HER portrayal of an escort in Coronation Street is so convincing that Kimberly Hart- Simpson admits she gets strangers asking her what she charges for sex.
Today, in an exclusive interview, the 35-year-old actress says landing the role of Nicky Wheatley is a dream come true after she auditioned for the ITV soap for a decade.
And she tells how she is thrilled to have sex workers contacting her to thank her for making the character so realistic.
Kimberly said: “People have definitely mixed up my character with me. Men think it’s really funny to approach me and say, ‘How much?’
“I am on dating apps and it comes up on there, too. I just unmatch them straight away.
“But I am thrilled that charities and sex workers have contacted me to say they like the way Nicky is portrayed because she is so realistic and the writers haven’t given her a drug or drink problem.
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“She is just a feisty mum, doing it for her daughter — for survival. I am so proud to play her.
“I know plenty of people who work in the sex industry and on things like OnlyFans — it isn’t an unknown world to me and they are just normal people trying to get by. Fair play to them.”
Kimberly loves everything about her character. And it isn’t surprising because it took her ten years of knock-backs before she finally landed the role.
‘Corrie was my dream’
She has wanted to be an actress since watching the film Free Willy when she was eight.
And because her family were huge fans of the soap, it was always her dream to be on Corrie.
The warm, friendly, down-to-earth actress from Rhyl, North Wales, said: “I went on a studio tour with Mum around the same age. It is all I ever wanted.
“Mum would say, ‘Why didn’t you get a proper job like working at Sainsbury’s?’
“The Corrie obsession came from my dad. Of all the memories that exist in my brain of my dad and me, Corrie is one of the most stand-out ones. He was a massive, massive fan, obsessed with it.
“You couldn’t ring the house phone when it was on and the kettle was full so he could have a brew during the breaks. He loved Jack and Vera. I loved Bet Lynch.”
And before musician and tiler Kevin died from bone marrow cancer in 2007 aged 63, he spoke to her from his bed in Oldham Hospital and told her to pursue her dream.
Fighting back tears, Kimberly said: “He knew that I was going to be an actor. I was at drama school in London, the Italia Conti, and when he was passing he said, ‘Just do me a favour and get on Corrie for me’.
“I didn’t say anything — I knew he’d cursed me at that point. But if he hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here today.
“It took nearly ten years of auditions. There were roles like ‘shop attendant’ and then characters with names.
“I auditioned so many times, so I knew they thought I had something because they kept letting me go back.
“There was a lot of desperation, I wanted it so badly.”
Kimberly, who also starred in Hollyoaks and Mount Pleasant, says getting the role of Nicky “saved” her.
She said: “I had got very down, so low. I had lost my dad, I’d had to have counselling. I knew that Coronation Street was my calling — what I was meant to do.
“I was doing some acting work, not a lot, I was in debt. I’d had to turn to my mum to help with bills. I am not scared of hard work
“I did podium dancing to help pay for college. I’ve worked in McDonald’s and done walk-on parts, but I wanted the Corrie role so badly.
“When I finally got the call to say I had landed Nicky, I dropped to the floor and cried and screamed with happiness.
“The first thing I did was repay my debts and then tell my dad the news. I still talk to him all the time.”
But shortly before starting the role, she faced a breast cancer scare. It was exactly ten years after she lost her dad that she found a lump so big it was visible to the eye.
She said: “I am very lucky — people have been through much worse than me, but I was terrified.
“Because of my dad’s condition, I always check my breasts, and the lump was huge. My GP sent me to the hospital for a biopsy. I remember waiting for the results. It was awful.
“I was just so lucky it was benign. Because it was growing, they suggested surgery at Oldham Hospital, where dad died.
“Now I try to be healthy. I walk a lot on the treadmill, sometimes for two hours at a time, and I’ve lost over 2st in weight since then.
“I still have a scar under my left breast, but I feel very lucky.”
But a lot of things in life are not down to luck. Kimberly believes in manifestation and has vision boards where she puts up her goals.
She explained: “I have done it for a couple of years. I didn’t do it before Corrie and I am sure it’s not a coincidence that I’m living my best life now — I have vision now.
‘I need to pinch myself’
“At the moment, I’d like to make a documentary and also get my clothing line into shops.”
She is as passionate about her Hart Work business as she is about the ITV soap. Kimberly said: “In about 2017, after my breast cancer scare, I was feeling so down I decided to get a sewing machine.
“I couldn’t sew, but I knew I needed to do something creative for my mental health.
“I was at the lowest ebb of my life, financially and emotionally. My self-belief had gone.
“I bought the cheapest machine I could find, for £80 from Argos, and watched YouTube videos on sewing.
“I’ve always been into fashion and would get clothes from charity shops — I volunteered at the British Heart Foundation for years.
“I decided to try to transform the clothes and discovered there was beauty in something that had once been lovely, but had turned ugly, that I could bring back to life.
“I began up-cycling pre-loved things that otherwise may have gone in the bin. It helped me to get my confidence back.”
And after her best friend, Hollyoaks actress Jessica Ellis, wore one of her creations to an awards ceremony, her talents were spotted.
Now she has an online ASOS boutique, a pop-up shop in Urban Outfitters and another in Manchester’s famous Afflecks market.
Kimberly said: “The £80 sewing machine eventually died so now I have a new one.”
And she has a new life, too — the one she always wanted.
Laughing, she admits: “When I first did Corrie, I was s**tting myself. But I knew I’d worked to get to that moment so I couldn’t let nerves take over. I remember sitting next to David Neilson [Roy Cropper] on day one and he asked me about my character and myself and I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m sitting next to Roy’.
“In my head I was freaking out, but I just tried to act cool. I still need to pinch myself. I still watch it and critique myself.
Kimberly, who appeared on Celebs Go Dating, has been approached to do reality shows, but for now she is happy where she is.
She said: “I am a down-to-earth and don’t dream of Hollywood. If I was on Corrie in five years, I would be happy.
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“I would like to be in a relationship too, with a man or a woman — I came out about ten years ago.
“I am on dating websites, including Raya. I am sure some people only approach me because I am on Coronation Street, but I was also a super- fan before I landed the job, so I don’t blame them for that.”