Lancashire at the 2013 British Academy Television Awards
10 October 1964 |
Oldham, Lancashire, England
Peter Salmon (2001-present)
|Relatives||Geoffrey Lancashire (father)|
Sarah Lancashire (born 10 October 1964) is an English television, film and theatre actress who has also presented and directed for television. Lancashire trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, graduating in 1986. She began her career in the theatre, making occasional television appearances whilst teaching drama at Salford University for five years in order to supplement her income.
Between 1991 and 1996 Lancashire portrayed the prominent role of Raquel Wolstenhulme in the soap opera Coronation Street, later making a one-off return in 2000. Subsequent roles included inaugural lead Ruth Goddard in Where the Heart Is between 1997 and 1999, Yvonne Kolakowski in Clocking Off (2000) and as actress Coral Atkins in the television film Seeing Red (2000). In the Summer of 2000 Lancashire signed a two year golden handcuffs contract with ITV, making her the highest paid salaried actress in UK television. During this time Lancashire filmed a variety of serials and television films including two-part psychological thriller The Cry, which earned her an award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival in 2002.
In 2004 she made her directorial debut on the television anthology series The Afternoon Play, earning her first British Academy Television Award nomination. Lancashire has subsequently had several roles in costume dramas including Mrs Corney in the 2007 television adaption of Oliver Twist, the narrator of Lark Rise to Candleford (2008-2011) and Miss Audrey in the 2012 television series The Paradise. She has also appeared in factual dramas such as the 2005 television film Cherished, in which she played Angela Cannings, and the 2010 serial Five Daughters, a depiction of the Ipswich serial murders. For her role as Caroline in the contemporary drama series Last Tango in Halifax (2012-) Lancashire has received two British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress nominations, winning in 2014. In 2014 Lancashire took on the lead role of sergeant Catherine Cawood in the crime thriller series Happy Valley.
Lancashire's stage credits include Blood Brothers, Educating Rita and Guys and Dolls. In 2012 she received an Olivier Award nomination for originating the lead role of Joyce Chilvers in the 2011 musical Betty Blue Eyes. On film, she appeared in David Nicholls' 2007 drama And When Did You Last See Your Father? and will appear in the upcoming feature film Dad's Army.
Early life and training (1964-1990)
Lancashire was born on 10 October 1964 in Oldham, Lancashire. Her father Geoffrey Lancashire (1933–2004) was a television scriptwriter noted for his work on the soap opera Coronation Street and situation comedies such as The Cuckoo Waltz. Her mother Hilda worked as Geoffrey's personal assistant. She has three brothers, one her elder, one younger and a twin. Lancashire was educated at Oldham Hulme Grammar School between 1976 and 1981. She did not decide to pursue an acting career until the age of 18. Having never been particularly interested in fame she had initially wanted to work behind the scenes in television, having grown up in that environment. However, after winning a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama — where her contemporaries included Shirley Henderson, Maggie O'Neill and Niamh Cusack — Lancashire realised that she enjoyed acting. She graduated in 1986, describing her time as a student there as "tremendous" but "seriously hard work and quite intimidating".
In her final year, Lancashire wrote to British repertory theatre companies but received lots of rejections. She was given her first acting role straight out of drama school by Howard Lloyd-Lewis, artistic director of the Manchester Library Theatre Company, which also provided her with an Equity Card. Lancashire performed two plays with the company, Pacific Overtures and The Beauty Game, which she states formed "the start of my career as an actor". She found her first professional acting experience "terrifying" as a result of the live audiences, and the knowledge that taking risks or underperforming could have had consequences for her acting career. During her early career Lancashire found herself with large breaks between theatre appearances. In order to support herself financially she worked as a drama teacher for five years at Salford University alongside her acting work. In 1987 she made a brief appearance in Coronation Street as Wendy Farmer, a prospective lodger of series regular Jack Duckworth (Bill Tarmey). In the late 1980s she also appeared in an episode of the children's anthology series Dramarama. In 1990 Lancashire received her "big break"; the role of Linda in a production of Willy Russell's Blood Brothers at the Albery Theatre in London's West End. Though she thoroughly enjoyed the experience, she found it difficult to reconcile performing in London with raising two young children in Manchester.
