Julie Hesmondhalgh has said she would not take the part of Hayley Cropper today and hopes she would not be offered it.
The actress played the first trans character in a British soap when she arrived on the Coronation Street cobbles in 1998.
She transformed trans visibility in the UK, but the character was controversial because she was played by a cis woman.
She told The Guardian: “There was a really great trans rights group, Press for Change, who were really, really pissed off – and I totally understood why.
“I met them and said: ‘I hear you, but honestly I think the pressure on a trans actor – who definitely would have had a certain amount of vulnerability anyway – would have been unbearable.’
“The way the press was then, they’d have been eaten alive. So I assured them that I was their ally, that I would play the part with as much sensitivity and empathy as I could, that I would listen to them. And, honestly, I think I did a decent job.”
Asked if she would take the part today, she said: “I would hope that it wouldn’t be offered to me as a cis woman. I definitely wouldn’t take it.
“I left Corrie because it was time for me to go personally, but it was also time for Hayley – a trans woman played by a cis woman – to go, too.
“I was about to become an absolute anachronism, because there were then trans actors to play those parts, and even more now.”
Hesmondhalgh won widespread acclaim, including several awards, for her portrayal of Hayley. The character died in 2014.
The actress said she is still in awe of how much Hayley and her relationship with cafe owner Roy Cropper changed public perception.
She said: “Even now, I can’t quite believe the power of it.
“Literally within weeks, people were saying to me in the street: ‘When are you and Roy getting married?’
“I’d be like: ‘We’re not allowed to – it’s against the law,’ and they’d be like: ‘Oh, never mind that!’
“I knew then that something was shifting. If you want to fight prejudice, you put somebody likeable in the living room and people can see beyond what makes them different to what makes them the same.”