Lancashire at the 2013 British Academy Television Awards
10 October 1964 |
Oldham, Lancashire, England
|Spouse(s)||Peter Salmon (2001-present)
Gary Hargreaves (1985-1995)
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, also making occasional television appearances. For the first five years of her acting career Lancashire also taught drama at Salford University in order to supplement her income.
In 1991 Lancashire began her first prominent television role as Raquel Wolstenhulme in the ITV1 television soap opera Coronation Street . She remained part of the series' cast until 1996 before departing in order to experience other roles. Following this she went on to play Ruth Goddard, an inaugural lead in the ITV drama series Where the Heart Is between 1997 and 1999. After a one-off return to Coronation Street and achieving critical and popular success with performances in the BBC drama series Clocking Off and as Coral Atkins in the television film Seeing Red in the year 2000, Lancashire signed a two year golden handcuffs with the ITV network, making her the highest paid salaried actress in UK television. During this time Lancashire filmed a variety of serials and television films though felt she lacked the freedom to take on other projects.
In 2005 she made her debut as a television director for an episode of the anthology series The Afternoon Play. This venture earned her 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, as 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 based on real life events. In 2005 she portrayed Angela Cannings in the television film Cherished and in 2010 appeared in the 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 earned her second and third BAFTA nominations in 2013 and 2014, in the Best Supporting Actress category, winning at the 2014 ceremony. 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.
- 1 Early life and training
- 2 Career
- 3 Filmography
- 4 Awards and nominations
- 5 Personal life
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Early life and training
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. In contrast to her intellectually minded siblings, Lancashire lived in a "fantasy world" growing up, she struggled to connect to reality and suffered from low confidence. In an interview in 2000 she stated that her mother's best hopes for her were that she would "meet a nice man, settle down and have children". 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 applying for and winning a place at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama — where her contemporaries included Shirley Henderson, Maggie O'Neill and Niamh Cusack — Lancashire realized that she enjoyed acting. She graduated in 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 many repertory theatre companies throughout the United Kingdom 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 also felt under pressure to impress, as for the first time 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, one year into her acting career, she made a brief appearance in Coronation Street as nurse Wendy Farmer, who applied to lodge with regular character Jack Duckworth (Bill Tarmey) only to be turned away by his wife, Vera (Liz Dawn). In the late 1980s she also appeared in an episode of the children's anthology series Dramarama.
Career breakthrough (1990-1999)
In 1990 Lancashire got what she describes as 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 Lancashire thoroughly enjoyed the experience, she found it difficult to reconcile performing in London with trying to raise two young children in Manchester. 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 initially joined on a three month contract, and continued teaching at Salford University for another year. Raquel first appeared on 25 January 1991 and temporarily departed on 10 May; within the series narrative the character moved to London to try and launch a modeling career. Between 26 September and 19 October 1991, Lancashire played the title of role of Rita 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 initially had reservations about Raquel's characterisation, noting that she had an "acidic side" which could have rendered Raquel becoming the "street bitch" had it been embellished. She took it upon herself to highlight Raquel's potential, playing against what had been written to make her more comic, evoking the sympathy of the audience. Two years into the role, 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." 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 departure was spread over three episodes, including an hour-long special, devised as part of the programme's "ratings war" with rival soap opera EastEnders. 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 television role was in the ITV drama series Where The Heart Is, which began airing in 1997. Lancashire played Ruth Goddard, a district nurse and colleague of Peggy Snow (Pam Ferris), the other main character. The show proved popular with viewers and a second series was commissioned. 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 later on in life. However, due to poor viewing figures and a damning critical response the sitcom was not renewed for a second series. 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, alongside co-star Pam Ferris. 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 1999 it was announced that Lancashire would be quitting Where the Heart Is, despite the production team offering to increase her salary. At the time of this decision Where the Heart is was the third most popular drama on British Television —behind Coronation Street and Eastenders — and regularly attracted 12 million viewers. Lancashire's decision was reportedly influenced by the series filming so far from home, and a fear that remaining in the series for as long as she had done in Coronation Street would harm her career. In an interview in January 2000, Lancashire expanded on her decision to quit the series, stating that her character "was too chocolate-boxy, no longer a challenge".
