Michelle Hardwick and wife Kate on sperm donors, ‘hardcore’ IVF and ‘horrific’ homophobic trolls
As they open their stylish home for the very first time, Emmerdale actress Michelle Hardwick and her wife, one of the soap's producers Kate Brooks, invite OK! to tour the special place where they are building a life as a family.
And in our exclusive interview, the couple tell all on family life so far, spilling the beans on their Vegas nuptials, IVF journey and how they deal with horrendous trolls sending death threats about their sexuality. Sign up, for free, as an OK! VIP to read their interview and see all the stunning pics.
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The couple married in September 2019 at Elvis’s Graceland mansion in Memphis and have now welcomed OK! into their new home to introduce us to their son Teddy, who was born in October 2020.
However, their experience of becoming a family of three was not an easy ride. They had to go through the stress and uncertainty of IVF treatment, followed by a health scare early in Michelle’s pregnancy. And while friends, family and fans have celebrated their relationship, the couple have also been subjected to vicious abuse online.
“We’ve had a bit of trolling over the last few years,” admits Michelle, 46, who has appeared in the soap since 2012. “And there have been certain times when police have had to be called because there have been death threats.
"And when they’re mentioning your son’s name and you’re just going ‘Really? I’m just in a soap you know – we’re not doing any harm to anybody.
“The root of it all is always because I’m gay, I’m a gay woman. And it’s like, ‘Lesbians shouldn’t be on this Earth, just burn in hell and die’.”
“It’s all pretty horrific, isn’t it?” says Kate, 39. “The majority of people are really wonderful and supportive, but, you know, as great as social media can be, there is this real dark side to it as well.
“We want our kids to be brought up with a healthy attitude to social media and for it to be a place where they can feel safe. At the minute we’re not quite there yet, but I think we’re making a lot of progress getting to that place.”
The haters can’t spoil the joys of parenthood for Michelle and Kate, who embarked on IVF treatment not knowing if it would work. When it did, then came the early scare that made them fear their dream was about to be shattered.
“I did have a massive bleed really early on, to the point where we thought that we were miscarrying and we went to the early scan prepared for the worst,” Michelle explains. “But the midwife said, ‘Look at that strong heartbeat’.”
EXCLUSIVE TO OK! VIP CLUB
As the couple speak to OK!, they reveal for the first time that they chose a donor as Teddy’s biological dad and were moved by the process.
“It sounds very clinical but you read these kind of CVs, all about the characteristics of the man, his values and family life,” Michelle explains.
“We wanted to read them separately because we didn’t want to influence each other,” Kate adds.
Michelle continues, “I burst into tears when I read the first one and I just said to Kate, ‘I’ve read them both – see what you think.’ And you read them and burst into tears at the same one.”
“There was just a kindness to his words,” says Kate. “And above all else, we want Teddy to be a kind-hearted little boy who’s got good values.”
“When Teddy is 18 he can find out who his dad is and we’d massively back him,” says Michelle. “I’d love to meet him just to say, ‘Thank you so much for allowing us to be parents and giving us the most beautiful little boy.’”
“We’d massively support that,” agrees Kate. “The donor writes a letter to the child, which is for Teddy to read when he’s a bit older. I just think it’s so important for Teddy to understand and know how he came about and what happened and how loved he was – and that this man out there wanted to help us.”
Having chosen Teddy’s biological dad, the time came to go through the arduous IVF procedure. “It worked first time and we got Teddy,” says Michelle. “We just couldn’t believe it and we know how lucky we were.”
“The fact that it was my egg which Michelle carried, it meant we were both a part of it,” says Kate. “Becoming a parent is amazing and brilliant in whatever shape or form it comes. For us, this just felt like the natural route.
"But it’s a hardcore journey. There’s lots of ups and downs on the way. You just have to take every day as it comes really. But it was all worth it because we’ve got this little chap.”
While the couple’s devotion is obvious, complimenting each other when they appear in a new outfit for the shoot and holding hands during the interview, there’s some gentle teasing when we ask about what the experience of pregnancy was like for Kate.
“I was exhausted,” laughs Kate. “It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of and I was so protective of that little baby bump and what she was putting her body through. But Michelle is one of these people who will bang her elbow and be on the couch, crying like, ‘Oh my God, my elbow, I’ve broken it, I’ve broken it…’”
“Are you joking?” Michelle shoots back in mock indignation.
“So there was a little part of me that was a bit apprehensive about how this was going to pan out,” explains Kate. “But I will say, you were the bravest, most brilliant woman I know. Because the way you just carried on, such a trouper and it was during lockdown. So it was just the two of us. There were a few little bumps along the way and you just handled it all with wonderful calmness and brilliance.”
“You do forget about those bumps on the way, those slightly scary things that nobody talks about,” adds Michelle. “But Kate looked after me very well.”
“That’s why I was exhausted!” says Kate, laughing. Now, the family are enjoying life in their new home with their dog – a Cavapoo called Fred – who is spending the day with Michelle’s parents nearby, because she says keeping a toddler and a lively dog under control for a day of costume changes, photos, filming and an interview felt like a challenge too far.
They moved house in November and their new place is fabulous, boasting a large kitchen with hand-painted units in chic neutral tones. Meanwhile, Teddy has a dream playroom with all the toys any toddler could want and shelves of children’s books – and beanbags where his mums can relax while he plays. It’s a warm and welcoming home and the family are clearly very happy there.
