EastEnders star Jaqueline Leonard addresses BBC soap return after 26 years

Jaqueline Leonard revealed she still gets recognised for playing Lorraine Wicks on EastEnders from 1996 to 1997, and whether she is returning to the soap

Jacqueline Leonard has had stints on Coronation Street and EastEnders

From her humble beginnings as Sarah Preston in medical drama Peak Practice to her breakout role as Lorraine Wicks in EastEnders, actress Jacqueline Leonard has been appearing on our screens for more than 30 years.

But despite being a prominent face on British television for so long, Jacqueline admits she still sometimes needs a boost to her confidence. And as she makes her return to Coronation Street as Linda Hancock, Jacqueline, 58, tells us she has found a way to stay on her A-game.

“I do a lot of hypnotherapy,” she explains. “And I have these tapes that help to keep me calm, help me sleep and build my confidence. It’s not all the time, but every now and then when I’ve been working so many hours, I need a pick-me-up. So I go to bed and put on a tape.”

Actress Jaqueline Leonard addresses EastEnders return after 26 years

Actress Jaqueline Leonard addresses EastEnders return after 26 years

She previously starred in EastEnders

She previously starred in EastEnders 


Colin Boulter Neilson Reeves Photography)

Jacqueline loves working on Coronation Street and is known as glamorous “Granny” Linda by the Winter-Brown children. On her character’s arrival in 2015, Linda attempted to bond with her two daughters Izzy (Cherylee Houston) and Katy Armstrong (Georgia May Foote), having had no contact for years – which didn’t go to plan as both rejected her.

Katy’s off-screen death in 2017 led to Linda becoming closer to her grandson, Joseph Winter-Brown (William Flanagan), who now lives with his dad Chesney as well as Gemma Winter- Brown (Dolly-Rose Campbell) and their quadruplets.

Linda later returned to Portugal, but came back to Weatherfield in 2022 and also made an appearance at Gemma and Chesney’s wedding last year. Now, Linda is back again for Joseph, in the hopes of taking him overseas.

“Linda isn’t intentionally trying to take Joseph away from Gemma, but she does feel quite maternal,” says Jacqueline. “She just wants what’s best for that boy – and Linda often has the right intentions, but sometimes they get misconstrued. “I’m a mother myself. I would do anything for my child and I presume Linda is doing exactly the same in her eyes. She wants what’s best for her grandson.”

As a life-long fan of Coronation Street, Jacqueline loves the fact that viewers have taken to social media to call for her return multiple times, confirming that Linda is a much-loved character.

“I’m thrilled that they seem to be bumping up my character and I love that I get to go back to my Northern roots,” confesses Jacqueline. “Linda had been on the periphery for quite a while, and now she’s getting a bigger on-screen presence.

“From my point of view, it’s hilarious because my agent keeps giving me all this fanmail from younger guys going, ‘Oh, she’s a bit of a cougar. We love her’ – and wanting pictures of my bottom! I find it hilarious because I’m in my fifties.

But the thing is, Linda’s one of those characters that you love to hate. She’s a glamorous woman in a sexy suit flashing her money around. Whereas you’ve got Joseph’s other grandma, Bernie [Jane Hazlegrove], who grapples to get money from anywhere. There’s always a bit of angst between those two, and catfights. It’s going back to old-fashioned Corrie.”

Jacqueline loves the glamour that comes with playing Linda, and that the team make her up – rather than under, like a co-star. “I’m good friends with Claire Sweeney [who plays Cassie Plummer], and she is this gorgeous, glamorous woman and I’m there all natural. Then suddenly, I’m walking out like Alexis Colby from Dallas and Claire looks like this exhausted woman.”

Jacqueline Leonard and Sally Howitt

Jacqueline Leonard and Sally Howitt 



But Jacqueline does put in work to maintain her figure. “I go to the gym or I go swimming to keep toned,” she says. “But I’m naturally slim and one of those people who can eat whatever they like – not that I eat badly.”

While viewers love her in Corrie, Jacqueline hasn’t always received positive feedback from fans. Reflecting on her time in EastEnders from 1996 to 1997, she confesses she had a hard time dealing with some of their outspoken opinions.

“Lorraine had huge storylines, but she was also quite angsty and tearful,” says Jacqueline. “And then she had the affair with Grant [Mitchell, Ross Kemp], and Tiffany [Mitchell, Martine McCutcheon] was pregnant at the time. So I started off having lovely fanmail, then it was terrible.

“I remember that Christmas episode had 23 million viewers, which is amazing. But once I was out shopping and this big group of kids recognised me and all started screaming at me down the street. I didn’t want them to know where I lived, which was in Balham at the time, so I went into a shop and begged the guy who worked there to let me out through the back. He did, and shut the shop for about five minutes. I ran home. The attention was unbelievable.”

Jacqueline is still recognised thanks to her other soap roles – she played Dr Caroline Powers in Doctors and Valerie Holden in Hollyoaks in 2007 – but she insists showbiz has taught her resilience.

“Back then, people believed I was that bitch in EastEnders. What’s different now is there’s social media, so people can separate you from the character. Now I’m on Corrie, the attention is starting up again. I get recognised more for River City when I’m in Scotland, but people in England don’t tend to watch it.”

Thanks to a three months on/three months off filming schedule, Jacqueline has juggled Corrie with her regular role as Lydia Murdoch in River City, where after a shocking New Year finale one of Jacqueline’s toughest storylines came to an end.

“A 50-something-year-old being raped by someone who knows her, and how the courts and the police dealt with it, was a great storyline,” she says. “The New Year’s Day episode was fabulous, really gritty and hard-hitting. It looked more like a drama than a soap. As Lydia, I’m involved with the Murdoch family, who are gangsters, and I absolutely love it.”

When she’s not working, Jacqueline is at home in Lancashire. In her downtime, she “paints and goes to the gym” and she spends time with her husband Alex Mansfield and their daughter Aleisha, although Aleisha is not living with them for now.

“My daughter’s 21 now,” Jacqueline says. “She’s at university studying psychology – although she’s a fabulous singer.” Jacqueline’s family have got used to seeing her on TV – “It’s just the norm to them now” – but she says her husband remains her top fan. “He watches most of the shows I’m in. He loves Lydia, and actually he likes Linda too. I think it’s the banter between her and Bernie. He loved the cake fight they had at Gemma’s wedding.”

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