Inside Sarah Lancashire's REAL Happy Valley

Inside Sarah Lancashire’s REAL Happy Valley! Actress has battled depression for decades, but found happiness in ‘precious’ second marriage to TV executive Peter Salmon who she shares a £3million London home with

  • British TV star Sarah Lancashire, 58, is back on our screens with Happy Valley
  • Mother-of-three and husband Peter Salmon live in £3million Twickenham home 
  • She has admitted to struggling with mental health in early days of her career
  • READ: Happy Valley fans astonished by Sarah Lancashire’s ‘masterclass’ performance in episode three of final series

She’s been a beloved staple of British TV since her role as Raquel Watts in Coronation Street in the 1990s – and Sarah Lancashire’s career only goes from strength to strength.

The award-winning actress, 58, has recently cracked America by playing celebrity chef Julia Child in HBO Max’s comedy Julia (2022) and been praised by fans for her ‘masterclass’ performance in the third and final series of BBC’s Happy Valley.

But it’s not only her career in which Sarah is enjoying success – she has overcome several big hurdles in her personal life, from a loveless first marriage to composer Gary Hargreaves, to a decades-long battle with mental health after being diagnosed with clinical depression aged 18. 

Now, she lives with her TV executive husband Peter Salmon in a £3 million home in Twickenham, South West London, and a few years ago described herself as a ‘little more together’. Here, FEMAIL takes a look at the actress’ highs and lows… 

The award-winning actress, 58, has recently cracked America by playing celebrity chef Julia Child in HBO Max’s comedy Julia (2022) and been praised by fans for her ‘masterclass’ performance in the third and final series of BBC’s Happy Valley (pictured) 

While she’s collected success after success in her career, Sarah’s personal path to happiness has been more difficult.

Sarah was married to her first husband, academic Gary Hargreaves for ten years until they separated in 1995. 

After the couple split, she went on to say in candid interviews that the marriage was loveless. The couple had two children, Thomas born in 1987 and Matthew two years later in 1988.

Speaking of her first marriage, Sarah told the Mirror in 2001: ‘I got married only because I was pregnant. Simple as that. I am a very traditional girl and was horrified at the thought of having a child out of wedlock.

Sarah married her second husband, Peter Salmon (pictured together), in August 2001. Her first marriage ended in 1995

Sarah has two sons from her first marriage, and one son, who is now 18, from her marriage with Peter. She is pictured with one of her older sons and the youngest on April 13 2011 in London 

‘I didn’t want a child of mine to be different or have fingers pointed at them… My marriage lasted for 10 years, which was 10 years longer than it should have done,’ she added. 

£3MILLION LONDON HOME 

Sarah lives in a £3million, five-bedroom house on a quiet road in the South-West London area of Twickenham with her second husband. 

The leafy area is one of the most desirable in Britain’s capital, being only a train ride away from central London, and known to be the home of the Rugby Football Union. 

The family also have a dog, a Cavalier King’s Charles named Molly, and locals occasionally spot the actress in her nearby Tesco, as well as out walking with Salmon and their son. 

Earlier this month, she was spotted going for coffee at a local establishment with her husband Peter.  

However, the actress has had to spend some time away from home to film the final series of Happy Valley in the North of England.

In the same interview, Sarah opened up about Peter Salmon, who was then her fiancé, saying it was necessary for her to marry him, because she wanted to feel owned. 

Salmon famously refused to move to Salford despite being the head of the BBC’s North division in the early 2010s. 

He promised he would buy a house after his children, including Joseph, his and Sarah’s son, born in 2003, were finished with school, however, he left his BBC post in 2013 before the move. 

He is now the CCO of TV production company Endemol Shine. 

The couple are known to be private about their family life, with Sarah telling the Mirror in 2001: ‘We are not a public couple and I don’t even like talking about my relationship with Peter.

‘I guard it because it is very precious. It is not a piece of drama. It is real life, my normal life. And I value my normality.’

The couple have a son together, and Sarah had two sons from her first marriage. She said being a mother is her most important role.

OPEN ABOUT HER MENTAL HEALTH STRUGGLES 

Despite her professional success, Sarah’s’ personal life has at times been tough. 

Despite winning accolades for her five years in Coronation Street and dramas such as Where The Heart Is, Clocking Off and The Paradise, the actress has spoken of how she has secretly battled depression.

Indeed, she spent some of what should have been her best years back in the 1990s unable to get out of bed. She described her breakdown as a ‘timebomb waiting to go off’ and ‘absolutely debilitating’.

‘I certainly didn’t tell anybody at the studios, and I didn’t take any time off,’ she said. ‘I was terrified of being judged and misunderstood. I just battled along.

‘It was the worst thing I could have done. Being in the public eye makes you frightened to talk openly about things – which is precisely why you should. You can really make a difference and open up subjects that are taboo.’

Later, she revealed that she had been diagnosed with clinical depression at 18, saying: ‘I have never known what it feels like to wake up in the morning full of the joys of spring, and wander through the day feeling capable of coping.’ 

However, a few years ago Lancashire described herself as ‘a little more together’, joking that she was ‘just about ready to go on a bus by myself’, keeping her depression at bay with therapy and medication.

‘I have my good and my bad patches, my fantastic and my debilitating patches,’ she added.

LIFE BEFORE THE SPOTLIGHT 

Sarah began to work on Coronation Street as barmaid Raquel and soon became one of the show’s most beloved characters

The actress as Raquel next to Kevin Kenedy, who played her husband Curly Watts on the show from 1991 to 1996

Sarah, who was one of four siblings, grew up in Oldham, with her father Geoffrey Lancashire, who wrote for Coronation Street, and her mother Hilda, who was his personal assistant. 

