buying new things that impress Faye. Sally decides to have a garden party on the same day that Anna is planning on having a barbecue, which leads to further friction and the guests being torn on which barbecue to attend, especially Roy and Hayley, as Sally is a close friend and Anna is their employee. When Anna runs out of tomato ketchup, she uses Sally's without permission, leading to a physical fight as Anna is on one side of the fence and Sally is on the other. The fight ends in disaster, however, when Sally and Anna go flying into Anna's back garden with the fence, smashed up and ruined.
Anna helps out at the Croppers' upon discovering that Hayley has been diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer. A few months later, Hayley collapses at home and is rushed to hospital. Anna does her best to look out for Roy but he accidentally spills the beans on Hayley's suicide wish, leaving Anna stunned. Roy is extremely guilty that he has confided in Anna about Hayley's privacy, and orders her not to say anything to anybody about it. When Roy is decorating his and Hayley's bedroom, Anna gets Owen and Gary to decorate it for him, so Roy is free to do as he likes. When Hayley returns home from hospital, she reveals to Anna that she does not like the wallpaper, but will pretend to for Roy's sake. Later that evening, Roy bumps into Anna on the street and tells her that he has told Hayley that he is fine with her suicide wish. He reveals to Anna that he feels he has lied to Hayley and betrayed her, and Anna does her best to comfort him.
Anna is weary when Faye brings her new friend Grace Piper (Ella-Grace Gregoire) home for tea. Grace seems lovely, and Anna falls her tactics when it is revealed that Grace is in fact a manipulative girl who uses Faye in her dangerous games. Grace and Faye cause havoc all over Coronation Street, but it isn't until the pair attack Simon Barlow (Alex Bain) that Anna loses her temper with Faye. After Simon's stepmother Leanne Tilsley (Jane Danson) has confronted Faye, Anna asks for the truth, but Faye keeps on telling her that she and Grace haven't done anything wrong. That night, Grace sends Faye a video of her attacking Simon, and it soon goes viral after she posts it onto the Internet. Mary, another victim of Grace and Faye's, sees the video first, and shows it to Simon's carer Tina. The video travels around the street, disgusting most of the residents. Simon is refusing to leave the house because he is so embarrassed that he was attacked by girls. Soon, Simon's headmaster Brian Packham (Peter Gunn) gets wind of what has happened to him and goes round to the Windass household, where he tells a terrified Faye that he will have to inform to police. A few days later, Anna and Owen accompany Faye to the police station and they see Grace with her mother, who clashes with Anna. When Faye is questioned, she tells the detective that Grace has been blackmailing her, saying that if she grasses her up, she will make sure that nobody at her school will like her. Anna is proud of Faye for her bravery.
Into the New Year, Anna supports Roy as Hayley's health deteriorates. On 20 January 2014, Anna decides to close the café early, after having a bad feeling about Hayley and Roy's situation all day. A few minutes later, Hayley's former boss Carla Connor (Alison King) arrives at the café and Anna answers the door. Carla also admits that she has had a bad feeling about the situation over the past few days. Carla then demands to see Hayley, but Anna tries to persuade her against the idea, thinking that leaving the couple alone would be the better choice. After giving in, Anna enters the café flat with Carla after using her spare set of keys, but to their shock, they find a deceased Hayley on the bed with Roy's arm around her. Anna sees the glass on Hayley's bedside cabinet and realises that she had taken an overdose, and washes the glass up for them. Carla witnesses Anna washing up the glass and also guesses that Hayley committed suicide. Anna then walks into The Rovers and reveals to the devastated regulars that Hayley has passed away. The following week, Fiz Stape (Jennie McAlpine), who was the Croppers' foster child a few years ago, learns the horrible truth about Hayley's death and shouts at Roy, storming out of the café. Anna then finds Fiz and explains that it was what Hayley wanted and that it was not assisted suicide.
The Windass and Armstrong families believe that 2014 is going to be a fantastic year, but they are horribly wrong. Owen and Gary go into partnership with Pat Phelan (Connor McIntyre), who is a villainous builder who likes to play games with people's minds. He is instantly attracted to Anna, despite being married to a woman named Valerie. When Anna goes to visit Phelan about something, he tries to flirt with her, which worries Anna, who confides in Izzy. The following week, Anna texts Phelan and meets with him at her house. She tells him to leave her alone, but Phelan forces himself on Anna, who manages to fight him off and throw him out of the house. When Phelan and Valerie plan to meet the Windasses and Armstrongs in the Bistro, Anna lies and tells them that she is ill with flu. Izzy returns to see how Anna is, where she tells her that Phelan tried to rape her. Izzy tells Gary, who has a fight with Phelan, resulting in Gary hitting Phelan across the head with a large plank of wood, knocking him unconscious. Phelan survives, and reveals to Gary and Owen that his attack was caught on CCTV. He blackmails them, saying if they do not do as he says, he will take the footage to the police. At work, Phelan forces Gary and Owen to do silly tasks, including burying a grave for a dead pigeon, and taking out perfectly fitted windows. This eventually gets too much for Owen and Gary, resulting in Owen breaking down and Gary suffering a panic attack. Anna calls Valerie and tells her how Phelan tried to rape her, but she takes no notice. The argument leads to Anna and Valerie pushing one another and Anna throwing Valerie out of the house. She later tries to speak to Phelan, who gives Anna an indecent ultimatum: he will release Gary and Owen from the contract if Anna has sex with him. Anna reluctantly agrees and has sex with Phelan, without telling Owen or Valerie.
