Michelle Danielle Collins born 28 May 1962 is an English television actress. She is best known for playing Stella Price in the soap opera Coronation Street and previously for playing Cindy Beale in EastEnders. She also appeared in the BBC dramas Sunburn and Two Thousand Acres of Sky. At one time, she was also a TV presenter on The Word.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After leaving EastEnders in 1998 (when her character met an untimely demise offscreen), her career flourished with a series of drama roles. These include: two series of Real Women (BBC One); two series of Sunburn (BBC One), for which Collins also sang the theme song (which was a no. 28 hit in the UK Singles Chart in 1999); Daylight Robbery (ITV); The Sleeper (BBC One); Uprising (ITV): three series of Two Thousand Acres of Sky (BBC One): the two-part series Perfect (ITV); Lloyd and the Hill (ITV) and Ella and the Mothers (BBC One). In 2003 Collins played Sarah Barton in Single.
In 2003, Collins filmed the BBC drama Sea of Souls and then went on to star in a film for Granada/Channel 4 called The Illustrated Mum, which told the story of two girls coping with the unpredictable behaviour of their depressed, alcoholic mother. The film, written by Jacqueline Wilson, was based on the children’s novel of the same name. It was screened to great acclaim over Christmas 2003 and won an Emmy Award and two BAFTAs.
In 2004, she starred in an episode of the British comic sketch show French and Saunders and also starred alongside fellow EastEnders actor Martin Kemp in the ITV drama Can’t Buy Me Love, which was watched by nearly eight million viewers. The programme was inspired by the real-life story of Howard Walmsley, who was jailed for fraud after pretending to win the lottery in order to keep his wife Donna (played by Collins) from leaving him. Their lives and marriage were subsequently turned upside down by the events that unfolded.
In 2005, Collins starred in the ITV drama The Last Detective and she starred in the BBC drama The Family Man, alongside ex-EastEnder Daniela Denby-Ashe, which aired in March 2006.
She starred in the West End musical Daddy Cool, and while working during the night there shot sequences for a cameo in the short film Broken written and directed by Vicki Psarias, which went on to win the several international awards. She also featured in the film Don’t Stop Dreaming, released in 2007. She left Daddy Cool in January 2007 to shoot the Doctor Who episode “42”.
On 2 July 2007, it was announced that Collins has been cast for the lead role of Karina Faith in new ITV drama series, Rock Rivals, produced by Shed Productions.
In 2009, Collins took part in the BBC Wales programme Coming Home about her Welsh family history.
On 21 May 2009, it was rumoured that Collins had auditioned to star in US drama Desperate Housewives, but she will not join the cast for its sixth series.
In July 2009, Collins expressed interest in returning to EastEnders, despite the fact her character Cindy, died off screen in 1998. She acknowledged it would be unlikely that producers could come up with a believable storyline
In 2010 she was a celebrity guest team captain on What Do Kids Know? along with Rufus Hound, Joe Swash and Sara Cox on Watch. In June 2010, it was announced that Collins would be making a six-episode guest appearance as a patient’s mother in the BBC One drama Casualty. In July 2010, Collins was a guest panellist twice on ITV’s Loose Women. Also in 2010 she was a guest star in Romeo & Juliet at the Octagon Theatre, Bolton, playing the Nurse.
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.
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 scenes aired on 16 June and gained a high rating of 8.4 million.
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.
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