Michelle Collins

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Michelle Collins : biography

28 May 1961 –

From 7 April – 7 May 2011, Collins starred as Sheila Grundy, Fred Dibnah’s third wife, in The Demolition Man at The Octagon theatre, Bolton.

She has also appeared in an advert for Daz soap powder alongside fellow Coronation Street actress Alison King.

Singing career

After her exams, she landed a role in Bulgakov’s The Crimson Island at The Gate Theatre, directed by Lou Stein. Her career changed direction when, having performed in the 1978 video for the Squeeze song "Up the Junction", she joined Mari Wilson and The Wilsations as the backing singer, "Candide". The band spent eighteen months touring the country, working with artists such as Marc Almond, Level 42, Altered Images and Kid Creole and the Coconuts.

Charity work

Collins is involved in charitable causes. She is an ambassador for Oxfam and has visited Brazil, South Africa and Armenia, promoting the need for the basic right to education. She is also an ambassador for Ambitious about Autism, the national charity for children and young people with autism. She also continues to be involved with a variety of fund raising projects for Stonewall, Smart Justice; and Breakthrough Breast Cancer where she is a spokesperson for a project to recruit 100,000 women to research the causes of breast cancer.

Politics

Collins came out in support for the Labour Party, in the 2010 general election, mentioning the success of sure start centres, which had been introduced by Labour in government, she said "There is nothing more important than giving children the best possible start in life", going on to say "it would be a big step backwards to cut them now".

Acting

When the band broke up in 1982, she went back into acting and with the help of her friend, the British actor Tim Roth, she successfully gained a part in a musical with Gary Hutton and Gary Shail known as H.M.V. Collins had also been in The Illustrated mum by Jacqueline Wilson.

Collins’s first TV appearance was with Gary Oldman in the BBC drama Morgan’s Boy. Other TV credits included: two series of the sitcom Running Wild, where she played Ray Brooks daughter; a part in ITV drama The Bill; a Screen Two production Lucky Sunil, directed by Michael Caton Jones and a BBC play Pressures. She later appeared in three films: Personal Services, Empire State and Poliakov’s Hidden City. Collins appeared in an episode of the BBC’s Bergerac (series 4) in 1985.

Personal life

Collins has a daughter, Maia Rose (born 1996) with ex-boyfriend Fabrizio Tassalini, who herself has appeared in various acting jobs, such as the short film Play. Her pregnancy was written into her return to EastEnders the same year. Although having separated some time ago, Tassalini lives in Italy with his new family. She also has a god daughter, Sancha Worthington, whose mother Sharon Worthington is godmother to Maia Rose.

Collins’s complex love life includes dating cameraman Mark Waters, whom she met while filming the BBC travel rep drama Sunburn, for two years. Collins and her Welsh boyfriend Parry Cockwell called off their wedding in February 2005, saying things were moving too fast, before splitting in October 2005.

Her friends include singer Paul Young and his wife Stacey, and chef Aldo Zilli. She owns a pet Samoyed called Jingle.

Early life and education

Born in Hackney, east London, to an English father and Welsh mother,> Collins and her older sister were brought up by their mother.

Collins trained at the Royal Court Activists and Cockpit Youth Theatre from 14, and then Kingsway Princeton College where she studied drama and theatre at O/A level.

EastEnders

While she was filming the BBC play Pressures in 1988, Collins was spotted by EastEnders’s producer Julia Smith, and she was asked to audition for the role of Cindy, who was due to feature in eleven episodes of the soap. Collins excelled in her role. The manipulative, reckless nature of her character was a hit with viewers so her contract was extended and Cindy became a renowned villain in the series. She played Cindy Beale, the unfaithful wife of EastEnders stalwart Ian Beale (Adam Woodyatt), between 1988 and 1998. During breaks from EastEnders she filmed the drama Real Women for the BBC, with Pauline Quirke and Frances Barber. The drama was a success and it helped to confirm Collins as a versatile actress of considerable stature. Contrary to popular belief, she did not appear in the popular comedy show Knowing Me, Knowing You with Alan Partridge 1994. "Michelle Collins" is credited as a magician’s assistant, but the role was played by a different actress with the same name, as confirmed in the audio commentary on its DVD release.

Coronation Street

In January 2011, a rumour was posted on Digital Spy that Collins was in talks to join EastEnders main rivalling soap Coronation Street, after she allegedly met with soap’s producer and close friend Phil Collinson. Three months later it was confirmed that Collins had joined the cast as Stella Price, new landlady of the Rovers Return pub, beating Lisa Maxwell for the role. Collins was quoted saying: "I am honoured to be joining the cast of Coronation Street. The show has been part of my life since I was a child so to become a part of it is extremely exciting." Her first episode aired on 16 June 2011 and gained a high rating of 8.4 million.