Soap stars are probably among the most recognized people on TV with them appearing on the small screen four if not five times a week.
But while many of our favorite Coronation Street, Emmerdale, EastEnders, and Hollyoaks stars are now famous for their characters on the ITV Channel 4, and BBC One soaps, many, if not all, of their careers started elsewhere and at a very young age .
Many made their acting debuts in CITV program Children’s Ward. Debuting its first episode in March 1989, the soap opera for kids was shot in Bolton at the Bolton General Hospital, which is now the Royal Bolton Hospital.
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And some of the people included in our list even made early appearances in the soaps they are now famous for being a part of. Here we take a look at a few of the soap stars who started out as child stars.
Jane Danson is best known to viewers for being part of the Battersby clan in Coronation Street. The actress has played Jane Danson in the ITV soap since 1997, joining as part of the ‘Neighbours From Hell’ alongside her dad Les (Bruce Jones), mum Janice (Vicky Entwistle) and sister Toyah (Georgia Taylor).
But her television debut actually a few years early when she starred in Alan Bleasdale series GBH as Eileen Critchley in 1991. Shortly after, in 1995, Jane played one of Children Ward’s regular characters, Paula, from 1995 to 1997.
It was after that she landed her big break in Corrie. But the soap star left the show three years later in 2000, not long after a harrowing storyline that saw her character become a drug addict. After appearing in Always and Everyone and The Bill, where she played the first lesbian police officer in the show’s history, Jane returned to Corrie in 2004 where she has been since.
And she hasn’t been far from hard-hitting storylines with Leanne suffering the heartbreaking loss of her son Oliver and nearly being killed by drug lord Harvey Gaskell, played by Will Mellor.
Away from the street Jane, 43, has been married to Robert Beck since 2005 and the pair share two children. And Rob, who starred in Brookside, recently returned to the soap world himself having appeared in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks.
Samia Longchambon – nee Ghadie – is another Corrie star whose career started at a young age. Her first foray into acting was in crime drama Cracker in 1994, before she landed a small role as Charlotte in the CITV series Children’s Ward a year later.
Samia is best known now for playing Maria Windass, in Coronation Street – but many won’t be aware that she actually appeared on the soap as an extra when she was a youngster. She joined the soap at the age of eight and 10 years later she became a regular on the show. Before then she also had roles in Heartbeat and Doctors.
Alan Halsall is celebrating 24 years in Coronation Street this year so it is no surprise he is best known to viewers for playing mechanic Tyrone Dobbs in the ITV soap, a role he has played since he was 15-years-old.
But one of Alan’s early roles was playing Ollie for five episodes in Children’s Ward between 1997 and 1998. The 39-year-old also had roles in Queer as Folk, Heartbeat and The Cops before he stepped onto the cobbles in 1998.
Alan, from Walkden, married former Coronation Street actress Lucy-Jo Hudson in 2009. They welcomed daughter Sienna-Rae three years later. However, the couple split in March 2016 and divorced in 2018. Alan is now in a relationship with former Corrie co-star Tisha Merry.
Before Tina O’Brien scooped the role of Sarah Platt in Corrie more than 20 years ago, the young actress had played the role of Claire in Children’s Ward in 1997.
The Rusholme actress then joined Corrie in 1999 and her character was part of a shock pregnancy storyline at the age of 12, after which she gave birth to daughter Bethany. Tina, now 39, left the role in 2008 and went on to star in another show, most notably as pupil Bex Fisher in the BBC One school-based drama series Waterloo Road.
She also appeared in Casualty, Doctors, Blue Murder and Clocking Off. Around the same time she starred in Waterloo Road Tina starred in The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, in which she played the character of Miss Browne, a role which required her first on-screen lesbian kiss, and appeared in television drama Accused written by Jimmy McGovern.
And it was clearly a busy time for the soap star as she also competed in the 2010 series of Strictly Come Dancing. Her partner was Jared Murillo and she was unable to perform in the 3rd week due to illness. She was then eliminated in the 5th week of the competition after failing to impress the viewers with her Argentine Tango and fell into the bottom two alongside Felicity Kendal.
Tina returned to Corrie in 2015 where she still appears now. Away from the cobbles Tina was in a relationship with co-star Ryan Thomas, who played on-screen former hubby Jason Grimshaw, from 2003 to 2009. They have a daughter, Scarlett. She has since remarried, tying the knot with Adam Crofts in a New Years Eve ceremony in 2018 at Manchester’s King Street Townhouse. The couple welcomed son, Beau, in 2014.
