Why are you doing the Macmillan run?
I owe a lot to Macmillan. My brother was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was nine and I was 13. He was in and out of hospital for eight years. Being so young, I didn’t realise how much help Macmillan gave us. They supported my mum as she spent a lot of time in hospital with my brother. They did a lot to help us at that time.
Is he OK now?
He’s fit as a fiddle and we’re planning to run the London Marathon together.
How was it growing up with a seriously ill sibling?
At first it was heart-wrenching. He was in hospital a lot and my parents tried to protect me — I didn’t see him at his weakest and when his muscles started to deteriorate. They sent me off to do what I enjoyed doing, which was performing and doing after-school activities — all the things parents would do naturally. He was weak and tired quite a lot and I just wanted to protect him. My mum was the best role model and told me everyone has their own path in life and this was my brother’s. Now he appreciates life more than anyone and I look up to him so much.
Are you all ready for the run?
It’s only 5K and I was training for the London Marathon but couldn’t do it due to a hamstring injury so this will be fine. Running clears my head. I try to stay fit and healthy, which comes from knowing you only get one life so you need to take care of your body and feel good from the inside out. Hopefully I’ll do it next year with my brother.
What do you have in common with your character on Coronation Street?
She wears her heart on her sleeve, she has good family values and she’s ambitious.
You won the newcomer award at the 2015 National Television Awards — was that a surprise?
Absolutely. I was so thrilled. But it doesn’t mean I’ve suddenly made it — you need to keep pushing yourself to be the best version of yourself you can. It felt like a seal of approval from the audience and that was brilliant.
What do you think the audience likes about your character?
She says it how it is. She’s quite confrontational, has a strong relationship with her brother and has been accepted as a lesbian. And she has a very close relationship with her dad, which I think people like to see.
What are the perks of fame?
I’m not sure if there are any. I don’t see myself as being famous. I’m an actress and I love my job — I’m very lucky to be where I am and I don’t want to waste it. You just have to stay grounded and enjoy the moment.
When did you start performing?
I was very young when I decided I wanted to be an actress but I started taking it seriously when I was 15. I decided I wanted to go to drama school and do musical theatre so I could have as many strings to my bow as possible but my parents didn’t have the money to send me so said not to set my expectations too high. But I was determined to do it and I got a scholarship. What was happening with my brother really fuelled me to do what I love even more — because he couldn’t. He wanted to be a professional rugby player but he was so ill it wasn’t going to happen for him. I was the fortunate one. I was healthy and fit and able to pursue my dreams when not everyone is in that position, and that gave me a lot of motivation.
What was your first professional job?
I played Princess Jasmine in Aladdin in Guildford. Nigel Havers played Jafar. And then my first West End role was Frenchy in Grease.
What are the highs and lows of going out with a celebrity?
The lows are spending time apart because we work so much. Highs are going out with someone who completely understands the world I work in.
What are your acting goals?
I’m very happy where I am but I’d like to do a period drama or an original drama one day. My biggest goal, since musical theatre is in my blood, would be to perform on Broadway. I’d love to do Wicked.
Brookes is taking part in Macmillan Cancer Support’s Regent’s Park Run on Sunday, macmillan.org.uk/runregentspark