SINCE leaving Corrie three years ago, Julie Hesmondhalgh has been careful about which projects she chooses.
But when an offer came through for a role in the third and final series of hit crime drama Broadchurch, she didn’t think twice.
“I’d love to say it was because of the character, but when you get the call saying: ‘Do you want to be in Broadchurch?’, you don’t really go: ‘What’s the part?’” admits the actress, who played Corrie favourite Hayley Cropper for 16 years.
There was also the lure of working with the lead actors — David Tennant, who plays Broadchurch CID’s DI Alec Hardy, and Olivia Colman, who plays DS Ellie Miller.
“All my first scenes were with them,” says Julie, who’s 47.
“I had to work hard at feeling like I wasn’t a competition winner.”
Other new cast members this series include Sarah Parish, Lenny Henry, Charlie Higson, and Bafta-winner Georgina Campbell.
“We did a photoshoot and it was like being at Madame Tussauds,” Julie gushes.
“I had that in Corrie as well — there would be times when I’d be thinking: ‘Oh my God, I’m in Coronation Street! There’s Rita!’”
She’s being modest, of course. Producers of Broadchurch were so keen to have her involved, she didn’t even have to audition.
Julie, who won Best Serial Drama Performance at the 2014 National TV Awards for her portrayal of dying Hayley’s cancer battle, employs all the compassion viewers have come to expect from her in the role of Trish Winterman, a woman who suffers a sexual assault.
Julie was keen to ensure it was depicted sensitively.
“It’s always daunting when you’re trying to represent something people have gone through and are going through every day in real life, because you want to get it right,” she says.
“There is an assumption, based on fact for many years, that you’d be treated quite badly when you went to the police, and a couple of male coppers wouldn’t believe you.
“Broadchurch producers wanted to turn that around and show people how, after years of campaigning, there is a process in place.”
During filming, the cast had theories about who the culprit might be, but the identity of the attacker was a closely-guarded secret.
Scripts were digital and password protected, with personalised watermarks on each page, and code names for the top actors.
“The conversations we’ve been having every day are exactly the conversations I think will be going on all over the country after every episode,” says Julie.
Whatever the outcome, a pivotal role in such a ratings hit means Julie should be able to hang up Hayley’s beloved red anorak for good.
“Corrie changed my life beyond measure.
“I still get a lot of love for it and Hayley hugs,” says Julie.
“I love that part and I love that whole time in my life, but I feel very separate from it now.”