Karen McDonald (née Phillips) was the two-time wife of Steve McDonald.
Having grown up on the same estate as Linda Sykes, Karen called in a favour with her old friend to get taken on as a machinist at Underworld in 2000. Her first marriage to Steve in 2001 was organised to win a bet with her mates at the factory, but as time went on they realised they did love each other regardless.
Karen pictured herself and Steve as the "Posh and Becks" of Weatherfield and set her sights on a luxury flat and a job at an upmarket furniture store, both of which fell apart, landing her back at Underworld. New manager Joe Carter promoted Karen and stroked her ego before seducing her but was only using her to help scam Mike Baldwin. Once Joe was out of the picture, Karen and Steve reconciled but Karen decided that they had to divorce in order to remarry in a proper, lavish ceremony.
Karen's dreams of the perfect day were dashed when Tracy Barlow crashed the wedding to announce the groom was the father of her baby, Amy. A furious feud erupted before Karen began to long for a baby of her own. She conceived but then suffered a miscarriage and in anger and grief, made Tracy believe that Amy was dead. This stunt was the final straw for Steve who ended the marriage for good and Karen walked out of his life on Christmas Day 2004.
1975-2000: Early life
Karen's friend Linda Sykes got her away from her parents, and saved her when she was being bullied for dressing strangely. Karen would go to Linda's house to smoke and watch television, until her dad found out and went ballistic, called her a whore and beat her. She moved out the next day, slept on Linda's sofa, got herself a Saturday job and tried to forget. Her parents disowned her and she was estranged from them until 2004. Later, in the 1990s, Karen worked with Linda at Wheelers.
2000-2001: Man's lady
Karen arrived in Coronation Street in June 2000 and was taken on as a new machinist at Underworld, where Linda was now working. She quickly found herself popular with the men of the Street and had a fling with Vikram Desai, while over Christmas she was drinking alone in the Rovers and ended up spending the night with Peter Barlow.
By 2001, Karen was going out with Steve McDonald. Her colleague, Janice Battersby, said that none of Karen’s boyfriends ever took her seriously, which led to one of the strangest marriages the Street has seen. Janice bet £10 that Karen wouldn’t be able to get engaged, so Karen persuaded Steve to propose to her in front of all the Rovers regulars. Janice then upped the stakes from a few pounds to two days wages, on the condition that Steve and Karen walked down the aisle. Neither Karen nor Steve would back out - but each thought that the other would. They were as surprised as the other guests when they both turned up at the Register Office, and even more surprised when they both said "I do". They held the reception at the Rovers and Vik donated cakes from the Corner Shop that were nearly past their sell-by date. Six weeks later they finally arranged their honeymoon in Florida. The couple soon realised that they really did love one another.
On returning to the Street from honeymoon, Karen set about making her and Steve the "Posh and Becks" of Weatherfield. Having moved into the flat over Street Cars, Karen soon got fed up and in September 2001, they moved into the flat over The Kabin.
2002-2004: Jailbird Joe and remarriage to Steve
In May 2002, Joe Carter landed a job at Underworld, starting a volatile relationship between him and Karen, which first resulted in her being fired. Settling into the life of luxury, Karen decided that the McDonalds' future was in one of Richard Hillman's new flats on "The Ridings" development. After much moaning and many arguments – Steve finally gave in to her, and made an offer, but on one condition - new flat, new job. Of course, a new flat also meant new furniture and Steve and Karen took a trip to Elevation, an upmarket furniture shop.
The icing on the cake for the 'McBeckham' lifestyle was for Karen to unveil her new Victoria Beckham style haircut in the Rovers, and also the news that she had landed a job at Elevation. On top of this, she also announced that the first piece of furniture for the new 'Chez-McDonald' had been purchased: a sofa at £2,500. Steve was reassured by the fact that staff got 10% discount, he then reminded his wife that 90% of £2,500 was still a lot.
It then came to the McDonalds' attention that a bail hostel was to be built near to their new flat at The Ridings and they withdrew their offer. Karen's precious sofa still arrived but was too big to fit up the stairs at No.12, though she refused to have it returned to the store, as all her colleagues would laugh at her. Soon after Karen was sacked from Elevation for being too common.
By the end of 2002, Karen had returned to Underworld, and in 2003 Joe Carter promoted her to Factory Supervisor, although he was after more than her managerial skills. Karen resisted his advances, but Steve grew very suspicious. Karen even returned from a business trip with Joe to be with Steve, only to find that Steve had a one-night stand. She immediately fell into the arms of Joe, and always one for money and the high life, was seduced by his promises of a new flat. Karen agreed to help Joe steal the factory from under Mike Baldwin’s nose, by forging cheques for a fake company account named Artrec (an anagram of Carter). Mike found out about the scam in June and drove them out of Weatherfield. Karen then realised that Joe was just using her and she left him to stay with her aunt, Eva Briggs. Weeks later, Steve tracked her down and also paid Baldwin back the money which Karen and Joe had stolen from him. Eventually Steve and Karen were reconciled.
Relaxing back into her normal life, Karen soon came up with her latest idea. Her and Steve should divorce so that they can have the wedding of ‘their’ dreams. She decided it must seem like the couple had fallen out (because of Steve's "infidelity"), and she staged arguments in the Rovers, and even threw his belongings out into the Street. Eventually, Steve had enough and told her that the divorce would happen, but there wouldn’t be another wedding. Karen tried desperately to stop the divorce, but found out that it had already gone through. She was then surprised when Steve prepared a romantic night on a canal boat and proposed to her. Absolutely ecstatic, Karen threw herself into preparations for the wedding.
