“I want to crack Hollywood,” says Happy Valley’s Mollie Winnard as she discusses trolling and stripping on screen
Happy Valley FANS will have a hard time forgetting the sight of a lifeless Joanna Hepworth folded into a suitcase.
It was a moment that shocked millions of viewers of the BBC One hit and actress Mollie Winnard was praised for portraying her dramatic storyline with sensitivity.
And the 25-year-old is hoping the breakthrough role will catapult her all the way from Halifax to Hollywood.
She said: “America would be amazing.
“I’d love to try anything from fantasy to historical drama.
“But I don’t think you have to undress to be sexy.
“It would take a part that I was really passionate about to do that.”
In our exclusive photoshoot, the glamorous star is worlds away from her troubled character, broken by domestic violence and struggling with diazepam addiction.
To research the role, Mollie spoke to psychotherapist Sarie Taylor and read blogs about addiction “to understand what it was like to feel trapped like Jo.”
And the commitment paid off, with her performance being praised by activists against domestic violence.
Former Spice Girl Mel B – a victim of domestic abuse herself – wrote that some of Mollie’s scenes were “so incredibly real” that it “chilled her blood.”
Mollie said: “I was tagged in a post someone made to share Mel B’s article.
“As I shared it again, I said she was an inspirational woman.
“She wrote back to say I was a great actress and thanked me for my work.
“It’s all worth it with messages like that, because then you know you’ve done justice to the story.”
But sometimes people on the internet are less friendly.
Speaking of the scheming Kayla Clifton on Coronation Street in 2018, she said: “Very few people made nasty comments about my looks and said I’d worked on my butt and my lips when I hadn’t.
“That stuck in my mind for a bit, but then I forgot because the vast majority of people are positive.”
She added: “Last week I was stopped by a guy at Aldi while I was on the phone.
“I thought he wanted my trolley. But he recognized me as Joanna and congratulated me on the role.”
Despite her modesty, Mollie exuded confidence on our shoot in Manchester – she paused to mock a breakfast porridge and winced as the heart colored on her ankle.
Laughing, she said, “It was a drunk tattoo from a holiday in Magaluf.”
And when it comes to her celebrity crush, she’s drawn to Jason Momoa, the long-haired hunk from Game Of Thrones.
She was also a fan of Happy Valley psychopath Tommy Lee Royce, played by James Norton.
Mollie said: “I met James briefly in the makeup truck when he had a tester on his hair extensions.
“It suited them, but I’ve always been into long hair.”
Growing up in Chorley, Lancs, Mollie began performing at the age of two when her faithful grandmother, Norma Winnard, enrolled her in dance classes.
Earlier this year, Mollie was heartbroken after Norma died of colon cancer at the age of 77.
She said: “My grandma was my everything.
“She got to see the first episode of Happy Valley before she died, for which I’m grateful.”
Her parents, landlord Darren Winnard and accountant Joanne McKenna, who split when Mollie was a toddler, have always been huge supporters.
After graduating from high school, Mollie worked hard to fund her studies at the Manchester School of Acting.
She said: “At one point I worked six jobs to pay for the weekly tuition.
“I worked as a waitress, worked for my father’s rental agency and cleaned houses for him.
“I’ve done occasional acting and hosting jobs and was even a shot girl in a nightclub for six months.”
Her big break in 2017 was a small part in the BBC drama series Love, Lies And Records with After Life’s Ashley Jensen.
A year later, Mollie played the devious Kayla in Corrie, for which she won an Inside Soap Best Bad Girl Award.
She says her down-to-earth demeanor is thanks to her close family and longtime boyfriend Jordan Murphy.
Mollie and the DJ/music producer live in Chorley with the cockatoos Maverick and Mavis.
‘A dream becomes true’
She said: “Staying grounded has a lot to do with who you are as a person, but coming from a big family definitely helps with that.
“When my agent told me I got the part in Happy Valley, I thought they made a mistake.
“I used to watch it religiously with my mom and stepdad and was such a fan.
“I believe in the Laws of Attraction.
“Before I even started acting professionally, when I was about 18, I wrote my goals in a journal.
“I wrote that I wanted to work with Sarah Lancashire and Siobhan Finneran, so I feel like I’ve manifested that in some way.
“Happy Valley really was a dream come true.”
And she didn’t have to wait long to film alongside Sarah, who plays Sgt. Catherine Cawood, with Siobhan as Catherine’s troubled sister, Clare.
Mollie said: “One of the first scenes I shot was where Catherine comes to the house to arrest me, so the first time we shoot she’s in her police uniform.
“I should have panicked, and I really did.
“I was so nervous.
“She was fascinating – the way she could go from Sarah to Catherine in a second.
“We talked very briefly about how we both had roles on Corrie too and I bought her and the rest of the crew a cake which I thought was my last day of shooting only to get called back the next week .
“Watching her was like taking a master class in acting.
“I would like to have even half of Sarah’s success.
“I would like to be respected the way Sarah is.”
Recalling the tense scene where Joanna’s body is discovered, Mollie said thankfully there were lighter moments too.
Experience a horrible end
Around nine million people tuned in to the shocking episode last Sunday, and fans took to Twitter in dismay at the sight of her lifeless body squashed into a suitcase.
But the flexible star had no trouble with the scene.
She said: “It was actually cozy there. I had air pockets.
“The hardest part was not blinking. Dead people don’t blink.”
Now that the show’s murderous villain Tommy is on the run, fans are suspecting the show’s lead lady could also meet a grisly end.
But the series finale is a closely guarded secret.
Mollie said, “I think the ending was redacted for everyone except the cast members involved.”
In tonight’s penultimate episode, fans predict Joanna’s abusive husband, gym teacher Rob [Mark Stanley] could fall for her murder if the body is discovered.
Also in the frame of the crime is pharmacist Faisal Bhatti [Amit Shah]who hit Joanna over the head with a rolling pin during an argument.
But in real life, both Mark and Amit couldn’t have been nicer.
Mollie said: “When Mark pushed me onto the bed in the first episode, we had an intimacy coordinator and a stunt coordinator, so it was very safe. But he kept asking, “Are you okay?”
“Amit is such a laugh too. We did the floss dance between takes.
“The rolling pin he hit me with was foam, but a lot of people joked that we should do Bake Off afterwards.”
Mollie said: “If Bake Off want us, I’m in.
“I can’t cook, but I’ll do my best.”
- Happy Valley continues on BBC One tonight at 9pm.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tv/21197399/happy-valley-mollie-winnard-crack-hollywood/ “I want to crack Hollywood,” says Happy Valley’s Mollie Winnard as she discusses trolling and stripping on screen