Chris Bisson is another soap star who made his small screen debut in 1990, aged 14, playing the popular JJ in Granada TV’s drama Children’s Ward. I have played the character for 13 episodes before having roles in Cops and Where the Heart Is.
The Wythenshawe actor also went on to appear in Prime Suspect, Holby City and as Vikram Desai in Coronation Street from 1999 to 2002 where he starred opposite current Emmerdale co-star Rebecca Sarker. She was already in Weatherfield playing Nita Desai, Vikram’s sister and his boss at the corner shop, before Chris arrived.
Nita left the family business to join Freshco supermarket. and in 2000 she left the street for Inverness to run her own store while Vickram took a one-way trip to Mumbai after he got involved in drug smuggling to clear his gambling debts before clearing out Street Cars’s tax account to leave in 2002.
Chris, now 46, may also be remembered for his role as Kash Karib in Shameless or best recognized for his continuing role as Jai Sharma in Emmerdale.
Jeff Hordley’s acting career started with minor appearances in British television series including Coronation Street and in Children’s Ward, appearing in 1989 as Anderson. before landing his big break.
The actor, from Crumpsall, is best known for playing hard-man Cain Dingle in ITV soap Emmerdale. He joined the soap in 2000 and went on a three-year hiatus in 2006 where he took on some theater work.
Jeff married his Emmerdale co-star Zoe Henry, who plays Rhona Goskirk, in 2003 and the couple have two children, a daughter named Violet and a son called Stan.
EastEnders star Letitia Dean is famous for playing feisty Sharon Mitchell, on and off, since the soap first hit our screens back in 1985, when she was just 17.
But that wasn’t her first role as by the time she appeared in the BBC One soap she has already been acting for five years on stage and on the small screen. She made her professional debut at the age of 12, appearing on the West End stage as Pepper in the musical Annie and also took the lead as Sandy in Grease. Not only that, she also sang with a rock group called “The Young Uns”, which toured the country supporting stage acts such as Bobby Davro and Tom O’Connor.
When Letitia was 13 she landed her first major part as schoolgirl Lucinda Oliver in the children’s TV drama Grange Hill, which she played between 1983 and 198484, followed by a stint in Channel 4’s Brookside as Dawn.
Then, in 1984, she got her big break when she was cast in the then-new soap as the troubled adopted daughter of Queen Vic landlord and landlady Den and Angie Watts in EastEnders. The now-54-year-old has been back and forth to Albert Square over the years with some big storylines to her name.
And she never forgot her performing roots. Letitia participated in the fifth series of the BBC dance competition Strictly Come Dancing, finishing fourth and on stage, she starred in the West End production of High School Musical in 2008, and in the UK touring production of Calendar Girls in 2010.
Another EastEnders star to make the list is Kellie Bright who has been part of soap fans’ world for many years as former Queen Vic landlady Linda Carter.
She has been a regular on the square since 2013 and viewers may not know that the 45-year-old actress actually made a one-off appearance in the soap as a bridesmaid back in 1986. At that point thought she was already playing the role of Sally Simpkins in the children’s ITV show T-Bag.
Her other early TV credits include Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, and the role of Joanna Burrows in the popular ITV sitcom The Upper Hand. Roles in Bad Girls, Rock and Chips and BBC radio soap The Archers followed before Kellie landed her EastEnders role.
Blackpool-born Nikki Sanderson was just a teen when she landed the role of Candice Stowe in Coronation Street. Her character de ella made her debut in 1999 but made her exit in the autumn of 2005 when her character de ella left Weatherfield to become a stylist for Status Quo.
A role in Children’s Ward was also thrown into the mix before she appeared in BBC’s Holby City and New Street Law alongside fellow Coronation Street stars Chris Gascoyne and Chris Bisson. In 2008, Nikki joined the cast of the ITV series, Heartbeat in the part of Dawn Bellamy.
She left the 1960s-based series in 2009 and a few years later she landed the role of Maxine Minniver in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks, a role she still holds now. Away from our screens, Nikki dated her former Coronation Street co-star Danny Young from 2005 to 2009.
The 38-year-old recently confirmed she is in a relationship with former Emmerdale star Anthony Quinlan but the pair are keeping it pretty quiet for now.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.