Karen knew exactly what she wanted, and proceeded to book a country house for the occasion. On top of this she wanted a horse-drawn carriage, swans and a harpist. She also looked into having a winter wedding so she could wear fake fur and arrive on a sleigh. The winter wedding never happened, and a date was set for February 2004. However, over Christmas 2003, Tracy Barlow admitted to Steve that her baby everyone thought was Roy Cropper's was actually Steve's after a one-night stand when he and Karen were apart.
Unable to accept that Steve didn’t want her, Tracy cancelled the flowers for the wedding, and then the venue itself. Steve found out in time and managed to book another venue that Karen had wanted without Karen knowing. The wedding day arrived and most of the Street turned up at the very posh Walcot Manor, including Steve’s mother Liz and brother Andy. Tracy also turned up to get her baby from the Croppers and ended up telling everyone who the real father of the baby was. Karen was heartbroken that her dream wedding was ruined and by the fact that Steve had lied to her, however they eventually married when Steve made Karen realise that Tracy meant nothing to him.
2004: Rivalry with Tracy and departure
When Karen learned about what Tracy had done to ruin her wedding she was furious. She turned up at Amy’s christening bent on spoiling the Barlows' day as much as Tracy had spoiled hers. The two women brawled in the aisle of the church and Karen thumped Tracy.
Tracy’s continued presence on the Street annoyed Karen, not to mention the fact that Liz McDonald made the decision to move back to Weatherfield. Liz and Tracy got on like a house on fire and Karen wasn’t able to stand the fact that Liz paid so much attention to baby Amy.
On a rainy night in August 2004, Karen’s dad, Malcolm Phillips, turned up at her and Steve’s flat. He informed Karen that her mother was dying and asked Karen to come and see her. Karen refused and threw him out. Karen then went on to open up to Steve about her childhood. When her mother died a week later, it sent Karen on an emotional roller coaster. She began to think that it was God that was punishing her for her “sinful” ways. She decided to give up drinking and smoking and to also get rid of all her material things. She put all of her designer clothes into black sacks and gave them to the factory girls and she even started to be pleasant towards Liz and Tracy. Steve managed to talk his wife into visiting her mother’s grave. Karen realised that whilst she may not have been a good daughter that she would be a good wife to Steve - they loved each other and that was all that mattered now.
After this shake-up, Karen thought that the only way to cement her and Steve’s relationship was to have a baby. Karen made it no secret that she and Steve were trying for a child, which led to many arguments with Tracy Barlow who gladly rubbed Karen’s nose in the fact that she had a child with Steve. Tracy branded Mrs McDonald as “Barren Karen” which utterly infuriated Karen.
In early November, Karen briefly went to visit Linda in Dublin. While she was away, Steve was tricked by Liz into travelling to London to appear with her and the Barlows on a new TV gameshow, Top of the Tree. The winning prize was a brand new car, and the McDonalds and Barlows answered every question correctly, before struggling with the winning question, regarding shoes. Steve used Karen as his phone a friend, and Karen, totally unaware of what was going on, proceeded to answer the question correctly, and won the Barlows a car. When Karen discovered what had happened, she went ballistic, firstly by attacking a gloating Tracy and then kicking Steve and Liz out of the flat, furious at their deceit. However, Karen and Steve soon reunited, with Karen more determined than ever to get pregnant.
Karen quickly realised that, due to answering the winning question, she was as entitled to the car as the Barlows. It was then agreed that each Barlow and Karen, Steve and Liz, would have use of the car for a day each, as there were seven in the winning team. This led to a further feud between Karen and Tracy, with Karen using up all of the petrol and then slashing the tyres when Tracy needed the car for a shopping trip. When Tracy handed Karen the bill for the tyres, Karen responded by removing the car's tyres and keeping them in the living room at No.12, although they were soon reclaimed by Tracy.
Karen's eagerness to get pregnant led to her driving into the countryside with Steve, seducing him in the car. However, the occasion was ruined by a dirty nappy of Amy's left in the car, and a squeaky toy that kept going off. Citing Tracy as responsible, Karen swore revenge.
In late November, Karen, at long last, received the news she had been waiting for - she was pregnant. She delighted in jeering at Tracy, but tragically, the McDonalds' happiness was short-lived. At the Underworld Christmas party Karen started to have stomach pains and it was later confirmed that she had miscarried. This sent Karen over the edge, and when she discovered that Liz had told Tracy about her miscarriage she was livid.
On Christmas Eve, Tracy was going to visit stepbrother Peter, and loaded Amy into the car. Leaving the engine running, Tracy ran into the house to get her handbag, when Karen, who had been watching on, jumped into the car and drove off.
Steve and Tracy hurried to the Red Rec where Karen had arranged to meet him, only to find the car on fire. Tracy instantly assumed that Karen had killed Amy, and she returned to Coronation Street in Steve's taxi planning to kill Karen. She knocked Karen down and then crashed the taxi into the factory, following Karen inside. They fought inside, and a hysterical Tracy threatened to kill Karen, only backing down when it was revealed Roy Cropper was babysitting Amy.
It was the worst possible Christmas for Karen and Steve. Steve told Karen that he had had enough of her and that he could not believe she would pull a stunt like she did - letting him believe that she had killed his own daughter. Karen pleaded with Steve to give her another chance but he said that she’d had too many chances already. Karen McDonald left the Street on Christmas Day 2004.
Although Karen left Weatherfield on Christmas Day 2004, her exit was seen in the episode first screened on Boxing Day.
First and last lines
"Don't I get a kiss?" (Final line, to Steve McDonald)