Stephanie Beacham is an English actress, born in Barnet, North London. Shortly after birth, she was diagnosed as being completely deaf in her right ear as her mother had contracted chicken pox during her pregnancy. She has about 75% of normal hearing capacity in her left ear. After leaving school, she travelled to France and studied mime with Etienne St Creux, before attending RADA. Her initial goal was to teach dance movement to deaf children. She began a career in modelling and then was cast for several parts in films.
After many appearances in television shows such as The Saint and Jason King, Stephanie’s first major film role was opposite Marlon Brando in The Nightcomers directed by Michael Winner (1971). Stephanie received a great deal of attention for appearing nude in her love scenes with Brando. She was subsequently cast as Jessica Van Helsing in Hammer’s Dracula AD 1972 alongside Peter Cushing.
Her next role was as a repertory player with the Nottingham Playhouse, where she played several lead and feature roles. Stephanie made several movies and appeared in a number of episodic television shows and theatre productions during the 1970s and 1980s, including the BBC series Tenko (1981-82), and playing the lead in the ITV series Connie (1985).
Her success in those shows led her to being cast in one of her most well-remembered roles as the devious matriarch Sable Colby on the television series The Colbys. The Colbys was a spin-off series of the opulent primetime soap Dynasty starring Joan Collins, and Stephanie was cast opposite Charlton Heston as the tentpole couple of the show. In 1988, Beacham was invited to reprise the role of Sable on Dynasty, but the show was nearing the end of its run and it was cancelled the following year.
Throughout her career, Stephanie has appeared in no less than six different television series produced by Aaron Spelling, these being Dynasty, The Colbys, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210, Burke’s Law, and Charmed.
In 1993, Beacham signed on to play Dr. Kristin Westphalen in the NBC sci-fi series seaQuest DSV, which was produced by Steven Spielberg. During the 1990s, Stephanie continued to make guest appearances on a variety of television shows. She returned to England in 2003, to take a role in the popular ITV prison drama Bad Girls. She also appeared in the 2006 movie Love and Other Disasters.
She then returned to stage work and toured the UK as a lead in the Noel Coward play Hay Fever. She competed in the 2007 series of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing with professional partner Vincent Simone.
In January 2009, Stephanie joined the cast of Coronation Street as Martha Fraser. Her character is an actress living on a barge, destined to be Ken Barlow’s ‘soul mate’ (poor Deirdrie!).
Stephanie has said about the role: “What is fantastic for me about Martha is she is the first down-to-earth woman I have played in years. Martha’s costume is so comfortable, warm ugg boots and jumpers and jeans – a world away from Dynasty! I don’t mind one bit.”
Analysing her character’s relationship with Ken Barlow, she says: “Ken feels more comfortable in Martha’s company in some ways than he does at home. She sees something in him that no one else does and that is what he finds so appealing. She sees in him what he would like people to see in him.”
Asked why she thinks Soaps like Coronation Street and Dynasty are so popular? She replies: “Soap operas are so appealing because they are friends you don’t have to phone up – you can just tune in to.”
Stephanie describes how her own life is very different from her role as Martha:
“I live in Malibu and have lived there for the past 24 years. I had to leave my new doggies. It’s also a bit of a change from sunny climate to here – this is very cold. I was laughing to myself today thinking: ‘This is what you signed up for, honey!’ I am wearing layers of thermals that make me look ten times my normal size. We either film on the exterior of the barge or the interior set, which is still freezing.
My daughters, my eight-year-old grandson Jude and the dogs are the most important things to me. I love my life in Malibu, I do my washing up with a view of the ocean and mountains, but I keep a base here for work and to see my friends and family.”