Critical success and ITV golden handcuffs (2000-2003)
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 the right time to return, because she had become a more confident actress and wanted to portray Raquel again before the character 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 happened to her in the intervening years. Lancashire and Kennedy were the only cast members to appear in the episode, marking the first time the programme had featured just two characters. From late January, Lancashire appeared as textile factory employee Yvonne Kolakowski in the BBC1 drama series Clocking Off. Lancashire used her own experiences as a single mother who had been mistreated by men to tap into the character's dysfunctional home-life. In March, she played actress Coral Atkins in Seeing Red, a television movie that explored her role in setting up a care home for abused children. Lancashire found this experience one of the most difficult roles of her career, in terms of both the subject matter and the pressure she felt 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 body of work 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.
Following Lancashire's output in 2000, ITV sought to secure her exclusively to their network in a two year golden handcuffs deal, which was finalized in July 2000. Lancashire became the first actress to be offered 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. This 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, Kingdom Swann (Billy Connolly). 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 (Thaw) and his nephew (Joe McFadden). 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 drama thriller The Cry in what she described as her "most naked role yet". She played a social worker grieving her second still-born child who is determined to protect another 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 state of mind. 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 to take the lead role in upcoming comedy drama Life Begins, which creator Mike Bullen had written with Lancashire in mind. However, in June it was announced that Lancashire had pulled out of the project, not wanting to be part of 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 Autumn that year. 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, in which she starred as legal investigator Rose Linden who looks into potential miscarriages of justice. On 22 December she appeared in the television movie Birthday Girl as Rachel Jones, a woman who throws a party to celebrate being in remission from a serious illness, only to find out before the party 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 found this role difficult to leave behind 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."
Further projects (2004–2010)
While pregnant with her third child, Lancashire took 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 drama Cherished as Angela Cannings, a British woman who was wrongfully convicted of killing her two baby sons but was released when medical evidence given at her trial was deemed dubious. In December 2005, Lancashire returned to the West End stage, taking over the role 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. However, one month into the role Lancashire fell ill with a severe chest infection and made her last appearance on 4 January 2006. Lancashire's only television acting role in 2006 was as house-wife and cake-maker Elaine in the BBC comedy drama Angel Cake which aired in September. In November 2006 she presented an edition of the Five documentary social heritage series Disappearing Britain in which she interviewed people with memories of Wakes Week holidays in Blackpool by early 20th century Cotton mill workers. It included an investigation of her family history and her great-grandfather's holidays to Llandudno.
In February 2007 she made a guest 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." In 2008 Lancashire began narrating the BBC1 costume drama series Lark Rise to Candleford based on Flora Thompson's memoir of her Oxfordshire childhood in the 1880s. She would continue in this capacity until the series' cancellation in 2011. In April 2008, she appeared in the opening episode of the 2008 series of Doctor Who, as Miss Foster "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 her own choir after her husband leaves her for a more glamorous woman. Following this, she reunited with director Coky Giedroyc, who had previously directed her in Oliver Twist, for a 2009 television adaptation of Emily Brontë's 1847 novel Wuthering Heights which aired in August on ITV1. She played housekeeper Nelly Dean, an onlooker to the destructive love affair between Cathy and Heathcliff. In 2010 Lancashire portrayed Rosemary Nicholls, the mother of murdered prostitute Ann Nicholls, in the three-part BBC drama Five Daughters, a depiction of the Ipswich serial murders from the point of view of the victims and their families. Also in 2010 she guest-starred in the police drama series Inspector George Gently.
Continued prominence (2011-present)
Lancashire returned to the London West End in 2011 with a starring role in a new Cameron Mackintosh musical, Betty Blue Eyes, which began it's run at the Novello Theatre from March 2011. In the production, a loose adaptation of the 1984 film A Private Function, she starred as Joyce Chilvers, an aspirational middle class housewive 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 made a guest appearance in the penultimate episode of the 2010 revival of Upstairs Downstairs. She played Miss Whisset, a lady's maid and love interest for Warwick Pritchard (Adrian Scarborough). 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 romantic possibilities and who begins to feel undermined by younger competition in the workplace.
Since November 2012 Lancashire has appeared in the BBC drama series Last Tango in Halifax. The series follows Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid), two septuagenarians who fall in love and plan to get married. Lancashire plays Caroline, Celia's daughter, 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 raising her grandson after the rape and suicide of her daughter. Cawood's investigations into a botched kidnapping links back to the man she believed raped her daughter, leading to the character experiencing a slow mental breakdown.
|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|
|Cherised||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 Elliot||Twelve 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, Clocking Off||Won|
|2001||TRIC Award||Drama Performer of the Year||Seeing Red, Clocking Off||Won|
|2002||Golden Nymph Award||Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series||The Cry||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|
|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|
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