The career of film and TV actress Joanne Whalley could have taken a very different turn if she’d stuck to her musical roots.

For the star of Scandal, the Singing Detective and the Borgias was the once the lead singer of an all-girl group called Cindy and the Saffrons.

She was also briefly a member of Stockport band the Slowguns, but left before they released their two singles.

Cindy and the Saffrons recorded only two singles themselves – a version of the Shangri-Las song Past, Present and Future and Terry by Twinkle – before splitting in 1983.

Whalley was born in Salford in 1961 but grew up in Stockport. She attended Bredbury Comprehensive School and Harrytown Convent Girls’ School in Romiley before learning stagecraft at the Braeside School of Speech and Drama in Marple.

As a child she appeared in the TV series Juliet Bravo, Coronation Street and Emmerdale. In 1982 she played Ingrid Rothwell in the Granada TV version of Stan Barstow’s novel A Kind of Loving.

She also appeared in Alan Bleasdale’s 1985 comedy film No Surrender, which starred Michael Vangelis as a club manager battling a crime syndicate.

Whalley’s big break came the same year when she played Emma Craven in the TV crime thriller Edge of Darkness. In 1986 she was Nurse Mills in Dennis Potter’s serial The Singing Detective starring Michael Gambon.

Whalley has made nearly 30 movies, including the 1988 fantasy adventure Willow where she met her husband of eight years – American actor Val Kilmer.

After moving to Los Angeles, Whalley starred in the mystery film Shattered in 1989 and played the lead role of Christine Keeler in the highly acclaimed movie Scandal in 1989.

Also in the cast were Sir Ian McKellen as Cabinet Minister John Profumo and John Hurt as osteopath and socialite Steven Ward.

Whalley became only the second actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in a 1994 TV adaption of Alexandra Ripley’s novel Scarlett, a sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Timothy Dalton starred as Rhett Butler.

Joanne Whalley and Timothy Dalton who appeared together in the TV series Scarlett, January 1994

Joanne Whalley and Timothy Dalton who appeared together in the TV series Scarlett, January 1994

Historical roles loom large in Whalley’s extensive TV work. She played Queen Mary in the 2005 BBC series the Virgin Queen and was Catherine of Aragon in the 2015 BBC2 adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s best-selling novel Wolf Hall.

She also appeared as Margaret Duchess of Burgundy in the 2017 version of Philippa Gregory’s novel The White Princess and was Claudia, the wife of Pontius Pilate, in the 12-part series A.D. The Bible Continues.

One of her most notable roles was as Vannozza dei Cattanei, the mistress of Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia who became Pope Alexander VI in the colourful 2011 Showtime series The Borgias.

Her co-stars were Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo and Didsbury actress Holliday Grainger as the infamous poisoner Lucrezia Borgia.

More recently, Whalley played the lead role of warrior queen Rheda in the 2016 ITV series Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands. Hollywood actor William Hurt appeared as King Hrothgar.

Whalley’s performance in the Edge of Darkness earned her a nomination for best actress in the BAFTA TV awards for 1985. She was also nominated as best actress in the Monte Carlo TV awards for The Borgias.

Joanne Whalley Actress