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Life is Liverpool is never boring, just ask Phil Redmond, creator of not just our beloved Brookside, but also school drama, Grange Hill and of course, Hollyoaks. Phil captured the hearts and minds of millions of fans the world over when he bought an entire close of houses and patiently weaved together the lives of the inhabitants with sensational storylines.
Brookside wrote history when the first ever pre-watershed lesbian kiss was aired between Anna Friel and Nicola Stephenson. There was a huge backlash and controversy when a consensual incestuous sexual relationship between Nat and Georgia emerged and let’s not forget the body under the patio! We told you it’s never boring.
For more than 20 years, stars young and old flocked to Brookside Close to hone their craft and we lapped it up. Phil Redmond set the cat among the pigeons back in 2016 when in an interview he hinted that a Brookie come back could be on the cards on a streaming site such as Netflix or Amazon, he told Digital Spy: “It could come back in some form – never say never.
“I think what you would do is go and find some of the old characters, find out where they’re living and pick it up from there. I think there is a place for a soap like that, but doing it online would be the best way to do it.”
We’ve got everything crossed this happens! In the mean time here’s a look back at some of the incredible actors who made Brookside Close their homes and went on to dominate our screens. Who was your fave?
Huyton educated and BAFTA Award nominated actress, Sue Johnson played the brilliant Sheila Grant in Brookside from the very first episode in ’82 until 1990. Married to none other than Bobby ( Ricky Tomlinson) in the soap, Sue has played some iconic female characters since, including the loveable Barbara in The Royle Family (back with her on-screen hubby Ricky), Grace in Waking the Dead, Gloria in Corrie and of course, Miss Denker in Downton Abbey.
Did you know what Anna Friel starred as Michael Palin’s daughter and had a stint on Corrie before she starred in Brookside as Beth Jordache in 1992? The International Emmy Award winnings actress made history when she snogged actress Nicola Stephenson in January 1994 in the soap, before the watershed and has since enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame. Hollywood beckoned and Anna has starred in films such as Limitless, Land of the Lost and The Land Girls. You can currently see her in ITV drama Butterfly.
Alex Fletcher was just 15 when she joined the cast of Brookie as Jacqui Dixon and truly made the part her own. With her overbearing dad Ron on her case, Jacqui moved into a number of different houses in the close before setting up shop at Jacqui D’s Style House. She had plenty of run ins with bad lads, drugs and acid attacks and friendships (that Katie though!) turned nasty. Alex joined Hollyoaks in 2010, has appeared on Celebrity MasterChef, The Wright Stuff and Loose Women as a guest presenter.
If you know one character from Brookside, it’s probably as the big-hearted, window cleaning, Sinbad. Liverpool actor, Michael Starke starred in the soap for 16 years and enjoyed some brilliant comedy moments as the loveable Sinbad. Michael has gone on to star in Hollywood blockbuster, The 51st State, Corrie, The Royal, Doctors and countless theatre shows around the North West including many at our very own Royal Court.
Mick Johnson also had some ground-breaking storylines and strife during his 12 years of Brookside. From racial abuse and drug addiction to euthanasia and having to knock around with Sinbad, Mick coined our fave ever Brookie phrase, “Leeeeoooooooh!” Easily one of the most talented and lovely guys we’ve had the pleasure to interview, Louis has gone on to star in Casualty, New Tricks, Last of the Summer Wine, Benidorn, Waterloo Road and is currently on tour with The Full Monty stage show and about to appear at St. Helens Theatre Royal for their annual Christmas panto.
If there was ever a Scouse dad character we could all relate to, it’s got to be Bobby Grant. Played superbly by scouse legend Ricky Tomlinson, Bobby was the first to move his family into Brookside Close and won legions of fans with his socialist and trade-union activist ways. Heartbreak on the close came in many forms for Bobby during his 6 years as a resident. Pay-cuts, battles with management, losing his son Damon and the last straw, his marriage breakdown with Shelia. Luckily we didn’t have to miss him for long as Jim Royle had us in stitches again as that loveable Scouse Dad. Ricky has gone on to dominate our screens in Crackers, Mike Bassett England Manager and is regularly down at his venue, The Green Room introducing the best up and coming scouse talent.
How about this for your first ever tv role! At just 14, Aigburth-born Gillian Kearney played Debbie McGrath in Brookside, dating Damon Grant for 3 years. Her character’s ‘under-age’ story lines, which caused loads of drama with her on-screen parents, were so popular with young audiences that the first ever soap spin-off series was launched. Debbie and Damon saw her beau meet his demise, while Debbie returned to the soap with his baby to meet Nanny Sheila. Gillian has enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame since Brookside. She’s played the young Shirley Valentine, plus characters in Peak Practise, Shameless, Casualty, Midsomer Murders, Clocking Off, Silent Witness and more recently Emmerdale.
She was an absolute little mare causing untold drama on the close, but there’s no denying that we absolutely loved Emily Shadwick! Wild child with a vendetta and a daft boyfriend who’d do anything for her, actress Jennifer Ellison must have had a ball on the set of Brookside. Making Suzannah’s life a misery and getting into all kinds of trouble from 98-2003, Jennifer has rarely stopped for breath since. She won Hell’s Kitchen, judged Dirty Dancing in the States, been a panellist on Loose Women, appeared in Hotel Babylon, The Commander, released 2 top 20 UK hit singles, she’s tread the boards at the West End and appeared in Hollywood film The Phantom of the Opera. If all that wasn’t enough, she also now runs the incredible and ever successful Jelli Studios, and is the brains behind the international hit, Dance Moms. G’wed Jen!
