Julie Hesmondhalgh was born and brought up in Accrington, Lancashire, and trained at LAMDA. She was a member of Arts Threshold Theatre in London in the 1990s, and is co-founder of the political theatre company Take Back in Manchester, her home city.
She is best known for her award-winning role as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street, a part she played for sixteen years. She has since worked extensively in theatre (Wit, Mother Courage and Her Children, The Greatest Play in the History of the World, There Are No Beginnings), television and film (You & Me, The Pact, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Black Roses, Doctor Who, Inside No. 9, Catastrophe, Cucumber, Peterloo), and radio, where she is a regular voice on BBC Radio 4. Her Working Diary was published by Methuen Drama in 2019.