ITV Coronation Street: Real life of Jenny Connor actress Sally Ann Matthews – death threats, teen battle and high-flying husband

Sally Ann Matthews became a young star of Coronation Street when she joined the soap at the age of 16.

The Oldham actress was cast in 1986 as Jenny Bradley – the daughter of villain Alan Bradley who was taken in by mother figure Rita Fairclough while her father worked away.

After five years, Sally quit the show in pursuit of other roles, returning briefly in ’93, before making a huge comeback in 2015.

READMORE: Kim Tate actress’ real life Emmerdale love triangle, heartbreak and hidden agony

The 51-year-old has previously opened up about the toll her acting career had on her childhood, with her struggling to fit in at school.

She had to balance the pressures of fame with the usual insecurities of being a teenage girl.

And nasty comments from those in showbiz even caused her to develop an eating disorder.

Speaking to the Mirror ahead of her return to the cobbles, she admitted that a remark from a TV critic about how she looked led to a battle with bulimia.

Sally Ann with on-screen boyfriend Martin Platt, played by Sean Wilson in 1986

It was an eight-month order that Sally had kept quiet for 20 years.

“When I was in Corrie first time around there was no real celebrity culture. Not Twitter, Facebook,” she explained.

“In those days, before social media, people were much more focused on the TV critics – who were sort of celebrities themselves.”

She recalled a critic made a damaging comment after Jenny got engaged to a French boy, which said ‘what would a handsome Frenchman boy like Patric see in a little pudding like Jenny Bradley?’

“For me, that was then eight months of active bulimia and then recovery,” she said.

Sally Ann, who married senior barrister Nick Rhodes in 1999, also revealed that her screen commitment made it difficult to strike up romantic relationships at the start of her career.

She said: “I never even went to a nightclub and snogged somebody because I thought they might sell a story.”

Sally Ann and Nick live together in London and have two children, and she often shares photos of her husband on her Instagram.

In one post, Nick is captured with Sally’s on-screen husband, Johnny Connor, played by Richard Hawley, who died tragically in dramatic storyline last year.

She captioned it: “The real one and the pretend one. I’m going to miss my Manchester husband terribly. Thank you Rich for a fab five years x.”

Sally, who had a stint in rival soap Emmerdale in 2005, has also revealed that her intense storylines with Jenny have led to personal death threats from viewers.

Fans were gripped by the crazed character’s kidnap of Kevin Webster’s young son Jack – but the actress ended up being blamed for the death of Maddie Heath.

Maddie was trying to warn girlfriend Sophie Webster that Jenny was attempting to kidnap her brother when she was caught in an explosion at the builder’s yard.

Sally Ann told the Mirror: “Basically people thought Jenny was weird and then they blamed her for Maddie’s death. But the episode when I slapped Maria Connor was when it all really kicked off on Twitter.

“There were some pretty dramatic reactions. When you read them one after another it’s quite overwhelming – people sitting on sofas in the comfort of their own home sending out the vilest things.

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“It is so weird – these people hate you because you are playing a horrible character.”

She added: “One of the most chilling said, ‘I hope you die – you evil b*tch.'”

The mum-of-two argues viewers react differently to soaps compared to other TV dramas.

“People can absolutely hate a character in a drama but the audience knows they are acting,” she said.

“But in a soap because you are in their living rooms so often some people somehow find it hard to separate the two – even though in the back of their minds they must know it’s not you.

“Despite the vile nature of some of the tweets it wasn’t so much scary, it was more overwhelming – I was never not going to read those tweets.

“After all, there is always the block button.

“I love doing theater because you get audience reaction and Twitter is like that – you get that immediate reaction.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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