Emma arrived in Coronation Street in 2018 to work as an apprentice hairdresser at Audrey's salon. At the time, Emma had no idea that she was living a stone's throw from her biological father as Fiona had raised her to believe that John Brooker was her real dad. In 2019, John revealed on his death bed that he wasn't Emma's father, leading her to discover the truth. With some reluctance, Emma began bonding with Steve.
Also a barmaid at the Rovers Return, Emma is a bubbly, effervescent young woman who tends to be unlucky in love. In Coronation Street, she had relationships with David Platt, Chesney Brown, Seb Franklin and Curtis Delamere before getting together with Jon Spear. Her relationship with Jon overcame the revelation that Emma had been accidentally complicit in the death of his grandfather Ted, and in 2022 the pair left Weatherfield behind, returning to Emma's native Australia.
1999-2018: Early life and misguided upbringing
Emma was born on 3rd May 1999 to Steve McDonald and Fiona Middleton, when Fiona went to stay with her parents Clive and Pam Middleton following Steve's affair with Fiona's best friend Maxine Heavey. Emma was raised alongside her brother Morgan. At some point, Fiona married John Brooker and led Emma to believe that he was her true father. However, John and Fiona's relationship didn't last and Fiona moved to Australia with Emma.
Not long after, Emma returned to Weatherfield as she missed her father and she was later educated at Weatherfield High. When John remarried, Emma moved into her own flat with a friend, though Emma kept in regular contact with her father, especially after he split from his new wife in 2018. Emma's flatmate would often leave her feeling undervalued by throwing parties and taking her food without asking.
2018-2021: Apprenticeship and relationships
In April 2018, Emma applied for an apprentice position at Audrey's salon when Maria Connor struggled to handle her workload with owner Audrey Roberts being in hospital and David Platt taking some time off work due to personal reasons. Her application was successful and she began work that month, much to the displeasure of David, who was going to be training her after he returned to work the same month. When Emma arrived late, having missed her tram as she was too busy preparing for her first day, she began irritating David by accidentally dropping products on the floor, her lack of initiative to put the kettle on and her constant apologies for her mistakes, among other things. David cited that she was a "walking disaster zone" and told Maria that there was no way she would be staying. However, Maria was insistent that she needed extra help with the amount of time David and his gran were taking off and said that Emma was friendly and keen to work.
Despite his initial dislike for Emma, David realised that she was the perfect opportunity to help him feel masculine again after he was viciously raped by his supposed friend Josh Tucker in March that year. David seduced Emma and, hoping to impress the boss in order to keep the job, she agreed to have sex with him and the pair began a relationship, with Emma leaving her shared flat and moving into 8 Coronation Street. David's ex-partner Shona Ramsey told David to stop using Emma, as she was young and naive and shouldn't be brought into his dramas, but he refused until the tragic suicide of Aidan Connor in May. Realising the extent of his own mental health issues brought on by the rape, and that he needed help before he went the same way Aidan did, David broke off his relationship with Emma, confessed his love for Shona and admitted that he'd been raped by Josh. Emma got over being dumped quickly, moving into 19a Rosamund Street with Billy Mayhew and Summer Spellman, and began showing an interest in local builder Seb Franklin. Emma and Seb began to flirt, despite the fact that he was still in a relationship with Faye Windass - who became jealous of his and Emma's attraction.
In August, Faye's stepmother Sally Metcalfe clocked Seb's dissatisfaction when Faye revealed that she was returning to the area full time, having been living with her mother Anna for the past few month, and implored Seb to end things with her if she wasn't who he wanted to be with. Although, Seb found himself unable to confide in Emma that he had HIV and the pair's relationship didn't progress. Eventually, Emma moved in to 2a Coronation Street with Maria and her son Liam Connor after deciding to leave Billy's flat.
Days before her wedding, Emma found out that her fiancé, Curtis Delamere, had been lying about his deadly heart condition. Despite this, Emma stayed with Curtis, and told him that he needed to see a psychiatrist.