Television breakthrough (1991–2000)
Two weeks after finishing her run in Blood Brothers Lancashire auditioned for the role of new Coronation Street character Raquel Wolstenhulme, a colleague of supermarket employee Curly Watts (Kevin Kennedy). Lancashire joined on a three month contract, continuing teaching at Salford University for another year. Raquel first appeared on 25 January 1991 and departed on 10 May; having moved to London to try to launch a modelling career. Between 26 September and 19 October 1991, Lancashire played the title in an adaption of Educating Rita at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch.  Following Raquel's reintroduction on 30 December 1991, Lancashire committed to Coronation Street full-time. She remained in the series until 1996, and was paid £90,000 annually. Lancashire was initially reserved about Raquel's characterisation, noting that her "acidic side" could have rendered her the "street bitch" had it been embellished. She took care to highlight Raquel's potential, playing against what had been written to make her more comic, evoking audience sympathy. Lancashire departed in 1996 due to her heavy work schedule and desire to pursue other projects. She had also grown tired of the fame the role brought her, shying away from personal appearances and interviews with television magazines. Her final scenes attracted 20 million viewers. Lancashire's performance in the role saw her nominated in the Most Popular Actress category at the 2nd National Television Awards in October 1996.
Lancashire's next role was district nurse Ruth Goddard in the ITV drama series Where The Heart Is, which began airing in 1997. Also in 1997 she filmed a situation comedy for the BBC, Bloomin' Marvellous, in which she played Liz, one half of an argumentative married couple trying for a baby. However, due to poor viewing figures and a damning critical response the sitcom was not renewed. Lancashire continued to star as Ruth Goddard in Where The Heart Is for its second and third series in 1998 and 1999. In 1998 she was nominated for her second National Television Award for Most Popular Actress. In February 1999 she made a guest appearance in the British dark comedy anthology series Murder Most Horrid alongside comedienne Dawn French. The pair played two yachtswoman whose journey ends with fatal repercussions. In April it was announced that Lancashire would be quitting Where the Heart Is, despite an offered pay rise. At the time, Where the Heart is was the third most popular drama on British Television, regularly attracting 12 million viewers. Lancashire's decision was reportedly influenced by the series filming away from home, and a fear that remaining in the series long term would harm her career. In January 2000 she expanded on her decision, stating that Ruth "was too chocolate-boxy, no longer a challenge".
On 2 January 2000, Lancashire returned to Coronation Street for a single episode in which Raquel asks Curly for a divorce. Lancashire felt it was an apt time to return, as she was now a more confident actress and wanted to portray Raquel again before she aged significantly. Then series producer Jane Macnaught deemed Raquel one of Coronation Street 's most popular ever characters and her return an opportunity for her "millions of fans" to learn what had become of her. Lancashire and Kennedy were the sole actors in the episode, the first to feature just two characters. From late January, Lancashire appeared as factory employee Yvonne Kolakowski in the BBC1 drama series Clocking Off. Lancashire used her own experiences as a single mother mistreated by men to tap into Yvonne's dysfunctional home-life. In March, she played actress Coral Atkins in Seeing Red, a television film that explored her role in setting up a care home for abused children. Lancashire felt the subject matter to be harrowing and also a pressure to do the story justice. Lancashire then spent eight weeks filming the BBC1 legal sitcom Chambers in which she played "ambitious" and "bigoted" barrister Ruth Quirke. The series aired from June 2000. Lancashire's final role in 2000 was in the two part drama thriller My Fragile Heart. Lancashire's output in 2000 earned her several awards. She was voted best actress at the TV Quick Awards in September 2000 for her roles in Clocking Off and Seeing Red, and in October was voted Most Popular Actress at the 6th National Television Awards for Seeing Red. In March 2001 she was named Drama Performer of the Year by the Television and Radio Industries Club, with mention of her work in Clocking Off and Seeing Red.
"Golden Handcuff" contract and further projects (2001-2010)
Following Lancashire's success in connecting with a television audience, ITV sought to secure her exclusively to their network in a two year golden handcuffs deal, which was finalised in July 2000. Lancashire became the first actress to be given such a contract with ITV. The deal, worth £1.3 million, made Lancashire the highest paid salaried actress in British Television. Her last role on BBC1 during this period was comedy drama Gentleman's Relish, adapted from the Miles Gibson novel of the same name. The television film, which aired on New Year's Day 2001, was Lancashire's first in the costume drama genre; she played a housekeeper harbouring romantic feelings for her master. Her first role under her new contract with ITV was the six part drama The Glass opposite John Thaw. The series, which aired between May and June 2001 saw Lancashire star as a saleswoman for a double-glazing company who ends up caught in a love triangle with her boss and his nephew. Retrospectively, the series was judged not to be a success; it averaged 5.8 million viewers, less than rival show on BBC1, Messiah. In October she starred in the television film Back Home as Peggy Dickinson, a woman adjusting to life in post-war Britain after having been separated from her family during the war.
