Julie Claire Hesmondhalgh was born 25 February 1970 and is best known for her role as Hayley Cropper in the ITV soap opera Coronation Street between 1998 and 2014. For this role, she won Best Serial Drama Performance at the 2014 National Television Awards and Best Actress at the 2014 British Soap Awards.
She was born in Accrington, Lancashire. As a teenager, she was moderately interested in acting, but wished to become a social worker. She applied to drama school to be with her friends, and studied at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art from 1988 to 1991 (one of her classmates was Benito Martinez). On finishing her training, she was a part of Arts Threshold, a small independent theatre in London, for several years. In the 1990s, she appeared in such television dramas as The Bill, Catherine Cookson’s The Dwelling Place, and in the Victoria Wood comedic television movie Pat and Margaret.
Best known for playing Hayley Cropper, she played the first transsexual character on a British serial.
After nearly ten years on the show, she decided to take a break from Coronation Street for a year in order to spend more time with her family. She left on 22 October 2007, but returned on 17 November 2008.
On 11 January 2013, ITV announced that Julie would be leaving Coronation Street in January 2014 after 15 years on the show, and that her character Hayley was to be killed-off. She filmed her final scenes on 18 November 2013 which aired on 22 January 2014.
From 19–29 September 2012, Julie appeared at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, portraying Sylvia Lancaster in Black Roses: The Killing Of Sophie Lancaster opposite Rachel Austin. The play was based on the real life story of Sylvia’s late daughter, Sophie Lancaster. On 23 January 2014, she returned to the Royal Exchange Theatre for her first role since leaving Coronation Street, in the Simon Stephens play Blindsided, which ran until 15 February.