The ITV Coronation Street stars who have ‘quit’ the soap only to return from Sarah Barlow to Spider Nugent
Big stunts and sad deaths frequently come to mind when exits from soap operas are revealed. But if you want to have the option of coming back at a later time, taking a taxi out of Weatherfield is typically the safest method to leave the cobbles.
And many current Coronation Street actors have left the serial at some point in the past, sometimes more than once, and are now regularly seen on our TVs.
At one point or another, people like Jenny Connor, Nick Tilsely, Sarah Barlow, and Spider Nugent have all waved goodbye to the street.
The Manchester Evening News has looked back at a few of the current Corrie stars who have previously departed the fabled cobbles before returning, some even 20 years later, in light of this.
Tina O’Brien has played Sarah Barlow, nee Platt, since 1999, when the actress was recast in the part of the then-12-year-old when she was 16 years old.
She has dealt with a variety of difficult storylines over the years, including giving birth to her first child, Bethany, at the age of 13, and being kidnapped along with her family by her psychotic stepfather Richard Hillman. She also experienced child loss when her son, Billy, passed away soon after his birth, and she was attacked by Callum Logan and saw him killed by her sister-in-law Kylie.
But in 2007, Tina did take a break from playing Sarah. She portrayed the lead role of Cinderella in the pantomime at the Manchester Opera House in her debut performance after leaving the cobbles. Her first on-screen appearance after Corrie was in the ITV police thriller Blue Murder. Then, in 2010, she was cast as Bex Fisher in the sixth season of the BBC school drama Waterloo Road.
Additionally, Tina returned to Corrie 2015 after playing various characters after Sarah’s daughter Bethany Platt went back to Weatherfield without her consent.
In 2021, Spider, er, Geoffrey Nugent, returned to the cobblestones bearing a secret. Martin Hancock was scheduled to return to the part in April 2021, 25 years after making his acting debut and 19 years after making his final appearance in the ITV soap opera.
Between 1997 and 2003, the actor, who made his on-screen comeback in June, portrayed Emily Bishop’s eco-warrior nephew. However, he is probably best known for his on-and-off relationships with Toyah Battersby. In 2003, Spider left the well-known street and moved to London to reunite with Toyah. They later divorced, with Spider relocating to Peru, while Toyah, following a disastrous marriage, came back to be with her family in 2016.
But despite spending over two decades away from Weatherfield, Spider seems to have reestablished his life on the streets and even reignited his romance with Toyah after the passing of her spouse, Imran Habeeb. And up until his neighbors found out the truth earlier this year, he was concealing his undercover work with the police while still participating in protests.
Another character who has came, gone, and returned to Weatherfield is Toyah Habeeb, née Battersby.
In 1997, when it was revealed that the ‘family from hell’ would be added to the popular soap opera to stir up some trouble, Georgia Taylor, together with Janice and Les Battersby and Les’s daughter Leanne, made their debuts in the ITV soap opera as Toyah at the age of just 17.
Toyah fell in love with eco-activist Spider Nugent soon after arriving in Weatherfield, but she stayed behind when he quit his position at the DSS and moved to India. Georgia’s character also served as the focal point of a terrifying plot when she was sexually assaulted by her former neighbor Phil Simmonds.
Georgia took on a few other acting roles after Toyah departed The Street in 2003 after learning that her lover John Arnley had cheated on her with her best friend Maria Sutherland. The Wigan-born actress joined the Casualty cast in 2007 as Dr Ruth Winters, and she remained a regular until 2011. She also made appearances in Life on Mars, Where the Heart is, and Law and Order: UK.
She performed in Christmas is Miles Away at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester and the Bush Theatre in London in 2005, as well as The Woman Before at the Royal Court in London with Helen Baxendale.
Toyah made an explosive homecoming at Christmas when it was revealed that she had left her husband of five years, Toby Chapman, for Peter Barlow, Leanne’s ex-husband, after a 13-year hiatus from the cobbles.
Since she is married to Steve, Tracy Barlow, or should we say Tracy McDonald, first appeared in Weatherfield when she was born on-screen in a 1977 January episode.
After Christabel Finch, Holly Chamarette, and Dawn Acton, the current actress Kate Ford took up the part of the contentious character in 2002.
Since then, the 46-year-old Salford native has played the part. Over the course of those 20 years, she has dealt with a variety of storylines, including killing her ex Charlie Stubbs in cold blood and drugging Roy Cropper to make it appear as though they had slept together before learning she was pregnant following her one-night stand with Steve McDonald.
