Corrie’s Jane Danson on her TV romance and real life torment
After having a baby, I was terrified to go back to the Street.
It sounds like every mum’s dream come true – slimming down to a super-svelte size 8 within just a few months of giving birth.
Sadly for Coronation Street star Jane Danson – loud-mouthed Leanne Battersby in the hit soap – the weight loss wasn’t down to dieting or a gruelling exercise programme, but the terrible stress of her new baby’s mystery illness.
Her second son Sam, now five months old, cried in pain for hours because of an agonising condition which took three months to diagnose.
Jane says: “He really did suffer and I was very worried about him – all he did was cry the whole time. He would literally cry all day from the second he woke up.
“I filmed it on my mobile phone to prove to the doctor how bad it was. I couldn’t wind him and I couldn’t feed him properly – it was a terrible time.
“I went backwards and forwards to the doctor and the hospital. It went on for three months. But as a mum you know when something’s not right and you’ve got to stick to your guns.”
Eventually Jane took Sam to a paediatrician who diagnosed him with silent reflux, a very painful condition similar to heartburn. It means acid from a baby’s stomach rising into their throat then going back down, causing an agonising burning feeling. The right medication cured it quickly but Jane says the situation took its toll on her own health.
She had gained 2st 7lbs during pregnancy and after giving birth she was a stone heavier than her pre-pregnancy weight of 8st. But worrying about Sam meant she was soon back to 8st.
She says: “I was trying to eat sensibly but most of the weight loss was down to stress. I wish I could say it was down to a wonderful diet, but it wasn’t. Sam was in a really bad way and it was nervous energy.
“I can’t remember much about that time – it’s all a bit of a blur. But I was constantly on the go, not getting much sleep and eating on the run.”
Sam is fine now and Jane, 30, is back on the streets of Weatherfield. But even though she has been in the show since she was 18, she admits that coming back after a five-month break was daunting.
She says: “The first day I was terrified. I felt like I’d been in Babyworld for ages and I was panicking about whether I could learn my lines. There didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day with two kids, but you somehow find the time.”
When Jane went on maternity leave Leanne was temporarily written out of the soap – heading to Leeds to run a bar. But she returned to our screens on Friday when ex-love Peter Barlow tracked her down.
She says: “Leanne is getting on with her life and tells him she’s moved on but she obviously has a change of heart and comes back. She moves in with Janice for all of two nights then moves in with Peter, so it’s quite a whirlwind.
“They are both flawed characters. Peter’s an alcoholic and a bigamist and she’s been a drug addict and a prostitute. The two of them have been to dark places and are drawn to each other.”
To the surprise of Street gossips they quickly settle down together.
Jane says: “Obviously it depends what the writers want to do, but it would be nice to see Leanne have some kind of normality for a while. It doesn’t always have to be about the biggest storyline – I’d love some everyday domestic stuff for her. In a way that’s harder and more challenging for me because I’ve not done that before. It’s always been high drama for Leanne. Now it’s normal and nice it feels a bit alien!”
It’s a big change from when Jane returned to work after maternity leave with her first son Harry to find Street bosses had decided to turn Leanne into a high-class hooker – a storyline she admits she wasn’t entirely comfortable with.
She says: “It did concern me slightly. I thought it wasn’t something you could put into people’s houses every week. Maybe one day they’ll visit why she did it but as long as they don’t revisit her actually doing it I’ll be happy.
“I used to get mithered so much when I was out shopping it was a nightmare. I can’t tell you what people would say. It was jokey but it wasn’t the sort of thing you’d want your kids to hear and they’d do it whether Harry was there or not.”
While Leanne’s Coronation Street love life has has plenty of ups and downs, in real life Jane has been happily settled with actor husband Robert Beck for years. Robert, 41, is making occasional appearances in Coronation Street as Tony Gordon’s henchman Jimmy Dockerson and looking after the boys at the couple’s home in Manchester the rest of the time.
Jane says: “He’s spent the past three years focusing on the kids and he’s been brilliant. But now I’m hoping they can find some way of redeeming Jimmy so he could be in it more. I’d love it and I can see a lot of potential there, but maybe I’m running away with myself!”
One thing Jane won’t be running away with is the idea of more children. When Sam Alfie Robert joined three-year-old Harry in February, the couple decided their family was complete.
Jane says: “I have two healthy boys. I love them, they are my absolute world – and I’m done. I can honestly say hand on heart that I have no desire to be pregnant again.”
And she admits she was not even sure about having a second child. “I wondered whether I could love a second one as much. I said to Rob, ‘but I don’t know if I’ll love anybody as much as I love Harry’. And he said, ‘yes, but can you imagine having another one like that?’
“Now I can’t imagine my life without either of them – I discovered you do have enough love for however many children you have.”
But mingled with the joys of motherhood, there is still sadness Jane
’s builder dad Jack did not get to meet his new grandson. He died of cancer last year aged just 62.
“It’s still quite raw and I think I suppressed a lot of grief,” Jane says quietly. “Dad died last February and I was pregnant by June. I felt I had to think of the baby and not get upset.
“Now there are moments where I feel very down and miss him so much. Some days I look at photos and smile. Other days I burst into tears.
“It still doesn’t feel like it’s real. I’ve still got Dad’s mobile number in my phone and it’s silly but I can’t delete it because it would feel like I’m deleting him out of my life.
“My phone rang the other day and it said ‘Mum and Dad’ and for a second I felt pleased, before I remembered. The kids do help me through it but obviously it’s upsetting because my dad never saw Sam.”
Jane grew up in Bury, Lancs, with Jack, mum Lynne, a retired care worker, older brother Paul, a mechanic, and older sister Alison, a full-time mum. Jane started acting at the age of 11, alongside Julie Walters in the TV black comedy GBH. In 1997, when she was 18, she was offered the part of Leanne Battersby, the oldest daughter in the Street’s rowdy new family.
She left in 2000 but after parts in ITV medical drama A&E and The Bill she returned to the show in 2004. After 12 years on the cobbles Leanne has grown up on the Street, but Jane admits there are occasional reminders that she is no longer the teenage wild child of the cobbles.
She says: “I was doing a photo shoot the other day and Helen Flanagan, who plays Rosie Webster, was due in after me. It was funny to see her clothes on the rail and my clothes on the rail. Mine were all really sensible dresses and hers were sexy little skirts. I