Blogtor Who takes a look at the life and career of Julie Hesmondhalgh, who’ll be playing Judy Maddox in Kerblam!

Julie Hesmondhalgh was probably one of the best known names in the epic Coming Soon roll call of guest stars that closed out The Woman Who Came to Earth. But some may not  realize just what a coup she is. Hesmondhalgh has proven over time to be highly selective about the jobs she takes. Her work has shown a commitment to not just quality but deeper meaning.

Born in Accrington, Lancashire, the experience of growing up in a small, northern industrial town during the Thatcher years left a deep impression on the young Hesmondhalgh. Her teacher nurtured the young Julie’s early signs of talent and encouraged her to apply to drama school. But Hesmondhalgh was only able to attend after winning a grant to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. She has since been scathing about the cuts to such grants and, like former Doctor Christopher Eccleston, strongly attacked the increasing difficulty working class young people have in accessing the arts.

Hesmondhalgh has previously said that, had she not gotten her grant she would probably have gone into politics. In a way, she’s kept one foot in both. She’s one of the three founders of the Take Back Theatre group. A collective which brings together artists from the Greater Manchester Area, they tackle current social and political issues through theatre. Take Back have put on productions dealing with issues as serious and diverse as homelessness, the NHS, and date rape. Hesmondhalgh is clearly fiercely proud of her work with the group and the work its members do.

 

As Coronation Street’s Hayley, Hesmondhalgh was a master of both the comic and the dramatic

As it is her body of television work has often been distinctively progressive and Northern in flavour. Her most famous role continues to be her seventeen years on Coronation Street as Hayley Cropper. Corrie’s winning formula of combining gentle humour with hard hitting storylines proved perfectly suited to Hesmondhalgh. Her fine comic skills, especially in her double act with David Neilson as husband Roy, meant she often brought the lighter touch to the cobbled street of Weatherfield.

But she was called upon to shoulder heavy dramatic plots too. Although her casting might raise eyebrows if repeated today, her portrayal of a transgender woman simply trying to live and love according to her heart was groundbreaking for 1998. Her early arcs navigated her coming out to Roy, attempting to get a church wedding (pursued by the gutter press trying to sensationalize their wedding day), and deal with her son’s rejection of her. And they achieved a lasting impact in how completely it won over Coronation Street’s millions of viewers into being on Hayley’s side.

Her final storyline, in which Haley discovers she has terminal cancer were no less significant. The scenes were Haley chooses to end her life gripped families around the nation and started an important debate. Hesmondhalgh’s performance won over people who perhaps had previously had strong opinions on the subject.

Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer and Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman - Broadchurch Series 3 (c) ITV
Julie Hesmondhalgh as Trish Winterman alongside future Doctor Who co-star Jodie Whittaker as Beth Latimer in Broadchurch (c) ITV

From Manchester to Broadchurch and beyond

Since Coronation Street, she’s brought her intelligence and skill to performances in pieces both important and popular. She was Cleo, the sister of mid-life crisis stricken Henry in former Doctor Who showrunner Russell T Davies’ magnificent Cucumber. She also teamed with future Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall for the third season of Broadchurch. In its masterful exploration of the different strands of toxic masculinity, she was the rape survivor struggling with the aftershocks of the attack. Chibnall took pains to ensure accuracy and sensitivity in the depiction of the examination, interviewing and support of rape survivors. But it was the emotional truth and believability of Hesmondhalgh’s Trish that was the cornerstone of the story.

Alongside these roles, she played Amanda Wadsworth in the exceptionally popular Happy Valley. It was again the sincere nature of her portrayal of a woman humiliated by her husband’s infidelity, but dangerously unaware of his darkest secret, that kept the plot grounded during the high drama and twists. She starred in Taxi for Linda, an episode of the Jimmy McGovern created anthology Moving On. And she appeared in one of Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s dark and twisted Inside No.9 tales. La Couchette involved an overcrowded sleeper car, a dead body, and a poo in a shoebox. As such it allowed Hesmondhalgh to return to her more comedic skills.

In Doctor Who, Julie Hesmondhalgh plays Judy Maddox, an executive at the eponymous Kerblam! But is Maddox villain, victim, or ally? Blogtor Who isn’t saying. But with a script from the keyboard of the devilishly clever and mischievous Pete McTighe, you can be sure Hesmondhalgh is exactly who’s needed for the role.

 

Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) in Kerblam! (c) BBC Studios
Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and Graham (Bradley Walsh) in Kerblam! (c) BBC Studios

The Doctor Who adventure continues…

Doctor Who continues this Sunday at 6.30pm GMT on BBC One and at 8pm EST on BBC America with Kerblam! by Pete McTighe. For further broadcast times in your region, check local listings. Series 11 stars Jodie Whittaker (The Doctor), Mandip Gill (Yasmin Khan), Bradley Walsh (Graham O’Brien) and Tosin Cole (Ryan Sinclair).

Kerblam! guest stars Julie Hesmondhalgh and Lee Mack and is directed by Jennifer Perrott.

“Delivery for the Doctor!”

A mysterious message arrives in a package addressed to the Doctor. It leads her, Graham, Yaz and Ryan to investigate the warehouse moon orbiting Kandoka, and the home of the galaxy’s largest retailer: Kerblam!

 

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