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Playing a hooker is tough but missing my baby's the worst; EXCLUSIVE CORRIE LEANNE ON HER EXPLOSIVE PLOTLINE AND BEING A NEW MUM.

Byline: By SUE CRAWFORD

WHEN she discovered that her character Leanne Battersby was to become a highclass hooker, Jane Danson took a deep breath and prepared for a backlash from outraged Coronation Street viewers.

Happily, her fears haven't been realised and reaction has been positive. "Even for Leanne it's quite a radical storyline," she says. "But I've been pleasantly surprised. There hasn't been any adverse reaction."

Something Jane hadn't anticipated, however, was the effect the longer filming hours would have on her relationship with her 10-month-old son Harry.

"As much as I love my job I miss Harry incredibly," she admits. "He's happy, he's with his dad and he's absolutely fine, but I feel I'm being pulled in two directions and not giving 100 per cent to anybody. I feel completely torn.

"I need to work and to provide for Harry, but I also feel terribly guilty that I'm not there. I pine for him and feel this need to be with him constantly. With Leanne's current storyline I'm working long days.

"Harry wakes up at 7am but I leave the house about 6.30am and when I get home he's usually gone to bed.

"But I'm not on my own - a lot of the cast have got kids and they tell me it does get easier.

"I ache for him sometimes, but I think I would be forever kicking myself if I hadn't come back to work.

I love being in Coronation Street. I've worked really hard to get this far and this is Harry's future too."

While Jane has been on six months' maternity leave, her character Leanne has spent six months in Spain, but now she's back in Weatherfield with a new look and a new job - as an escort girl.

Sassy Leanne has managed to hide her work from most of the Street's residents and even from her new boyfriend, factory boss Liam Connor - until now. As ever in soapland a secret is never a secret for long and Leanne was found out boyfriend Liam's brother, Paul, after he booked her!

A married man, Paul - played by actor Sean Gallagher - has as much to lose as Leanne if their encounter becomes public, and the tension of knowing each other's secret continues to mount.

That tension will come to a head on June 4, when viewers will see Paul bundle Leanne into the boot of his car... leaving her desperate to quit Weatherfield for a new life elsewhere.

While the storyline is gripping for viewers, Jane admits that when she was presented with the scripts her first reaction was one of shock.

"I'm not going to pretend that initially thought it was great," she says. "Coronation Street has never done a story like that before and I was worried people wouldn't like it.

"When I read the scripts I thought it just was a funny storyline - Leanne was charging people for her company while they took her out for a slap-up dinner. But when it turned out she carried on after dinner, I thought, 'Oh God!' "Thankfully it's not been seedy and I think she will redeem herself in the end."

For her racy new job, Leanne has been given blonde highlights, a fake tan and a designer wardrobe. And there have been no worries about Jane fitting into the clothes post-baby - she's actually slimmer now than she was before she got pregnant.

"I'm three or four pounds lighter - I think it's rushing around after Harry," she smiles. "I worked up until a week before I had him and was on the go, so I think the only weight I put on was the baby.

"After he was born I only had half a stone to a stone to lose. I don't want to sound smug but it just fell off. It was summer so I spent the whole time walking with the pram."

While Jane is working, her actor husband Robert Beck, 36, looks after Harry. The couple met at the 1999 Soap Awards. Jane was just 20 at the time and had fancied him since watching him play heartthrob Peter Harrison in Brookside when she was a 13-year-old schoolgirl.

She plucked up the courage to speak to him and they immediately hit it off. They married in December 2005 and now live in Manchester.

"Rob is a wonderful dad," Jane says. "He's a jobbing actor and at the moment he's not in a regular show, but if jobs come up for him we have lots of family who can help out."

Jane grew up in Bury, Lancs, where her family still live. Her mum Lynn is retired, her dad Jack is a builder, her older brother Paul is a mechanic and her older sister Alison a full-time mum.

Her first public appearance came at the age of 10 in a talent competition at Pontins in Weston-super-Mare. She won the singing competition and on her return home her mum enrolled her in the local Oldham Theatre Workshop, alongside the likes of Anna Friel, Suranne Jones and Lisa Riley. Then, aged just 11, she landed her first TV role in the black comedy GBH. She joined Coronation Street at the age of 18 as one of the notorious Battersby clan.

After three years she left to try other things, first playing sexy nurse Sam Docherty in two series of the hospital drama A&E and then joining The Bill as lesbian policewoman Gemma Osbourne. She returned to the Street in 2004.

"When I left I had this idea that I would show all the different things I could do as an actress," Jane says. "But I'm one of those actors that people always see as feisty. I've always played these kind of characters and I don't know why."

Cheerful and easy-going, with a ready smile, Jane is an eternal optimist - even over her appearance in the ITV singing competition Soapstar Superstar earlier this year.

After singing The Pussycat Dolls' song I Don't Need A Man, Jane was the second contestant to be evicted.

"I wanted to raise a lot of money for the Special Care Baby Unit at Fairfield General Hospital in Bury where Harry spent a night when he was born," she says. "I'd spent three days in labour and he was at risk of infection so they kept him there and were absolutely fantastic with him.

"When I did Soapstar Superstar I'd been off for six months and stupidly thought it would be an easy way of easing me back into work. But I wasn't prepared for the intensity of it, or the reality aspect. And I didn't get to choose the song I sang. Part of me was relieved to be voted off because I was missing Harry like mad, but the other part was disappointed because I didn't get the opportunity to sing something that would have been more in my field."

With that Jane picks up her bag and dashes off to see Harry. Robert has brought him to the Granada studios for lunch and Jane can't wait to catch up with them both.

"Harry has brought me and Rob closer together," she says. "We are absolutely as happy as we've ever been, but it's very different - we spend our lives talking about Harry and how wonderful he is.

"I had absolutely no idea motherhood was going to be like this - it's the weirdest, most magical feeling I've ever had."

TO help the Fairfield Hospital Special Care Baby Unit, cheques made payable to Fairfield Baby Lifeline Society can be sent to: SCBU, Fairfield General Hospital, Rochdale Old Road, Bury, BL9 7TD.

features@sundaymirror.co.uk

'I pine for my Harry and feel the need to be with him constantly'

CAPTION(S):

Torn in two... Jane Danson loves her job but feels guilty when she's away from her baby son Picture: NICKY JOHNSTON; Drama... after being kidnapped, Leanne wants to leave the Street - mum Janice begs her to stay; Disappointing... in Soapstar Superstar; Happy family... with Robert & Harry
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:May 13, 2007
Words:1335
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