But it’s a set-up neither of them imagined when they first got to know each other while working on Emmerdale, which is on a real high at the moment thanks to storylines such as Meena Jutla’s killing spree and a shock stroke for show stalwart Marlon Dingle.
Michelle and Kate had been friends for a year or so before their romance blossomed – and Kate recalls the moment she knew things had changed.
“There was a moment when I just looked at you, when we were in a car together,” says Liverpool-born Kate, who had also worked on Hollyoaks and Coronation Street before being announced as a new series producer
on Emmerdale, alongside Laura Shaw, in April 2018.
“You were singing – and she’s got a really nice voice, Michelle. I just looked over and she was singing a Carpenters song, Top Of The World. And I thought, ‘Oh! Hang on a minute. What are these feelings coming over me?’ And that’s when I kind of realised…”
Michelle is charmed by the memory, but laughs as she says, “I wish I had a story like that but I can’t remember!”
She admits to some trepidation given the pair’s work relationship. “I did worry. Kate’s my boss and you’re thinking, ‘I can’t let anything happen – is it going to be frowned upon?’ But a wedding and a child later, here we are!”
Kate was responsible for finding the house – their second together – and has taken charge of the fixtures and decor, choosing options to run by Michelle.
“I’m a bit obsessed with Rightmove,” says Kate. “So it was the combination of that and lockdown. A few houses cropped up that weren’t quite right for us and then the estate agent said this house was for sale. We saw it and fell in love with it – it had a really nice feel. Now it’s all about making it our own.”
Everyone who has worked in soap talks about the special atmosphere at Emmerdale and Michelle has a lot of pals among the cast.
“I’ve got a few best friends,” she says. “Fiona Wade, who plays Priya, Amy Walsh, who plays my sister Tracy, though she’s on maternity leave at the moment. There’s Mark Charnock and Dominic Brunt, who play Marlon and Paddy. Rebecca Sarker, aka Manpreet, and Laura Norton, who plays Kerry. I’m close to Karen Blick – Lydia – as well. It’s a nice little gang of people.”
But when it came to tying the knot, Michelle and Kate decided they wanted to go it alone – so they flew to Memphis to enjoy their Elvis-themed wedding.
“It was meant to be just the two of us – we’d not brought any family or friends,” explains Michelle. “But when we checked into the hotel, there was this guy called John who carried our cases up to the room.
“He was a lovely fella and asked what we’re doing over there. And we just sort of said, ‘Oh, we’re getting married on Tuesday’. And he said, ‘Oh, where were you getting married?’ We said, ‘Graceland – you know, Elvis’ place. At the chapel i his garden.’
He said he’d never been and neither had his mum. And he said, ‘Can we come to your wedding and watch?’ Then, when we got there, the wedding planners said, ‘Oh, you’ve got two guests here.’ And it was John and his mum!”
“We had decided to make it just the two of us because we kind of wanted it to be about us and we knew we’d have a big party when we came home,” says Kate. “We had a great time.”
“It was just amazing,” says Michelle. “We walked down the aisle to Can’t Help Falling In Love. We walked out to Jailhouse Rock and had a 1950s Cadillac with a driver called Ted. We got changed back at the hotel, had chicken in a basket and went down to Beale Street. We had a few beers and there was a band playing Johnny B Goode. Kate said ‘Do you fancy a first dance?’ No one around us knew that we’d got married. It was amazing – the perfect day.”
“Yeah, it was wonderful,” agrees Kate. “I’d do it all again tomorrow.”
And while their many friends at Emmerdale weren’t there, they all sent their best wishes.
“Amy sent a voice note, singing ‘I’m getting married in the morning’,” says Michelle. “Not just that line, the full rendition [of Get Me To The Church On Time]! So that was really fun.”
Watching Michelle and Kate play with Teddy – who runs through his repertoire of farmyard animal noises to entertain us and kicks a huge ball around the room – it’s clear how much becoming parents has enriched their lives. They’d also like to add to their family if they can.
“Oh, that would be amazing,” says Michelle. “We’d definitely love Teddy to have a brother or sister. And if we’re lucky enough, fantastic – for him as well, not just for us.”
“We’re both from big, noisy families with a lot going on,” says Kate, who has four older brothers, while Michelle has a younger brother. “There’s always a drama, always laughter. For Teddy to have a taste of that would be amazing. Teddy loves playing with his cousins on both sides of the family. So, all being well, a little one might be on the cards.”
If it happens, they will take the same route, as a number of Kate’s eggs were fertilised using the donor’s sperm, then frozen. And, again, Michelle would carry the baby.
The couple say feel their relationship is stronger since Teddy came along.
“It sounds like such a cliché but I think it’s brought us closer together because you have to work as a team,” says Michelle.
“You don’t sweat the small stuff as much,” says Kate. “Now we’ve got Teddy, there is a very conscious effort to not raise your voice.”
“We’re just absolutely loving being mums,” says Michelle, smiling.
“It’s the most magical feeling in the world,” says Kate. “And we were so lucky to have such a lovely little boy as well. You always kind of worry about everything. But those little magical moments are worth their weight in gold.”
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