In those 20 years, Kate has both left and rejoined the soap opera. When Tracy was found guilty of killing Charlie in 2007 and given a life sentence with a minimum of 15 years before parole, she waved farewell to the cobbles for the first time.
When Tracy was granted a day release to attend the funeral of her grandmother Blanche Hunt, the star then briefly resumed the part from late May to early June 2010.
After Tracy alerted the Barlows that the expert who handled the forensic evidence for her trial had fabricated his credentials and was thus released on bail pending a retrial, she subsequently went back to work full-time beginning on December 24, 2010. Due to the validity issues with the forensic evidence, Tracy was later acquitted at the second trial.
In the more than five decades since Peter Barlow made his stage debut, a record SEVEN actors have taken on the role. During that time, the character has dealt with a variety of plots, including bigamy, alcoholism, a custody dispute, failed relationships, and being blamed for the murder of his lover Tina.
It wasn’t until the 40th anniversary live program in 2000 that current actor Chris Gascoyne made his debut in the part. When Peter returned to Portsmouth in 2003 after his bigamy was revealed when he married Rovers bartender Shelley Unwin and florist Lucy Richards, he resigned the post.
During his brief comeback in 2007, Tracy murdered Charlie, his ex-girlfriend Lucy passed away from ovarian cancer, and Peter was granted custody of Simon, who was five years old at the time. In 2008, Chris returned to the position full-time.
Although it was announced in January 2014 that Chris would be leaving once more, he did return for two episodes of the following season to cover Anne Kirkbride’s character Deirdre Barlow’s funeral. Then, in 2016, it was made known that Peter would be coming back to Weatherfield, and Chris has held onto the position ever since.
A recognizable character from Coronation Street is Leanne Battersby. When it was reported that the ‘family from hell’ would be introduced to the popular soap opera to stir up some trouble, the character, played by Jane Danson, descended upon the cobblestones.
The actress who portrays Leanne, Jane Danson, left the series in 2000, not long after the traumatic plot that saw her character develop a drug addiction. She went back in 2004, when she married Peter Barlow and then Nick Tilsley a second time. However, the couple split up once more before reuniting years later.
Gail Platt and Brian Tilsley’s son, Nick Tilsley, was born off-screen on New Year’s Eve in 1980. He initially appeared in January 1981, when Warren Jackson played him as a newborn until 1996. Later, actor and musician Adam Rickitt took up the role.
In 2009, Ben Price was cast in the part of Nick after Adam had been cast as Kieran Mitchell in the New Zealand soap opera Shortland Street.
Following Ben’s assumption of the role, Nick had to deal with a variety of significant storylines, including wanting to wed Leanne Battersby for a number of years until 2013, even though she had initially chosen Peter Barlow over him, believing he was the father of his sister-in-law Kylie’s unborn child after they slept together, and being injured in a car accident and slipping into a coma after David learned of it.
To spend more time with his actress wife Alexandra Wheeler and their kids, he later quit the soap opera in 2017 for personal reasons. However, in April 2018, it was revealed that Ben will return to play Nick. He did so in October of the same year, following Leanne’s automobile accident.
As a member of the McDonald family in 1989, when Simon Gregson was only 15 years old, Steve McDonald made his debut on the Corrie cobbles more than 30 years ago.
The former tearaway has engaged in his fair share of shady business, but with time, he has evolved into more of a comic figure. His errors in judgment may possibly be the reason he has remarried so frequently in the soap opera, having done so seven times to five different ladies.
But after 14 years, Simon revealed in September 2015 that he was taking a vacation for “personal reasons,” while Steve was absent from the show from November 2015 to April 2016 after traveling to Spain to visit his brother Andy but staying longer than anticipated.
Sally Ann Matthews played Jenny Connor, who was Rita Fairclough’s foster child and Alan Bradley’s child. When she moved home with Rita in 1986, shortly after her mother Pat was killed in a car accident, she arrived on the cobbles.
She also made a lot of trouble on the streets before being expelled from Manchester Polytechnic’s Environmental Studies program in 1990 as a result of her shoddy attendance record. Early the following year, she left Weatherfield to live with married dentist Robert Weston.
Shen later returned in 1993, but Jenny didn’t formally return to the cobbles until 2015—two years after her 4-year-old son Tom drowned in a paddling pool—with Sally Ann still playing there.
She nearly hurled herself from a balcony while dating Kevin Webster, and she kidnapped Kevin’s son Jack to keep him safe. In 2016, after being sectioned, she was released and has been living on the street since since.