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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Jessica Sansome

Real life of Coronation Street's Bernie Winter actress Jane Hazlegrove - Emmerdale star wife, heartbreaking loss, forgotten role and doppelganger

It's only been four years since Bernie Winter arrived in Weatherfield, but it's fair to say she's a favourite among Coronation Street fans. Jane Hazlegrove took on the role in 2019. At the time, the character was described as an 'old raver who still sees herself as a free spirit'.

But during her time on the ITV soap, she has proven herself to be a force to be reckoned with as the straight-talking mum of Gemma Winter and Paul Foreman. More recently, viewers have seen a softer side to Bernie after she discovered her son had been diagnosed with a life-limiting disease.

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Jane is a key part of the Motor Neurone Disease storyline the soap is tackling. On-screen son Paul Foreman, played by Peter Ash, was diagnosed with the devastating disease. Paul discovered the heartbreaking news that he had the fatal, rapidly progressing disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, in scenes aired in April.

The former builder, who only discovered anything was wrong after he was accidentally knocked over by Carla Connor in her Underworld van when she had been unknowingly drugged with LSD by Stephen Reid, kept the news from his loved ones, only confiding in his friend and former flatmate Dee-Dee Bailey.

The news came spilling out on his sister Gemma Winter's wedding day after his partner Billy Mayhew only made the discovery himself when he headed to court to find out Paul had been stealing cars to fix his money woes, only to have his case quashed due to his life-limiting diagnosis.

There were emotional scenes when Paul tearfully confessed he was dying to his sister and his mum after his unusually quiet and resistive behaviour caught their attention. The news has spread to more of his loved ones and the rest of the street as they rally round round to support him.

Jane when she appeared as Gemma and Paul's mum Bernie in Corrie (ITV)

Jane's co-star Daniel Brocklebank, who plays Billy, recently shared how emotional Jane has been behind the scenes when filming, telling the Manchester Evening News and other press: "Knowing that Pete's time in the show is now coming to an end, there is a deep sadness in that.

"I mean, Jane Hazlegrove, who plays Bernie, Jane can't keep her eyes dry at all. She sees Pete limping onto the set and she's welling up. We're grieving Peter leaving rather than Pete, thankfully, not dying but the emotions are genuine."

Jane has since shared how her own personal loss is impacting her time on the cobbles as her character also prepares for tragedy. Speaking about finding out about the MND storyline, Jane told Inside Soap: "I was very upset [when I found out about the storyline] as I adore Peter Ash [who plays Paul Foreman] so I was gutted as this meant he would be going. My Corrie family are a tight unit. I'm so lucky to work with them all."

She then shared how her emotions had also been heightened as her own dad died, adding to the publication: "I lost my dad recently, so I know what this kind of grief is like. It has been very emotional."

Away from the ITV soap, Jane has the support of her was as the Manchester actress has been married to fellow soap actor Isobel Middleton since 2015. Speaking to Lorraine Kelly on her ITV show in 2019, she opened up about her ‘beautiful’ wife and she joked: “We’ve not [worked alongside each other], which is probably why we’re still together. She’s sensational, a really beautiful woman. I am very blessed.

"We relocated back to Manchester last year, before [Corrie]. It was time to get back to the north for all kinds of reasons and that makes me very happy." And Isabel herself is no stranger to the small screen herself having appeared in to rival soaps to Corrie.

Isobel had three roles in Emmerdale as Dr Lane in 2014, a prosecution barrister during Simon McManus's trial in 2018 and Jean Rawson in 2020. And in the BBC soap EastEnders she played Sadie Banks in 2002. Isobel hasn't just had minor soap stints though, because she has a glowing back catalogue of TV credits.

In the 1990s she starred in the ITV detective thriller Cracker alongside the late Robbie Coltrane, and has also appeared in the likes of The Ruth Rendle Mysteries, The Bill and like her wife, Casualty too. One of her latest roles however is on the Channel 5 drama Compulsion as Dr Wilhemina Medlock and this year she appeared in radio drama The Archers as Anna Tregorran.

And playing Bernie was also not Jane's first stint in Corrie. She actually played Sue Clayton in Corrie back in 1985, the youngest daughter of Harry and Connie Clayton but before being known for her cobbles alter-ego, Jane was probably best known for starring for portraying the role of Kathleen "Dixie" Dixon on and off for 20 years in Casualty.

Jane as Kathleen "Dixie" Dixon in Casualty (BBC)

She made her first appearance on TV, however, in 1984 at the age of 16. Jane appeared in a TV movie called Threads, in which she starred as a character called Alison Kemp. She later went on to star in a number of other TV shows before getting her big break in the show How We Used To Live, when she won a recurring role as the character Maggie Selby between 1984 and 1987.

Despite her fame, in 2019 she revealed her battle with 'Imposter Syndrome.' She told chat show host Lorraine Kelly: “It is quite difficult when I pop up. I tend to throw things at the television. I am quite hard on myself. I think that’s important though don’t you? Imposter syndrome - that at any moment I could say, are you Jane Hazelgrove? Yeah, get out.”

She added: "The arrogance of youth - I wasn’t nervous at all then. Now I’m a woman in my 50s, it was really frightening because it’s Coronation Street. It’s a big gig and I don’t want to let the show down and I don’t want to let myself down or the family or anything."

Meanwhile, if it wasn't for joining Corrie, Jane may never have got to work with her doppleganger. Back in August last year, viewers were seeing double when Bernie found herself face to face with her lookalike Fern, played by Gabrielle Glaister.

Jane and former Brookside and Blackadder actress Gabrielle were constantly mistaken for each other and when Jane mentioned the possible storyline to writer Jonathan Harvey, the Bernie/Fern mirror image plot was developed with Gabrielle cast as Fern.

And at the time, Jane revealed that the pair look so similar that some of their Coronation Street colleagues have even stopped Gabrielle, who played Patricia Farnham in the Channel Four soap Brookside, in the corridor to chat thinking it was her.

She said: “I mentioned this idea to Jonathan a while ago. Gabby and I are constantly mistaken for each other with people saying they have seen one of us in something when it was the other one. We have often laughed about it together but then I started thinking it might be fun to have her in the show as Bernie’s secret twin or a doppelganger. I was so chuffed when they told me that they had devised this storyline and that Gabby was on board."

She added: "Shortly after I had heard that we were doing the story, I was at the Soap Awards and someone who used to work with Gabby started talking to me thinking I was her. The actor was mortified when I pointed out who I was but of course I don’t mind being mistaken for Gabby, it is a huge compliment and secretly I was thinking ‘that’s brilliant, this storyline is going to work so well’.”

Gabrielle said: "Jane and I have been mistaken for each other for years and years. Me constantly denying that I was in Casualty, Jane insisting that she wasn’t in Brookside! Or people congratulating me on my performance in something I wasn’t in because it was Jane being brilliant."

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