Following her betrayal with Phelan, Anna cannot bring herself to be close or have sex with Owen, which devastates him. He confronts her, asking her whether she has fallen out of love with him or not. Anna replies with explaining that everything she has ever done is purely for their families, and that she still loves him. Owen later confides in Katy, and breaking down in her arms. The guilt begins to get too much for Anna, who confides in Roy and tells him she has done something terrible. He urges her to tell Owen, and she organises a quiet night in so she can tell him about her night with Phelan. However, Izzy enters in floods of tears, so she does not tell Owen. In the week where Tina is murdered, a devastated Anna reveals to a stunned Owen about her night with Phelan. He is distraught, but Anna tries to make him see that she only did it for their relationship. Owen then tells Anna that nothing will ever be the same for their relationship again. Owen then leaves Weatherfield for a short time for work, so Anna decides to tell Izzy and Katy about her night with Phelan. Izzy understands why Anna did what she did, but Katy is less forgiving, and implies that Anna is a "whore". When Owen returns a few weeks later, Faye organises a meal for him and Anna, and reveals that it is going to get them back together. When Owen does not show up, Faye is livid, and Anna decides it is time to tell her about her and Phelan. She later disposes of the idea, and tells Owen to act like they are still a couple for their family's sake. When Faye goes out with her friends and gets drunk, Anna is furious at Gary for giving her the money, and when things get heated between Owen and Gary, Owen punches him. Anna shouts at Owen for hitting Gary, and orders Gary and Izzy to go home, while she tends to a drunken Faye.
Anna and Owen eventually manage to repair their relationship and become a proper couple, just as Gary and Izzy end their long-standing relationship. Anna and Owen are upset by Gary and Izzy's split, but are later faced with another dilemma when Owen receives letters from people who he has borrowed money from. The following week, bailiffs arrive at the Windass and Armstrong household and begin taking their belongings, leaving Anna and Faye traumatized. When the bailiffs leave with most of their things, Owen tells Anna, Gary and Faye that he will get them out of the mess he has got them into.
Kris Green of media website Digital Spy commented that Anna and the Windass family had 'settled in so well, in such a short space of time'. Actor Mikey North attributed their success as characters to a combination of good writing and prominent plotlines received in a relatively short time period. Ben Ashford of The Sun newspaper compared the Windass family to the real life fraudsters the Peters family, who claimed a range of illnesses including agoraphobia and alcoholism and swindled state handouts, branding both families 'scroungers'.
Grace Dent of The Guardian has said that she likes the character of Anna, pointing out her redeeming personality traits: "Chief apologist for all of these people is Anna Windass, Eddie's wife and Gary's mum, who is so surprisingly sweet and non-abrasive that she manages to keep her entire clan on the right side of likable just through hapless handwringing alone." going onto say "I rather like Anna, although Gail Platt isn't a fan. I was expecting another Cilla Battersby-Brown, but instead she's more Emily Bishop in a sea-green velour fake Juicy Couture and Asda slippers. Anna knows that, children-wise, her and Gail have lots in common and they'd work better as a team than at war." Tony Stewart of The Mirror also describes Anna's character as a scrounger. MSN branded Anna and her family as chavs and suggested they would make the perfect guests for The Jeremy Kyle Show. Simon Swift of Soaplife magazine stated that at first, he couldn't help feeling that Anna and her clan are a bit too much like original neighbours-from-hell the Battersbys.
In 2009 Ruth Deller of entertainment website Lowculture who runs a monthly feature of the most popular and unpopular soap opera characters, profiled the Windasses, adding that Anna is the main reason to why they were initially unpopular, stating: "The Windass family’s introduction has not gone down too well, and Donna (sic) seems to be the prime target for the vitriol against them. Perhaps they can be redeemed a la the Jacksons in EE or the Timminses in Neighbours, or perhaps they’ll just leave…" Kate White from Inside Soap said that Anna and Owen were a "great match". She could not understand why Anna could not just forgive Owen because she had with all of Eddie's crimes.
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