Coronation Street

Jane Hazlegrove shares emotions at tragic Coronation Street story – and why she feared being axed

Coronation Street favourite Jane Hazlegrove may be a staple of Weatherfield, much to the enjoyment of fans, but the actress has told that she never rests on her laurels – and has had fears that she would be dropped from the soap.

It’s not her first rodeo in Corrie either. Only a handful of people are likely to have spotted that she has actually been in the show before, but eagle-eyed Coronation Street legend Barbara Knox was one of them.

And it was none other than Barbara – better known as newsagent Rita Tanner – who predicted that Jane would one day return.

Jane joined the show in 2019 as Bernie Winter, the mother of twins Gemma and Paul, but she had previously spent a year on the cobbles in the 1980s when she played teenager Sue Clayton.

‘When I left the show, they gave me a massive card which everybody had signed – including all the legends,’ Jane recalls. ‘Barbara Knox had written: ‘Good luck Jane. Remember, rovers always return.’ It turned out she was right.

‘I was nervous about seeing her again in case she went: “right, has this one improved since she was 16?!”

‘She had a massive impact on me when I was a child and when I came back, I thought: “oh my gosh, I don’t think she’s going to remember me.” And she made out she did, she was very gracious.’

Even though this was Jane’s second stint on the cobbles, it did nothing to reduce her nerves.

‘I was full of trepidation,’ she admits. ‘There were no nerves whatsoever when I was 16. I knew it was a big job but I was incredibly confident. Turning up at 51 was a completely different ball game.

‘When you’re a teenager, there’s the arrogance of youth, you don’t doubt yourself. But coming in as Bernie I was frightened.

‘I was worried that nerves would completely take over and I’d be an idiot and then I’d be through the revolving door and asked to leave as soon as I’d done my first day.

‘I thought I’d forget my lines. I was worried about letting myself down and letting the show down.’

One of Jane’s favourite storylines so far has been the recent screen wedding of Bernie’s son Paul to vicar Billy Mayhew. It was the first gay wedding in the show’s 63-year history, coming nine years after same sex marriages were legalised in Britain.

Jane, who lives in Derbyshire, has been married to actress Isobel Middleton since 2015. But she says that the joy she feels now as a gay woman was hard-earned.

‘I grew up in the 70s and 80s and things were very different then,’ she reflects. ‘I wasn’t out at that time and I had boyfriends and girlfriends. Now I’m in a really good place, but it took a long time.

‘It was tricky for a few years and there were lots of secrets and lies. I came out gradually to different groups of people and it wasn’t all fine.’

‘I have lost friendships along the way,’ Jane, who wrote a personal piece for Metro during Pride Month, continued.

‘Some people went: “I don’t know…” And I said: “well, that’s a big fat shame, because if you can’t accept that of me then that’s really sad and we don’t really know each other, do we?” It makes me feel sad, but then I think: “oh my God, look how far we’ve come.”‘

Jane, 55 and Isobel, 58, have been together 28 years and became civil partners in 2010. But initially Jane, who previously spent eight years as Casualty paramedic Kathleen ‘Dixie’ Dixon, had no interest in formalising their relationship.

‘I said: “why are we doing it because we’re suddenly allowed to do it?”‘ she recalls. ‘The reason we did it was because Isobel hadn’t been well. I was away working on Casualty and it became very clear that I wasn’t really allowed to know anything about how she was, because we weren’t related, even though we’d lived together for 15 years.

‘It made me quite cross that I had no say in what happened to her. It all worked out fine, thankfully, but the morning after the civil partnership I remember us saying over breakfast: “No-one can touch us now.”

‘It was a really brilliant thing that we did and I’m just so thrilled that I’m allowed to live the life that I am now with the woman that I want to live with.’

Jane has featured in a host of dramatic storylines during her four years at Coronation Street, but none quite so moving as her current one, which has seen Bernie’s son Paul diagnosed with incurable Motor Neurone Disease.

Bernie is currently awaiting her day in court after being arrested for handling stolen goods and this week her lawyer Joel warns her that she needs to prepare herself for a custodial sentence. Devastated Bernie breaks the news to Gemma that if she’s locked up, she’ll sadly miss Paul’s last Christmas.

Filming the storyline has been especially emotional for Jane, whose dad Dougie passed away during the pandemic.

‘He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer as we went into lockdown,’ she says sadly. ‘We were all devastated when he died and we weren’t given chance to grieve properly because only eight people were allowed at the crematorium.

‘As a family we’re only just getting over that now, because we did miss the lack of support and contact from our loved ones at that time.

‘This is what this storyline is doing now – it’s showing everyone trying to pull together and get Paul through this and get themselves through it too, because coming out of the end of grief, as I know, is a strange time.

‘You don’t quite know if you’re going to be upside down, back to front or inside out sometimes.’

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