Corrie’s Hayley Cropper, Julie Hesmondhalgh, reveals whether she’d take on her iconic trans role if asked today
Julie Hesmondhalgh, who played trans woman Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street, has said that she would not take the role today because she is cisgender.
Hesmondhalgh played Hayley for almost 16 years on the soap, and her role broke new ground for trans representation on television at a time when such characters were a rarity.
Now, Hesmondhalgh has said she hopes she wouldn’t be offered another trans role in 2020 – and said she would turn it down if she was given the chance today.
“I would hope that it wouldn’t be offered to me as a cis woman,” Hesmondhalgh told The Guardian.
“I definitely wouldn’t take it. I left Corrie because it was time for me to go personally, but it was also time for Hayley – a trans woman played by a cis woman – to go, too.”
She continued: “I was about to become an absolute anachronism, because there were then trans actors to play those parts, and even more now.”
Julie Hesmondhalgh vowed to play trans character Hayley Cropper with ‘sensitivity and empathy’.
The actress also revealed that she faced backlash from a trans rights organisation at the time for taking on the role as a cis woman.
“There was a really great trans rights group, Press for Change, who were really, really pissed off – and I totally understood why,” Hesmondhalgh said.
“I met them and said: ‘I hear you, but honestly I think the pressure on a trans actor – who definitely would have had a certain amount of vulnerability anyway – would have been unbearable.’ The way the press was then, they’d have been eaten alive.
I would hope that it wouldn’t be offered to me as a cis woman.
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“So I assured them that I was their ally, that I would play the part with as much sensitivity and empathy as I could, that I would listen to them. And, honestly, I think I did a decent job.”
She said her Coronation Street character helped change attitudes.
Hesmondhalgh also spoke of the “power” of playing Hayley Cropper, saying “within weeks” of her debut on Coronation Street, attitudes started to change.
“I knew then that something was shifting,” she said.
“If you want to fight prejudice, you put somebody likeable in the living room and people can see beyond what makes them different to what makes them the same.”