Tuesday 17 September 2019

Jill Halfpenny: Grief over father’s death spurred me to become actress

The Strictly Come Dancing champion said the loss had a profound impact on her life.

Jill Halfpenny (Dominic Lipinski/PA)
Jill Halfpenny (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

By Laura Harding, PA Senior Entertainment Correspondent

Jill Halfpenny has spoken about the guilt she felt after her father died, and said she might not have become an actress if she had not experienced the grief.

The actress, who first found fame as a child star in Byker Grove and has since appeared in Coronation Street, EastEnders and won Strictly Came Dancing, said she grew up in a household where the loss was not addressed.

She told the Radio Times: “It came completely out of the blue.

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Jill Halfpenny during her time in EastEnders in 2003 (Andy Butterton/PA)

“He was playing football and had a heart attack. In the morning he was there and then, in the evening, he wasn’t.

“Girls are brought up to believe that Daddy will be the person that comes to their rescue.

“When you’ve lost that sense of somebody being able to come to your rescue, you say, ‘To hell with it. I’ll be my own rescuer.’”

Halfpenny, who will next be seen in upcoming drama Dark Money, was four when her father Colin died, and said it has had a profound effect on her career.

She said: “I think there is a very strong argument that I might not have been an actress had that not happened.

“I think I probably internalised my dad’s death, which is the classic child thing to do. ‘Well, no one has said anything, so it must be my fault.’

“There’s a lot of internalisation of the grief, and the shame, and what you do to deal with that.”

She continued: “I grew up in a household where the grief we were all experiencing wasn’t talked about the way it would be now.”

Halfpenny also discussed how she felt when she was axed from her role as Kate Morton in EastEnders in 2004.

She said: “I think I still felt I had more in me.”

Asked how the BBC told her, she said: “They said, ‘Oh, you know, we’re not going to carry on.’ And I thought, ‘What’s it going to be like going back out into the big bad world?'”

“I wonder if, in a subconscious way, I thought, ‘Oh well, that’s grim, but it’s not as bad as losing your dad.’

“I don’t know whether that’s healthy, but that might be the way I deal with things. I’ve lost my house? OK. I’ve split up with someone? OK.”

The full interview is in the Radio Times, out now.

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