Sue Johnston

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Sue Johnston
BornSusan Wright
(1943-12-07) 7 December 1943 (age 69)
Warrington, Lancashire, England, UK
Years active1980-present
TelevisionSheila Grant in Brookside
Barbara Royle in The Royle Family
Dr Grace Foley in Waking The Dead
Gloria Price in Coronation Street
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Sue Johnston
BornSusan Wright
(1943-12-07) 7 December 1943 (age 69)
Warrington, Lancashire, England, UK
Years active1980-present
TelevisionSheila Grant in Brookside
Barbara Royle in The Royle Family
Dr Grace Foley in Waking The Dead
Gloria Price in Coronation Street

Susan Johnston, OBE (née Wright; born 7 December 1943) is a BAFTA nominated English actress best known for playing Sheila Grant in the long-running soap opera Brookside (1982–90), Grace Foley in Waking the Dead from 2000 to 2011 and Barbara Royle in the BBC comedy The Royle Family from 1998. In 2012, Johnston joined the cast of the soap opera Coronation Street as Gloria Price and made her first appearance on 5 September 2012. She played Eileen Lewis in the BBC show Lapland, a role which she is reprising for a second series.[1]


Early life

Johnston was born in Warrington, Lancashire, and grew up in Prescot, Lancashire. She was educated at Whiston Infants School, Eccleston Park Junior School and Prescot and Huyton Grammar School for Girls which she left aged 17 after one year of her A-level course, having decided to become an actress.[2]

After working as a Higher Grade tax inspector, when her boyfriend was one of the pop group the Swinging Blue Jeans, she worked for Brian Epstein. From the age of 21, Johnston attended the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London.

Acting career

Johnston made her television debut, aged 38, with a minor recurring role on Coronation Street in the summer of 1982. She played the role of Mrs. Chadwick, the wife of a bookmaker.[3]

From 1982 to 1990, she appeared as Sheila Grant in the soap opera Brookside. She appeared in the show's first ever episode on 2 November 1982 – aired on the day that Channel 4 went on air – and her last episode was aired in September 1990, when the character was written out of the series following her divorce from Bobby Grant (Ricky Tomlinson) and re-marriage to Billy Corkhill (John McArdle).

Since then she has appeared in many drama series and films, including Inspector Morse, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, Brassed Off, and My Uncle Silas. In 1992 Johnston gave a tour de force performance in the three-part award winning drama Goodbye Cruel World, in which she portrayed a woman coming to terms with a muscle-wasting illness. She was supported by Alun Armstrong as her husband and Jonny Lee Miller.

Johnston is also well known for her role as Barbara Royle in the comedy series The Royle Family, appearing with her former on-screen husband in Brookside, Ricky Tomlinson, from the show's inception in September 1998 until it ended just over two years later. She also appeared in a one-off special which aired in October 2006. From 2000 to 2011 Johnston starred in the television series Waking the Dead, in which she played the role of psychological profiler Grace Foley, alongside Trevor Eve.

In 2004, she appeared in one episode of the series, Who Do You Think You Are?, in which she traced her family tree.[4] She starred in Jennifer Saunders's comedy drama Jam & Jerusalem on BBC One, alongside Joanna Lumley, Maggie Steed and David Mitchell. The first series aired in 2006, the second series began on 1 January 2008 and the third in August 2009. In late 2008, she played Affery Flintwinch in the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit.

In May 2008 it was confirmed Johnston would return as Barbara Royle for another episode of The Royle Family, which aired on Christmas Day 2008, on BBC One.[5]

On 29 December 2008 it was claimed that Johnston was to reprise her role again, after the BBC and Caroline Aherne had met to discuss further episodes of The Royle Family, and Aherne had agreed "in principle" to discuss a deal.[6]

Johnston shared a role with Billie Piper in the TV adaptation of A Passionate Woman which aired on BBC One on 11 April 2010.

On 2 April 2012, Coronation Street series producer Phil Collinson announced Johnston had joined the soap opera as Gloria, the mother of Stella Price (played by Michelle Collins). She made her first screen appearance on 5 September 2012.[7]

Personal life

Johnston has campaigned on behalf of the Labour Party and has been a long-time gay rights campaigner.[8]

She is a supporter of Liverpool F.C. and Warrington RLFC.

Despite playing the role of heavy smoker Barbara in The Royle Family, Johnston gave up in 1978, but had to smoke low-tar cigarettes whilst playing the role; however, she is now completely anti-smoking.[9]

Johnston was appointed OBE in the 2009 Birthday Honours.[10]

In November 2010, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by University of Chester at Chester Cathedral.[11]

She has one son Joel, from her previous marriage to David Pammenter.[12] She has one grandchild.[13]

In 1989 Johnston, assisted by Lesley Thomson, published her first book, a memoir titled Hold on to the Messy Times. In 2011, she published another memoir titled Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother.

In 1970, Johnston was sexually attacked at the age of 27 which led to her storyline in Brookside as Sheila Grant where she was raped.[14]

In 1967, after her marriage to first husband Neil, she became pregnant at the age of 24. She suffered a miscarriage shortly after. [15]

In her autobiography, Things I Couldn't Tell My Mother, she was originally going to be called Margaret Jane Wright, after her mother and grandmother, but her father thought that it would be best to call her Susan. She takes the surname Johnston, from her first marriage to Neil.

Selected television and film roles


  1. ^ "BBC One commissions new six part comedy series, Lapland". BBC. BBC Online. 4 October 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2012.
  2. ^ Daily Mail Weekend Interview. 31 March 2012, p. 6
  3. ^ Sue Johnston returns to Coronation Street as Stella Price’s mother. (29 August 2012). Retrieved on 2013-01-04.
  4. ^ "Who Do You Think You Are? with Sue Johnston". Who Do You Think You Are?. 26 October 2004. BBC. BBC Two.
  5. ^ BBC in talks with Aherne and Cash over Royle Family return. Guardian (7 May 2008). Retrieved on 2013-01-04.
  6. ^ Royle Family set for New Year return - exclusive - 3am & Mirror Online. (29 December 2008). Retrieved on 2013-01-04.
  7. ^ "Sue Johnston to play Stella's mum Gloria | Coronation Street News – ITV Soaps". 27 May 2011. Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  8. ^ "Never larger than life: Ruth Rolands meets the Brookside star and gay rights campaigner". Gay Times (Millivres) (131). August 1989. ISSN 0950-6101. "The dangers of that Clause [28] really hit me and I felt angry. I've got to come in on this, I thought — so I did. That's when I 'came out' as an ally of gays."
  9. ^ Sue Johnston. BBC
  10. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59090. p. 11. 13 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Brookside veterans Phil Redmond and Sue Johnston reunited at graduation". 5 November 2010. Retrieved 9 January 2011.
  12. ^ "I'm too old for sex scenes, says Royle Family actress Sue Johnston". Daily Mail (London). 12 August 2009.
  13. ^ Sue Johnston: 'I took Corrie job to be closer to grandson' – Coronation Street News – Soaps. Digital Spy (11 August 2012). Retrieved on 2013-01-04.
  14. ^ "Sue Johnston: 'Night I thought stranger was going to kill me'". Mirror. 24 August 2011.
  15. ^ {{cite web|url=

External links