Tina Hobley: My Best Teacher

Known to millions as ward sister Chrissie on Holby City, Tina Hobley has been gracing our TV screens for over a decade. But back in her school days the Gloucestershire resident admits she was a shy insecure girl...

Known to millions as ward sister Chrissie on Holby City, Tina Hobley has been gracing our TV screens for over a decade. But back in her school days the Gloucestershire resident admits she was a shy insecure girl. Then she met one teacher who introduced her to a world she would grow to love…

Tina Hobley is a confident, vivacious and charming actress – known and loved by TV viewers as Ward Sister Chrissie Williams. Who would have thought that as a young girl she was a shy, nervous creature who lacked self-confidence and would hardly leave her mother’s side?

She attended an old-fashioned Catholic village school in north London. “I loved school I really did but I was a bit of a worrier and not very good with groups,” says Tina.

“My mum tried to get me interested in all sorts of activities to get me out of my shell. She sent me to Brownies but I didn’t like it. I was shy and I didn’t like activities in groups. I was so shy I wouldn’t leave my mother’s side. I think she did despair.”

Then one day in a small church hall – Tina found what would become such a large part of her life – drama. “My best teacher has to be Jacqueline Stoker who taught speech and drama. She taught in small groups and I went every week.

“It was very disciplined and we had to work hard but for me she revealed the world of drama –a place where I could pretend to be someone else, to come out of myself. It was something I could call my own.”

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Mrs Stoker still teaches and now Tina’s daughter Isabella is one of her pupils. Recalling meeting Mrs Stoker again after 30 years, Tina said she felt like a child again. “She was as scary as she was then. Mrs Stoker was very eccentric, adorable really lovely.

“Going to drama classes helped my confidence develop. There are some days now when Isabella fights about going to class. She may be crying when she goes but she is always happy when she comes out. Whatever Isabella does in the future, the drama lessons will give her confidence.”

Tina remembers her first appearance in a festival. It was a three-minute mime about pancake day. “I kept my baby cousins amused for hours as I rehearsed in front of them.”

The discipline and the memorising has all helped Tina cope in the hard-working world of TV drama.

She got her first break on TV when she appeared in Pie in the Sky in 1995. Her first major role was as Samantha Failsworth on Coronation Street before she moved on to Harbour Lights and then to the BBC drama Holby City.

This year will be her 10th anniversary on the series. Juggling work and a young family – she has three children – Isabella, 12, Olivia, three, and Orson, one. She and husband Oliver Wheeler work in London but say their heart is in the Cotswolds. “We’ve lived in Gloucestershire for five years. We were married here. We’re bringing up our children here. I feel that we have to work in London but we live here. It is where I feel at home.”

Don’t expect to see Tina on stage in a musical though. “I love music and I sing at home but I am tone deaf!” Sending Tina to drama school wasn’t easy for the family. “I remember mum trying to get me a grant. When I was turned down she had to go to an appeal at the local town hall. The officer said they didn’t give grants to children studying the drama and suggested she sell some of our furniture to raise the needed funds.

“It was a struggle to get the fees together and my nan helped. I can’t thank them enough for what they did for. Nor can I thank Mrs Stoker enough. If it wasn’t for her I wonder if I ever would have discovered drama and the arts.”

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