“Coronation Street” has been chronicling its characters’ lives since 1960, with a mix of social realism, melodrama and humor that has won it millions of regular viewers, and a surprising range of fans around the world. Prince Charles once made a cameo appearance, and rapper Snoop Dogg recorded a message for the show’s 50th anniversary in 2010.
Over the years shows like “Coronation Street” and its London-set rival “EastEnders” have reflected — and at times pushed — debates in society on issues ranging from gay relationships to racism.
Hayley Cropper, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh, caused a stir when she entered “Coronation Street” in 1998 as the first transgendered character on a British soap. After experiencing some early on-screen bigotry, she carved out a firm place in the street, and in viewers’ hearts, finding love with shy cafe-owner Roy.
Hesmondhalgh said she as proud to have been involved in a story that raised awareness about pancreatic cancer, and was surprised by the furor around it.
“It’s not an assisted-dying storyline. She takes her own life,” Hesmondalgh told the BBC. “It’s very balanced. In the weeks to come we see the devastating effects on Roy.
“Television starts conversations and debates. It adds to it, and I think that’s a wonderful thing.”