Emmerdale fans were delighted when Vanessa Woodfield recently returned to the ITV soap, with actress Michelle Hardwick reprising her iconic role.
Michelle, 45, was last seen on our screens 19 months ago after exiting the ITV soap as she prepared to welcome son Teddy, one, with wife Kate Brooks.
Speaking ahead of her highly anticipated return, soap star Michelle told publications: "Oh my goodness. After 19 months, it just feels like it’s been forever. Honestly, every time I see people, they’re like, ‘When are you back on Emmerdale?’.
"When I first walked on set it was literally like I'd had two weeks off apart from the Covid restrictions, that’s all very different."
As Michelle settles back into her role in the ITV soap, we take a look into her marriage to wife Kate Brooks…
Michelle, 44, who has played Vanessa Woodfield in the ITV soap since 2012 and most famous for her onscreen relationship with Charity Dingle, was previously married to music teacher Rosie Nicholl from 2015 until 2017.
The pair dated for three years before their April 2015 fairytale wedding, but Michelle revealed they had split a year later in 2016 but were to "remain good friends".
Speaking to the Daily Star in February 2017, Michelle said she had kept the break-up secret from her Emmerdale castmates until they spotted she wasn't wearing her wedding ring.
"It was one of those unfortunate things where we did drift apart. We had the big fairytale wedding and I still love that day, it was brilliant. It’s just really sad and one of those things that happens.
"I don’t know how else to explain it. I grew out of love and she became more like my best friend.
"It was like we were living as friends, not as a married couple. We’re still living together, just in separate rooms while the divorce goes through but it is under way.
“It has been the hardest thing either of us has ever been through. Coming to the decision to split was very difficult. But I believe it will be for the best in the long run.”
How did Michelle meet Kate?
Michelle first met Kate when she was a producer on Emmerdale, and they had been dating for while before they announced their romance in September 2017, months after her split from Rosie.
The TV star confirmed their romance on social media on National Coming Out Day.
Sharing a black and white image of herself and her girlfriend wrapped up warm in coats and hats, Michelle wrote: "It will all work out in the end #behappy #nationalcomingoutday #loveislove @thekatebrooks."
During an appearance on Loose Women, Michelle revealed: "We met a couple of years ago, across the coffee machine, that's the only time we ever see each other at work, we started going out a couple of years ago."
Michelle said she had been planning her proposal for months on Loose Women and shared details of the special moment.
"It was the 8th December last year . I hired out a small local cinema, I said can you keep it free because there was a special screening of The Greatest Showman," she shared.
"A couple of my school friends were there, and my brother drove us, what I'd done is hired a flash mob of The Greatest Showman, and I did the 'I don't know what's going on here'."
But it didn't end there as Michelle continued: "After the song A Million Dreams, one of the performers gave me a microphone and I said 'I've got you here for another reason' and said 'I'm gonna ask you a question but there's somebody else to help me', and our dog came out and he had a little jumper on that said 'mummy please say yes!'
The couple decided not to have a huge wedding, instead keeping their special day to just the two of them as they flew to Tennessee.
Michelle has explained they wanted to keep it small and celebrate with their family and friends back in the UK.
Michelle posted pictures of their big day on Instagram, confirming they had said their vows at Elvis Presley's iconic Graceland in Memphis.
The pair looked sensational in matching white, with Michelle donning a flared jumpsuit with bell sleeves, and Kate rocking a stunning dress. The newlyweds both had on sunglasses and carried bouquets of flowers.
Michelle captioned the black-and-white image: “In over 100 degrees heat, on Tuesday 10th September, I became Mrs Brooks. #graceland #chapelinthewoods #memphis #nextstopnashville.”
Michelle shared their happy news with her 103,000 Instagram followers in April 2020, posting a red heart emoji in the caption followed by “#BabyBrooks“.
She and Kate were flooded with messages of congratulations from fans in the comments section of the post as she joked their dog Fred would become a big brother.
Gemma Atkinson, who used to play Carly Hope on Emmerdale, commented with: “SO happy for you all!”
And Blue singer Antony Costa replied with two smiley faces. Other fans wrote: “Ah lovely news congratulations to you both,” followed by pink heart emojis.
Another gushed: “Aww!! Congratulations to you all! SO happy for you!”
Birth of first child
On 11 October 2020, Michelle and Kate revealed that Michelle had given birth to their son on 9 October.
The 45 year old revealed the happy news on her Instagram feed, sharing two gorgeous photos of her newborn.
One black-and-white snap saw the new mum lying down in a hospital bed with her little boy, who was wrapped in a white blanket and had a beanie on his head.
Her producer wife Emma could be seen right by their side as they both placed their hands protectively on their child.
A second full-colour picture saw the new mum wearing a striped shirt as she cradled her boy and gazed lovingly down at him as he slept.
In the caption, Michelle told her fans that they named him Edward "Teddy" Peter Brooks as she wrote: "On Friday 9th October, this handsome little chap entered the world. Edward “Teddy” Peter Brooks we are so in love with you #ourlittleTeddyboy," followed by a blue heart emoji.
The couple's adorable son is now over a year old, and they regularly share snaps from their life as a family of three on Instagram.
Recent photos show the couple celebrating Teddy's second Christmas, with one sweet shot showing proud parents Michelle and Kate beaming as their son smiled for the camera.
Donning Santa hats and matching Christmas jumpers, Michelle captioned the post: "Magical Christmas memories", as her pals flocked to comments to gush over the cute snaps.
Fellow Emmerdale star Lisa Riley wrote: "So much love and happiness to you and all your family. I bet you've had the most beautiful time", along with several love heart emojis.
Fans also complimented the pictures, with one user writing: "Precious, magical, priceless", as another added: "Such a wonderful picture Michelle."
Emmerdale continues on weeknights on ITV.
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