ITV Coronation Street: The real life of Fiz Stape actress Jennie McAlpine – first soap opera role, own business, secret marriage and Corrie ‘exit’
It would be hard to imagine Weatherfield without Fiz Stape – or Fiz Brown as she was when she hit the cobbles 21 years ago. She made her first appearance on the soap as a feisty teenager cheered on by Roy and Hayley Cropper after being neglected by her mother, Cilla Brown.
However, she spent most of the first decade on the famous street living with Maria Sutherland, now Maria Windass, at 2a Coronation Street, during which time she had affairs with Tyrone Dobbs and Maria’s brother Kirk.
But it may be more surprising that the Underworld machinist and antiquarian, played by Bury actress Jennie McAlpine, was originally only slated to appear for five episodes, but soon became a permanent character.
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And over the years, Fiz has been embroiled in many gripping storylines, including her late serial killer husband, John Stape, who committed three murders and helped him bury the bodies. She gave birth to their daughter Hope on Corrie’s 2010 50th birthday live episode with Jennie. becoming the first actress to play a live birth on a soap opera.
Last year, Fiz had a heartache when her partner Tyrone Dobbs cheated on her with Alina Pop and now her exit from the cobblestones is set to air next week on the ITV soap opera. Fiz will be seen preparing to leave the streets, packing the moving van with his boxes of belongings, in order to move in with his new boyfriend Phill Whittaker away from the famous cobblestones.
But she soon drops a huge bombshell on Tyrone – confessing that she fears making a big mistake. But learning from his past mistakes, the mechanic tells his former fiancée that she deserves a fresh start in a big house with a garden for the girls, Ruby and Hope, and soon waves her away.
This isn’t the end of Fiz though, so fans needn’t worry as we’ll soon see her and Phil replace her terraced house with a posh Victorian home, a far cry from the close-knit community in which she spent most of her life.
Acting, however, is not where his career began. Jennie’s big break into the industry came in 1997 when she was just 13, reports the Express. She came second in a young comedian of the year competition organized by Fanta in London and after meeting TV presenter Jonathan Ross and Bolton born comedian Peter Kay she was inspired to enter the following year where she again placed second.
A few years later, Jennie landed her first television role – and it wasn’t in Corrie. She actually appeared in Emmerdale from 1999 to 2000, playing the role of Michelle Morley, a school friend of Ollie Reynolds. She then left for Weatherfield when she was 17 and hasn’t been gone for 21 years.
Away from the soap opera, Jennie’s life is far less dramatic as she was happily married to restaurateur Chris Farr for five years after being introduced by her co-star who happens to be a bit of a serial matchmaker. Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully in the soap, called Jennie to say, “I’m here with your future husband. Do you want me to put him on the phone?”
And the rest, as they say, is history with Jennie and Chris marrying in secret in January 2017 after more than a decade together. The couple said ‘yes’ to Trafford Town Hall, with only their son Albert and two witnesses from Trafford Town Hall present at the ceremony. It turned out to be a change of heart for the actress, now 38, after previously telling the Daily Record: “I don’t have time – for babies or the wedding. I don’t don’t like to be the center of attention, so a big wedding is not for me.”
Jennie announced their happy news on Twitter by sharing a photo of their hands displaying their wedding rings. And one person who was, of course, in on the secret was Cupid himself Antony, who has since introduced former Corrie star Kym Marsh to husband Scott Ratcliff. He wrote on Twitter at the time, “Well at least we haven’t had to keep this secret too long!! We love you three so much.”
Speaking later of her nuptials on Loose Women, Jennie said: “Secret isn’t the word. Surprise is more the word. We just wanted it so our parents would know. My dad knows me and that’s what I would have done. Someone said to me ‘aren’t your friends really bored?’ and I thought, ‘No, I don’t have any friends who would be angry with me.’
“I like a good wedding and I hope to be invited. For my part, I just wanted it to be discreet. I didn’t want to be the center of attention.”
Jennie and Chris welcomed their first child together, Albert, in 2014 and a year after they married, the soap star announced she was pregnant with her second child and gave birth to the child the same year to a daughter whom they named Hilda. Jennie had previously hinted that she might name the child after a character from the soap opera and she seemed to have stuck to it and opted for Hilda Ogden, played by Jean Alexander from 1964 to 1987.
Away from their family life, Jennie and Chris actually went into business together. Annie’s Tea Room and Restaurant is located in Manchester’s Royal Exchange and offers a little bit of everything – from afternoon tea to Sunday lunch and we even spotted a fondue on the menu.
Two years after opening in 2012, Jennie said, “We wanted to do something together, and our whole family wanted to be involved. Chris is an experienced restaurateur, and I just love the food. I have no other skills or qualifications for this. , but I like meeting people.”
The business has faced its struggles in the past and, like the entire hospitality industry, has found itself struggling with various lockdowns and other restrictions over the past couple of years.
Jennie herself has also undergone an incredible transformation over the year and it’s been reported that she’s dropped three dress sizes after embarking on a health and fitness journey.
She told fans that getting in shape is mostly “common sense.” Jennie said she followed a healthy diet, which helped her lose weight and said of the process, “It’s not rocket science!”
But she also said in 2009, “I refuse to talk about it because I don’t want to be responsible for a young boy or a young girl reading this.”