Cuckoo star Jill Halfpenny on her film date with Byker Grove co-star Ant McPartlin

Jill Halfpenny in Channel 5 thriller The Cuckoo
Jill Halfpenny in Channel 5 thriller The Cuckoo -Credit:Channel 5

Geordie actress Jill Halfpenny is currently enjoying another share of the national spotlight in Channel Five drama The Cuckoo which is all set for a showdown finale this Thursday night.

The star, originally from Gateshead, is playing the mysterious lodger Sian in the four-part series which began on Monday and sees Jill co-star alongside Claire Goose and Lee Ingleby, whose previous TV roles include Inspector Bacchus in BBC drama George Gently which filmed its last scenes in Durham in 2017.

While viewers will soon find out how the tangled Cuckoo storyline plays out, Jill has said she 'had a blast' during the making of the thriller. The 48-year-old actress is a regular face on our screens, having starred in the likes of soaps Coronation Street and EastEnders and appeared in previous dark dramas such as Three Girls and The Long Shadow.

She has also made a name for herself on the West End stage. Back in the early days of her career, Jill was in Newcastle-made children's TV favourite Byker Grove which launched the careers of PJ and Duncan - now Ant and Dec. And it turns out that there was even something of a young romance between Jill and Ant McPartlin away from the cameras, reports The Mirror in a lookback at the actress's life and loves.

During a 2016 appearance on This Morning, Jill shared that she had taken the initiative and asked Ant out on a date during their teenage years. She revealed: "We went to the cinema together, we went to see The Commitments in real life!

"I said to him: 'There's a really good film that's come out called The Commitments, do you wanna come'? He was like 'Ah aye, yeah great'!" But it didn't develop into anything serious, with Jill confirming: "It fizzled - we weren't right for each other!"

Jill went on to marry fellow local actor Craig Conway - whose film roles include The Descent and Doomsday - in 2007. In an interview at the time with The Northern Echo, she described themselves as "the two happiest people in Newcastle today" and the following year they welcomed the birth of their son Harvey Reece.

Jill's mam Maureen told ChronicleLive that the proud parents were "over the moon" with their new arrival. But after three years of marriage the couple parted ways in 2010.

Some years later, in 2017, Jill suffered a terrible loss with the death of her partner Matt Janes who, at 43, suffered a fatal heart attack at the gym. She was to open up about the tragedy in a moving 2019 interview on a Two Show Podcast, explaining that Matt's death had felt like a "double loss" due to its similarities with the death of her dad, Colin, who also had a fatal heart attack while playing football in 1979.

In the interview which struck such a chord with listeners, she said: "My grief at losing Matt, my partner, was so brutal and so shocking but then what happened was it brought out all of the grief from my dad as well. It was like dealing with a double loss - a loss I'd never actually dealt with.

"I just found myself thinking, 'Oh my god, this is unbearable. What am I going to do? I cannot cope. I just want cessation, this feeling to stop'." Find out more about the story here.

Jill Halfpenny can be seen in the last episode of The Cuckoo on Channel Five this evening, April 11, at 9pm.