From saucy stage role to TV’s toughest female cop… Sarah Lancashire’s long journey to Happy Valley
As Sergeant Catherine Cawood, she has millions of viewers in suspense for this Sunday’s Happy Valley finale.
And for Sarah Lancashire, the gritty role in BBC1’s crime drama marked a change of pace from the characters that made her a household name.
The Oldham-born actress, 58, is perhaps best known for playing barmaid Raquel in Coronation Street, but has had a varied career since leaving drama school.
Her first major role, as a beauty contestant in swimwear and high heels, was on stage in 1986 in Manchester Library Theater Company’s The Beauty Game.
Stage role: Sarah Lancashire (center) in The Beauty Game in 1986
Road to fame: Lancashire starring Bill Tarmey as Jack Duckworth in Coronation Street in 1986
Actor: Lancashire with Mark Wingett in The Bill in 1991 and back in the Rovers as Raquel in 1994
She then had a fleeting appearance in Coronation Street as Jack Duckworth’s future lodger, and also in an episode of The Bill, before returning to Corrie as Rovers Return barmaid Raquel, becoming one of the ITV soap’s best-loved characters.
Her character left the street in 1996, eloping with hapless husband Norman “Curly” Watts.
Ms Lancashire said quitting was ‘like jumping off a cliff at midnight’, but her desire to pursue other forms of acting led to roles as a nurse in ITV’s Where The Heart Is, as a factory worker in BBC1 drama Clocking Off and as a lawyer in the BBC comedy series Chambers.
She signed a deal with ITV worth a reported £1.6 million to star in an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s novel Sons And Lovers. A return to theater saw her appear in the West End in musicals Guys And Dolls and, in 2011, Betty Blue Eyes.
Versatile: with James Fleet and John Bird in Chambers in 2000, and with Rupert Evans in Sons And Lovers in 2003
Talent: On stage in Betty Blue Eyes in 2011 and in Last Tango in Halifax in 2014
Inventing a cliffhanger: as a TV chef in Julia in 2022 and as Officer Sergeant Catherine Atwood in Happy Valley
Ms Lancashire next starred in the BBC1 comedy drama Last Tango In Halifax which was set to run until 2020.
It was written by Sally Wainwright, who also created Happy Valley, which first aired in 2014.
Before the final series of the crime drama was filmed, Ms. Lancashire, who is married to TV executive Peter Salmon and has three children, started playing TV chef Julia Child in the HBO series Julia.
Happy Valley has acquired cult status in the US through Netflix.
Upcoming: A trailer for the final episode of Happy Valley has been released this week ahead of the upcoming finale on Sunday
Fans there and in the UK are gearing up for an explosive final episode, with a trailer suggesting a fiery showdown between Sergeant Cawood and villain Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton.
A trailer for the final episode of Happy Valley was released this week ahead of the upcoming finale on Sunday.
The 16-second clip teases the final showdown between Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) and Tommy Lee Royce (James) following his daring escape from court before the police sergeant bursts into tears.
The trailer opens with Tommy’s son Ryan (Rhys Connah) being questioned by the police about when he last had contact with his dangerous father.
A series of scenes ensues where the police force their way into Tommy, while Catherine is heard to say ‘he’s still here, he’s going to get mad and he’s going to get even more desperate and dangerous’.
The short clip ends with a bloodied Tommy appearing to hit someone on the floor and a final shot of Catherine in tears.
Viewers tuned in to the breathtaking penultimate episode of the BBC drama on Sunday night as Tommy revealed his grand plans.
Tommy escaped at the end of the series’ fourth episode, while fans learned in Sunday’s fifth episode that he was planning to flee to Marbella, with his son Ryan in tow.
Viewers admitted that they could barely watch the dramatic episode as everything lined up for a dramatic showdown between Tommy and Sargent Catherine, when he revealed he planned to kill her before leaving for Spain.
Producers are said to be so desperate to keep the show’s climax a secret that they filmed five different endings.
More than six million viewers are expected to watch how the cat-and-mouse game is solved on Sunday.
Villain: More than six million viewers are expected to watch Sunday to hear how the game of cat and mouse will be solved (Tommy Lee Royce pictured)