In April 2002 Lancashire starred in the two part psychological thriller The Cry, which she described as her "most naked role yet". She played a social worker grieving her second still-born child who is determined to protect a baby she perceives to be at risk of abuse. Lancashire drew on her own experiences of clinical depression in order to understand her character's mentality. Her performance saw her awarded with a Golden Nymph award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival. In April it was reported that Lancashire had been lined up play the lead role in comedy drama Life Begins, which creator Mike Bullen had written with Lancashire in mind. However, by June Lancashire had exited the drama, unwilling to commit to a potentially long running series. Later that month BBC News and newspaper The Guardian reported that Lancashire had exited her exclusive deal with ITV, which would not be renewed after it expired in the Autumn. The decision was reportedly influenced by Lancashire's desire to reduce her workload and to have the freedom to take on other roles. In September 2002 she appeared in a two-part crime drama pilot, Rose and Maloney, as legal investigator Rose Linden. On 22 December she appeared in the television movie Birthday Girl as Rachel Jones, who plans a party to celebrate being in remission from a serious illness, only to discover that the disease has returned. Lancashire's final role to air under her ITV contract was Gertrude Morel in an adaptation of D.H. Lawrence's 1913 novel Sons and Lovers, airing in January 2003. Lancashire felt a strong connection with the project, stating: "whatever the reason I do what I do, I felt I had come to a point where I could stop searching after this". Paul Hoggart, reviewer for The Times wrote that Lancashire "steals the show" with a "performance of immense subtlety and quiet strength, proof, if we still needed it, that she has matured into a terrific actress."
While pregnant with her third child, Lancashire began an 18-month career break, the longest of her working life. Her first job after returning to work was her directorial debut on an episode of the BBC1 anthology series The Afternoon Play. For "Viva Las Blackpool" she was given the Best Newcomer Award (sponsored by BBC Birmingham) at the Birmingham Screen Festival and the Best New Talent Award at the Royal Television Society (Midlands) awards in 2004. The venture also earned her first British Academy Television Awards nomination in 2005 for Best new Director of Fiction. Lancashire next filmed three two-part stories for Rose and Maloney, following on from the pilot episode in 2002. The delay between shooting for the pilot and its follow-up was a result of Lancashire's career break and problems reconciling her availability with that of co-star Phil Davis.  In 2005 Lancashire starred in The Rotter's Club as a housewife in 1970s Birmingham. Also in 2005 she appeared in the BBC television film Cherished as Angela Cannings, a British woman who was wrongfully convicted of killing her two baby sons. In December 2005, Lancashire returned to West End theatre, taking on the role of Miss Adelaide in the Donmar Warehouse production of Guys and Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre. Lancashire was due to stay with the production until March 2006, but due to a severe chest infection made her last appearance on 4 January. Lancashire's only television acting role in 2006 was as house-wife and cake-maker Elaine in the BBC comedy drama Angel Cake. In November she presented an edition of the Five documentary series Disappearing Britain in which she interviewed people with memories of Wakes Week holidays in Blackpool by early 20th century Cotton mill workers.
In February 2007 she made an appearance in the E4 teen drama series Skins. This was followed by a leading role in the BBC Two television drama Sex, the City and Me as solicitor Ruth Gilbert. In October, Lancashire appeared in her first feature film, David Nicholls' And When Did You Last See Your Father? in which she played aunt Beaty. In December, she starred in BBC1's 2007 adaption of Charles Dickens' 1838 novel Oliver Twist. Whilst ambivalent about the serial as a whole, The Daily Mirror 's Jane Simon singled Lancashire out for praise stating that she "really sets the tone for the cold, unfeeling world into which orphaned Oliver is born." Between 2008 and 2011 Lancashire narrated the BBC1 costume drama series Lark Rise to Candleford based on Flora Thompson's memoir of her Oxfordshire childhood in the 1880s. In April, she appeared in the opening episode of the 2008 series of Doctor Who, as "an enigmatic and powerful businesswoman" who Lancashire described as a "warped Mary Poppins". She was amongst a number of high-profile actors the series' executive producer Russell T Davies secured for the fourth series of the science-fiction drama as part of his intention to make it "bigger and blowsier". In 2009, Lancashire starred in the BBC1 musical drama series All the Small Things. She played Esther Caddick, a full-time mother who starts a choir after her husband leaves her for a more glamorous woman. Following this, she reunited with director Coky Giedroyc, who had directed her in Oliver Twist, for a 2009 television adaptation of Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights in which she played housekeeper Nelly Dean. In 2010 Lancashire portrayed Rosemary Nicholls, mother of a murder victim, in the three-part BBC drama Five Daughters; a depiction of the Ipswich serial murders from the perspective of the victims and their families. Also in 2010 she guest-starred in the police drama series Inspector George Gently.
