Sue Johnstons

Sue Johnstons

National treasure and actress Sue Johnson was born on the 7th December 1943, to parents Fred and Margaret, in Warrington, Cheshire, England. During Sue’s early years the family lived in Preston, Lancashire where she describes a  very happy childhood with a loving extended family and parents who instilled good manners and respect.   Sue attended Whitson Infant’s School, Eccleston Park Junior School and Prescot and Huyton Grammar School for Girls, where her drama teacher Mrs. Sutton encouraged Sue’s dreams to become an actress.  Sue left school at the age of seventeen after taking her A- Level examinations.   

After leaving school Sue found employment in a tax office. However, she soon became involved in the music scene dating a member of the popular group the ‘Swinging Blue Jeans’. Sue went on to gain employment with music entrepreneur and manger of the Beatles, Brian Epstein and still wishing to pursue a career in acting she attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

During the early 1980’s Sue successfully auditioned for the role of working wife and mother Sheila Grant in the new weekly television soap opera Brookside. The story was based on six families living in a cul de sac in Liverpool and tackled controversial issues such as domestic violence, crime, drug addiction and homosexuality. Sue remained in Brookside from 1982 until 1990 when her character was written out of the series. Whilst working on Brookside Sue published her memoir ‘Hold on to the Messy Times’ followed by ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ in 2011.

Becoming recognized as  a talented actress Sue went on to  appear in many popular television  programs  including ‘Inspector Morse’, ‘Hetty Wainthropp Investigates’,’ Brassed Off’ and the award winning drama ‘Goodbye Cruel World’.

In 1998 Sue reunited with her onscreen husband from Brookside, Ricky Tomlinson, playing the role of chain smoking, hard working mother and wife Barbara in the comedy series The Royle Family. The popular comedy was based on the lives of a television fixated Manchester family and highlighted Sue’s versatility as an actress.  The series ran from 1998 to 2000 and won several BAFTA awards. In May 2008 Sue returned for a final episode of program, which was shown on Christmas Day 2008, Although Sue had stopped smoking in 1978 her role as nicotine addicted Barbara required her to smoke low tar cigarettes during the series. Today Sue is completely anti smoking.

During 2000 Sue gained a starring role in the television crime drama series ‘Waking the Dead’ where she played the role of psychologist profiler Grace Foley.  The program became an instant hit with the British public and ran until 2011.  Whilst appearing in ‘Waking the Dead’ Sue also featured in ‘Who Do You Think You Are’? a program where celebrities trace their family history. She also starred in Jennifer Saunders comedy drama ‘Jam and Jerusalem’, played Affery Flintwinch in the BBC adaptation of ‘Little Dorrit’ and shared a role with Billie Piper in the TV adaptation of ‘A Passionate Woman’. More recently Sue has joined the very popular and long running television soap opera ‘Coronation Street’ and will play Gloria the mother of Stella Price played by Michelle Collins.

Despite her success Sue continues to remain loyal to her working class roots and has campaigned for the Labor Party and is a supporter of Liverpool Football Club and Warrington Wolves. Her personal life however has not been without difficulties in that she has been married and divorced twice and suffered from depression and bulimia following a miscarriage and the breakdown of her first marriage. Sue however has combated her problems and is the proud mother of Joel and continues to enjoy a thriving acting career.

During her career Sue has demonstrated her talents as an actress successfully playing comedy roles as seen in ‘The Royle Family’  and also more serious parts such as Grace Foley in ‘Waking the Dead’. In recognition of her talent she was awarded an OBE in the 2010 and an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Chester. 

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