CRACKING AMERICA 

Stateside too, Lancashire has recently won herself a huge new fan base – and now Hollywood agents are chasing her to take on more roles.

Shortly before lockdown, the star was approached to play Julia Child, the pioneering American television chef who made her name by bringing French cooking to the States during the 1960s.

She had little idea of who Child was, other than that Meryl Streep had played her in a 2009 biopic, Julie & Julia – a role which secured the Hollywood A-lister an Oscar nomination. She also knew Child was a successful middle-aged woman at a time it wasn’t easy to be one.

The call came at the end of 2019, just as Lancashire, a mother-of-three, had decided she wanted to take a year off acting. Days into her sabbatical, her agent was in contact, asking her to read a pilot script for a new HBO production.

A dozen pages in and Lancashire was won over. She flew to Los Angeles on her first-ever work trip there to audition – even though she didn’t expect to get the role.

‘This is not grandiosity. I never got the job as a young actor because I was so hopeless in auditioning,’ she said.

Instead, she decided to take her youngest son Joseph, now 18, and make a holiday of it. ‘We flew home and I forgot about it,’ Lancashire added. But soon afterwards, her agent rang. America – finally – had come calling and her career hiatus was put on hold.

But lockdown struck, halting filming after just three days. Production didn’t resume until the summer of 2021 – and Covid restrictions then meant she was unable to see her family back in Britain. Every cloud, though, has a silver lining.

‘It’s not an experience I care to repeat, in terms of being isolated away from family,’ Lancashire told Vanity Fair magazine during her only US interview. ‘To be perfectly honest, I think I was slightly saved the first time we were closed down. I don’t think I was ready.’ 

When filming once again started, she threw herself into being Julia, ditching a voice coach and going it alone. She would fall asleep to clips of the chef on her iPad, or would sit by Boston harbour rereading her scripts, immersing herself in her new character.

The actress eventually cracked the US market by playing celebrity chef Julia Child in the show Julia (pictured)

She told Radio Times in 2014 that she never entertained the idea of being famous, and was more interested in the behind-the-scenes of the TV world. 

She studied at Oldham Hulme Grammar School from 1976 to 1981 and realised aged 18 she was interested in acting, later winning a spot at the coveted Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which she graduated from in 1986. 

The actress described her time at the school as hard work and intimidating, but decided to try to forge an acting career for herself. 

She was faced by a wave of rejection from theatre companies, but eventually was given a role by Howard Lloyd-Lewis, the artistic director of the Manchester Library Theatre Company. 

Sarah performed two plays with the company, but later admitted she found the experience terrifying, due to the live audiences. 

She recounted to The Guardian in 2004: ‘Because I wore a bathing costume in some of the scenes, I got heckled.’

However, she was already a talented performer and her role as Denise in The Beauty Game, the second play she took part in with the company, earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress at the Manchester Evening News Theatre Awards.

In the early days of her career she worked as a drama tutor at Salford University for five years, before first appearing on Coronation Street as Wendy Farmer, a potential lodger for Jack Duckworth, played by Bill Tarmey. 

Her big break happened in 1990, when she was cast as Linda in a production of Willy Russell’s Blood Brothers at the Albery Theatre, which was later renamed The Noël Coward Theatre, in St Martins’ lane, Westminster. 

Just three weeks after finishing her run as Linda, she was cast as Raquel Wolstenhulme in Coronation Street, which propelled her to national fame.

In the series, Raquel goes on to fall in love and eventually marry her co-worker, Curly Watts. Sarah was initially hired on a three-months-long contract, appearing in the show from January until May 1991. 

After her Corrie stint was over, she worked on other projects, but the character of Raquel was eventually reintroduced in December of that year, and Sarah retained the role until 1996. 

It was reported at the time that she was earning £90,000 a year thanks to her role as Raquel. 

In spite of the character being popular with audiences – and a TV special following Raquel and Curly’s honeymoon selling 750,000 VHS copies in 1995, Sarah eventually left the show in 1996 to pursue other projects.

Her last episode was watched by 20 millionviewers, and her performance as Raquel saw her nominated in the Most Popular Actress category at the National Television Awards in October 1996. 

Sarah went on to play district nurse Ruth Goddard in the ITV drama Where The Heart Is from 1997 to 1999.

From 2012 to 2016, she played Caroline, an Oxford-educated headmistress who enters a same-sex relationship with a teacher in the BBC drama The Last Tango in Halifax. 

In 2014, Sarah starred in Happy Valley, where she plays Sergeant Catherine Cawood, a police officer investigating crimes in Calder Valley in West Yorkshire. 

The role, which is considered one of her career best, got her to be nominated for Best Actress at the BAFTAs for the first time in her career in 2014. 

The show was a commercial and critical success, and Sarah won the NTA for Best Actress in 2017 for her performance in Happy Valley’s second series. 

That same year, she received an OBE from Prince Edward for her service to drama. 

‘At times like this, really, one tends to focus on parents, and my father would have been the proudest man in the world,’ she said at the time, the BBC reported. 

‘It’s very difficult because you are in these most spectacular surroundings and you are trying desperately to take it all in but your head is full of white noise because you don’t want to fall over when you curtsey. It’s wonderful,’ she added.

After a five year hiatus, Happy Valley’s third and final season returned to the BBC, to critical acclaim, earlier this month. 

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