Continued prominence (2011–present)
In March 2011 Lancashire began starring in a new Cameron Mackintosh musical, Betty Blue Eyes, at the Novello Theatre . In the production, a loose adaptation of the 1984 film A Private Function, she starred as Joyce Chilvers, an aspirational housewife who Lancashire describes as "brittle" and "capricious". Despite positive reviews the musical closed in London on 24 September 2011, after a run of just six months. For her performance Lancashire was nominated for the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical. In 2012 she appeared as lady's maid Miss Whisset in the penultimate episode of the 2010 revival of Upstairs Downstairs. In September 2012 Lancashire began appearing as Head of Ladieswear Miss Audrey in the six-part series The Paradise set in a department store in Northern England in the late 19th century. Lancashire described her character as "a true archetypal spinster" who has long denied herself a romantic life and who begins to feel undermined by a younger colleague.
Since November 2012 Lancashire has appeared in the BBC drama series Last Tango in Halifax as Caroline, an Oxford-educated headmistress who feels that her mother's second marriage gives her "permission" to be herself. Caroline's same-sex relationship with a fellow teacher resulted in Lancashire receiving more fan mail than for any other role, largely from women telling her that the series had helped them to come out. Filming of the second series clashed with filming of the second series of The Paradise, which necessitated Lancashire having to leave The Paradise partway through the second series. For her role as Caroline she was nominated for the British Academy Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in both 2013 and 2014, winning in 2014. In 2014, Lancashire collaborated again with Last Tango in Halifax writer Sally Wainwright in the 2014 crime drama series Happy Valley. Wainwright was keen to write another role for Lancashire after being "blown away" by her performances in Last Tango in Halifax. Lancashire portrays Catherine Cawood, a police sergeant still dealing with the aftershocks of the rape and suicide of her daughter eight years earlier. For this role she earned a Royal Television Society Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series and a TV Choice Award for Best Actress in 2014.
|1987||Coronation Street||Wendy Farmer||One episode|
|1988||Dramarama||Janice Dobbs||One episode: "Forever Young"|
|1991-1996, 2000||Coronation Street||Raquel Watts||Series Regular|
|1997||Bloomin' Marvellous||Liz Deacon||Six episodes|
|1997-1999||Where the Heart is||Ruth Goddard||Inaugural lead|
|1999||Murder Most Horrid||Karen Sullivan||One episode : "Going Solo"|
|2000||Clocking Off||Yvonne Kolakowski||Five episodes|
|Seeing Red||Coral Atkins||Television Film|
|Chambers||Ruth Quirke||Six episodes|
|My Fragile Heart||Trina Lavery||Two part drama|
|2001||Gentleman's Relish||Violet Askey||Television Film|
|The Glass||Carol Parker||Six episodes|
|Back Home||Peggy Dickinson||Television Film|
|2002||The Cry||Meg Bartlett||Two part drama|
|Birthday Girl||Rachel Jones||Television film|
|2002, 2004-2005||Rose and Maloney||Rose Linden||Eleven episodes|
|2003||Sons and Lovers||Gertrude Morel|
|2005||The Rotter's Club||Barbara Chase||Three part serial|
|Cherished||Angela Cannings||Television film|
|2006||Angel Cake||Elaine Wilson||Television film|
|Sex, The City and Me||Ruth Gilbert||Television film|
|Oliver Twist||Mrs Corney||Five part serial|
|2008||Doctor Who||Miss Foster||One episode: "Partners in Crime"|
|2008-2011||Lark Rise to Candleford||Adult Laura||Voice/Narration|
|2009||Wuthering Heights||Nelly Dean||Two part drama|
|All the Small Things||Esther Caddick||Six episodes|
|2010||Five Daughters||Rosemary Nicholls||Three part serial|
|Inspector George Gently||Mallory Brown||One episode: "Peace and Love"|
|2012||Upstairs Downstairs||Miss Whisset||Two episodes|
|2012-2013||The Paradise||Miss Audrey||Lead role, ten episodes|
|2012-present||Last Tango in Halifax||Caroline Dawson||Eighteen episodes|
|2014-present||Happy Valley||Catherine Cawood||Lead role, six episodes|