The other half of that ground-breaking, pre-watershed lesbian kiss, was actress Nicola Stephenson playing Nanny, Margaret Clemence from 1990-93. It’s long since been forgotten that Margaret also had an affair with Father Derek which resulted in him giving up the church! What a babe! Lancashire born actress Nicola has played roles in tonnes of tv shows since making history snogging Anna Friel including Holby City, Waking the Dead, Casualty, Northern Lights, Waterloo Road, New Tricks and most recently Emmerdale as Tess Harris.
Where do we begin with Lindsey Corkhill? Could she be the ultimate Brookie drama queen? Played superbly by Claire Sweeney, Lindsey loved the fellas. First there was Gary, then there was Mike, then there was the drug scandal in Bangkok, Jimmy (her Dad went mad), then came Peter but bad boy Barry Grant beckoned and Lindsey couldn’t say no! Since finally wrapping up her time on the Close in the early noughties, Claire has appeared on the West End, playing Roxy in Chicago, she took part in the first ever Celeb Big Brother, she’s released an album, hosted shows like 60 Minute Makeover and has continued to tread the boards around the UK too.
Nisha Batra first appeared in Brookside in in 1988 when working in the local supermarket after school. Destined for a bright future thanks to her aptitude at school and strict family values, Nisha’s world fell apart after a cash crash storyline that saw the driver killed. The character, played by Sunetra Sarker reappeared in 2000 and enjoyed an affair with the dishy Jerome Johnson! Back in the real world, Sunetra has wowed on screen and in the ballroom, taking part in Strictly Come Dancing series 12 with bad boy, Brendan Cole. She’s also starred in Casualty, Cold Feet, Doctors, Emmerdale, Celeb Master Chef, Who Do You Think You Are, Death in Paradise, Doctor Who and Ackley Bridge, to name a few!
Known for her role as pathologist, Sam Ryan, actress Amanda Burton played the ‘high flying, urban professional’ Heather Black from 82-86. Heather endured a lot of heart ache in her four years on the close including cheating hubby’s, car accidents and drug abuse. Amanda on the other hand went on to achieve phenomenal success in Silent Witness, Peak Practise, Waterloo Road and more.
Brother of the infamous Jimmy, Billy Corkhill moved his family into number 10 Brookside Close in 85 and endured some pretty harrowing times. Played superbly by scouse actor, John McArdle, Billy narrowly escaped a prison stay, armed robbery, periods of depression and that mad episode where he drove over all the neighbours gardens shouting ‘I’m just a doleite’. John has gone on to enjoy roles in Waterloo Road, Merseybeat, Emmerdale and was even surprised by Michael Apsel for This is Your Life in 2003.
What a career Tina Malone has had since playing Mo Mcgee in Brookside back in 1993. Mouthy Mo worked in Mick Johnson’s Pizza Parlour and had a bit of a thing for Sinbad, but she was just a starter compared to the hurricane that was Mimi Maguire in Shameless, a role that followed for Tina in 2005. The girl from Tockie stayed true to her roots and brought volume to Celeb Big Brother in 2009 and is busy nurturing brand new talent at her drama school, To Be Frank.
We’ve seen her Brick Up the Mersey Tunnel, lay the law down at Waterloo Road and she’s currently playing Irene Stocks in the dales. It’s safe to say Eithne Brown is an acting force to be reckoned with as her credits clock up an astonishing 30+ years. Back in 1987 Eithne played Chrissy Rogers in Brookside and starred in no less then 65 episodes playing Katie and Sammy’s mum. Eithne’s portrayal of Wirral-ite Ann Twacky is still our fave, what a woman!
The gorgeous Suzanne Collins played Nikki Shadwick in Brookie from ’98 until the final episode in 2003 and wracked up some serious drama. Storylines that catapulted Suzanne into the conversations of millions included date-rape, the death of her dad and brother, then her younger sister Emily’s death in the epic Brookside siege and being stalked by a uni mate….all that in just 5 years! Newly married Suzanne has played many different roles since leaving the close. The Bill, Doctors, various plays at our beloved Royal Court Theatre and has starred in film ‘Softlad’ too.
Liverpool actor Barry Sloane’s acting credits looks like a roll of Andrex since he started out as Sean Smith on Brookside in 2002. From Doctors to The Bill, Casualty to Holby City, DCI Banks, and across the pond to smash hit international dramas in the states such as Revenge, SIX, The Whispers and L.A’s Finest, Barry also starred alongside Michael Keaton in thriller flick Penthouse House. It’s safe to say this Liverpool lad has certainly made his mark on both sides of the Atlantic.
Surely everyone’s favourite wasn’t he? Poor old Jimmy got himself into more trouble than we can remember and left his long suffering wife ‘Our Jacki’ up the wall a million times over. We all remember Cracker the Dog, Little Jimmy and who can forget that amazing double denim look?! Since appearing in the last ever scene of Brookside in 2002, Dean Sullivan became a successful talk show host on the original Radio City Talk in 2008 and has since appeared in countless pantos and theatre shows across the country. We miss you Jim!
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