Julie Hesmondhalgh, aka Coronation Street’s Hayley Cropper, is to leave the ITV1 soap at the end of 2013. In September 2012, the actress starred in the play Black Roses: the Killing of Sophie Lancaster at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and it is this performance that has inspired her to seek out new projects.
"I've had the most wonderful and happy time in the life changing 15/16 years I've been in Corrie, and I owe so much to the show and the special team that make it happen,” she said today. “The decision to hang up Hayley's red anorak was a tough one, but doing the play at the Royal Exchange last year made me realise that there's life in the old dog yet (!) and that there are other things I want to try. Whatever happens next I'll always be proudest of lovely Mrs Cropper and in particular what we achieved in changing attitudes to transgender and in portraying possibly the most loving, faithful and steadfast couple in soap history! I'll always be the show's biggest fan."
Coronation Street executive producer Kieran Roberts added: Who doesn't love Hayley Cropper? The character's warmth and decency, spiced with a great sense of fun and adventure, have put her at the heart of Coronation Street. The enduring popularity of and affection for Hayley - and of course her wonderful partnership with Roy - has so much to do with the brilliant way Julie Hesmondhalgh has brought the character to life on screen for the past 15 years. We'll be sorry to say farewell to Hayley - and to Julie - but we're planning a screen exit worthy of a one of Coronation Street's best-loved characters.”
Hesmondhalgh joined Coronation Street in 1998 as transsexual Hayley Patterson, winning the heart of meek café owner Roy Cropper (David Neilson). Their romance led to one of the most enduring marriages on the show, with Hesmondhalgh earning acclaim from both critics and the transgender community.