|2007||And When Did You Last See Your Father?||Beaty|
|2015||Dad's Army||Unknown||In production|
Awards and nominations
|1996||National Television Award||Most Popular Actress||Coronation Street||Nominated|
|1998||National Television Award||Most Popular Actress||Where the Heart is||Nominated|
|2000||National Television Award||Most Popular Actress||Seeing Red||Won|
|2000||TV Quick Award||Best Actress||Seeing Red
|2001||TRIC Award||Drama Performer of the Year||Seeing Red
|2002||Golden Nymph Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series||The Cry||Won|
|2004||Royal Television Society Awards (Midlands)||Best New Talent||"Viva Las Blackpool" (The Afternoon Play)||Won|
|2005||British Academy Television Award||Best New Director (fiction)||"Viva Las Blackpool" (The Afternoon Play)||Nominated|
|2012||Laurence Olivier Award||Best Actress in a Musical||Betty Blue Eyes||Nominated|
|2013||British Academy Television Award||Best Supporting Actress||Last Tango in Halifax||Nominated|
|2013||Royal Television Society Awards (North West)||Best Performance in a Single Drama or Drama Series||Last Tango in Halifax||Nominated|
|2014||British Academy Television Award||Best Supporting Actress||Last Tango in Halifax||Won|
|2014||TV Choice Award||Best Actress||Happy Valley||Won|
|2014||Royal Television Society Awards (North West)||Best Actress in a Drama Series||Happy Valley||Won|
|2014||Satellite Award||Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film||Happy Valley||Nominated|
|2015||National Television Award||Best Dramatic Performance||Happy Valley||Nominated|
|2015||Broadcasting Press Guild Award||Best Actress||Happy Valley
Last Tango in Halifax
|2015||Royal Television Society Programme Awards||Best Actor (female)||Happy Valley||Pending|
In 2009 Lancashire was made a honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Huddersfield. In 2014 the Radio Times listed her as one of the thirty most powerful women in British television and radio.
Lancashire suffered from clinical depression from the age of 17. The effects of the condition led her to contemplate suicide twice and inhibited her ability to attend auditions. Two years into her role on Coronation Street, she experienced a 14-month nervous breakdown but did not confide in anyone beside her close family or take any time off work, which in retrospect she deemed "the worst thing [she] could have done. During the worst part of her experience Lancashire described herself as "hysterical at the thought of getting out of bed". Her mother Hilda forced her to seek medical assistance for her condition, which Lancashire states "gave me my life back", her twenties having been "a write-off". Steps that Lancashire took to combat her depression included remaining single for five years, attending therapy sessions, and taking prescriptions of the anti-depressant drug, Paroxetine. She first "came out" as a depressive in 2000, in the hope that more public discourse on the matter would de-stigmatise the condition.
Lancashire's first marriage was to music lecturer Gary Hargreaves, 11 years her senior, who was her first serious boyfriend. They met when she was 18, were married by the time Lancashire turned 22, and had two sons together. She characterises the marriage as an unhappy one that contributed to her depression; in 2001, she stated: though her marriage lasted ten years, it "was 10 years longer than it should have done". She explained that she only married due to her traditional mindset and fear of the stigma of having a child out of wedlock. The end of her first marriage prompted Lancashire to find her own identity, as she felt this had become lost in her marriage.
Lancashire first met her second husband, television executive Peter Salmon, whilst she was portraying Raquel on Coronation Street and he was employed by Granada Studios, which produces the soap opera. The two began a romantic relationship in the summer of 2000. Salmon proposed to Lancashire in New York during a holiday at Easter time 2001. The pair married in August 2001 in a low-key ceremony held at Langar Hall, Nottinghamshire. In April 2003, Lancashire gave birth to her third son.
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