Emma was due to marry Curtis on 20th December 2021, however, Craig Tinker ended the wedding to take Curtis to the police station because he was on suspicion of stealing £100,000 from Oliver's charity. When Steve found out that Curtis was innocent, he continued to pretend that Curtis was guilty to protect Emma.
Emma bumped into Curtis on New Year's Eve, and Curtis told her that he was visiting a psychiatrist at the hospital to help with his factitious disorder. Later, Emma saw Curtis telling a receptionist that he needed to see a cardiologist, leading Emma to believe that Curtis was back to his old lying schemes.
Character creation and role
Emma first appeared in Episode 9435 in April 2018. Mardell's casting was announced on 21st March 2018, where it was revealed that she would be introduced as the new apprentice at Audrey Roberts' salon. Duncan Lindsay of the Metro reported that Emma would be incompetent at her job, which would see her clash with David Platt. The character was well received by viewers, with David Brown of the Radio Times discribing the character as "bubbly". In June 2018, Mardell was offered a six-month extension to her contract after proving popular with the producers as well as the viewers. Following her contract renewal, Mardell relocated from her home in London to Manchester. Before landing the job on Corrie Mardell's only other television credit was for an episode of Vera in 2017. Since appearing on the show, she has become the co-artistic director at the JunkBox Theatre in Manchester.
On her introduction, Mardell told David Brown that she found the experience "very surreal", but said that she "settled in quite quickly". As part of a new salon storyline, Mardell featured in scenes with Rula Lenska, who portrayed rival hairdresser Claudia Colby. She enjoyed filming with Nicholls and Lenska and felt "spoilt" to share scenes with both actresses. Emma was also given a love interest in established character Seb Franklin, who was diagnosed HIV-positive. Mardell thought that Emma would be "open-minded" about Seb's diagnosis, but would not understand it properly. She also believed there would be problems with Seb's former girlfriend, Faye Windass, who was still romantically interested in him.
Following Emma's first appearance on the show many viewers began to pick up on the similarities between her and past character Fiona Middleton (Angela Griffin) last seen in September 1998; as both characters looked alike, worked at the salon and lived at 2a Coronation Street. Although, during an interview with the Sun Mardell explained "I've heard the Fiona and Steve's daughter theory, but that's definitely not true. I did have a little chat and a joke with Angela Griffin about it and that was quite funny". However, the storyline later went ahead and Emma was revealed to be Steve McDonald and Fiona's daughter in August 2019.
Despite the storyline going ahead, Fiona never returned to the street, instead appearing to Emma from Australia over a video call in Episode 9854. However, Angela Griffin made a return to the street in real-life to film her scenes and spent time catching up with Nicholls and Mardell. In an interview, Mardell stated that she believed Emma would eventually come to terms with the revelation and "isn't one to hold a grudge".
Teasing her character's future, she said: "No-one will ever replace her dad, but her mum lives in Australia and she doesn't have any other family on the Street so it would be a waste to let that relationship go. She bonds with Liz quite quickly, she's part of the family, they're taking her in. She's a McDonald now."
For her portrayal of Emma, Mardell was nominated for Best Soap Newcomer at the 2018 Digital Spy Reader Awards; she placed fifth with 7.7% of the total votes. She was also long-listed in the Best Newcomer category at the 2018 Inside Soap Awards. Mardell was nominated in the Newcomer category at the National Television Awards in 2019, and won Best Newcomer at the 2019 British Soap Awards.
First and last lines
List of addresses
|8 Coronation Street||25th April 2018 to 28th May 2018|
|19a Rosamund Street||28th May 2018 to 24th August 2018|
|2a Coronation Street||24th August 2018 to 15th January 2021|
|Rovers Return Inn||15th January 2021 to February 2021|
|2a Coronation Street||February 2021 to 8th April 2022|
|Australia||April 2022 onwards|
|Hairdresser||Audrey's||20th April 2018 to|
|Barmaid||Rovers Return Inn||11th February 2019 to 8th April 2022|