After Sarah Lancashire saw off stiff competition to win last night’s Best Drama Performance gong at the National Television Awards, she’ll have to clear a space on her mantelpiece between a BAFTA, previous NTA gongs and even a Royal Television Society statuette.
Her performance as the tireless, cynical but sardonic Catherine Cawood in ‘Happy Valley’, for which she was recognised last night, is only the latest in a series of roles where her talents have turned good writing into great TV, but how has she made it happen?
Raquel Watts was her breakthrough role, but the lovelorn aspiring model wasn’t the first character she played on ‘Coronation Street’. In 1987, she appeared - very briefly - as Wendy Farmer.
And… she had an even earlier connection with the cobbles. Her father, Geoffrey, was an early scriptwriter on the series, penning hundreds of episodes.
During the early part of her career, Sarah supported herself between acting gigs with work as a drama teacher at Salford University. She continued to do this for a whole year, after she started appearing in ‘Corrie’ as Raquel - initially on a three-month contract.
When she finally left the Street in 1996, her exit was drawn out over three episodes and drew 20 million viewers.
When Sarah signed an exclusive ‘golden handcuffs’ deal with ITV in 2000, she was the first TV actress to be offered this kind of contract.
Sarah has one son with her husband, ITV exec Peter Salmon, and two sons with her previous husband Gary. Between them, she and her husband have six sons in total.
She may be a Northern sweetheart, but she actually trained in London, graduating from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1986.
After years in ‘The Street’, ‘Where The Heart Is’ and ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’, Sarah earned her first BAFTA gong for ‘Last Tango In Halifax’ also written by ‘Happy Valley’ scribe Sally Wainwright. “She doesn’t just write brilliantly for women,” said Sarah of the woman who brought her prize-winning character into being. “She writes for everyone. She’s brilliant.”
Now with another award to her name, expectations will be high for a third series of ‘Happy Valley’. Initially, reports stated that Sarah wasn’t keen on a third series, but a spokesman for the show later reported that after discussions with Wainwright, Lancashire was “very keen”. We can only cross our fingers for more time with one of TV’s great characters.