|Born||3 September 1940
Exmouth, Devon, England
|Spouse(s)||John Alderton (1969-present)|
Collins was born in Exmouth, Devon of Irish Catholic extraction and studied at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Before turning to acting, she worked as a teacher until 1962. She made her stage debut at Windsor in A Gazelle in Park Lane in 1962 and her West End debut in Passion Flower Hotel in 1965, and many stage roles followed. Her first film was Secrets of a Windmill Girl (1966).
Collins first became well known for her role as the maid Sarah in the 1970s ITV drama series Upstairs, Downstairs. The character appeared regularly throughout the first two series, the second of which also starred her actor husband, John Alderton, with whom she later starred in a spin-off, Thomas & Sarah (1979), and the sitcom No, Honestly, as well as in a series of short story adaptations called Wodehouse Playhouse (1975-78). She also appeared alongside her husband John Alderton in the successful series co-narrated the animated British children's TV series Little Miss with him in 1983.
In 1988, Collins starred in the one-woman play Shirley Valentine in London, reprising the role on Broadway in 1989 and in the 1989 film version, in which she famously appeared nude. The film won a number of awards, which are outlined below.
After Shirley Valentine, Collins again starred alongside her husband in the popular ITV drama series Forever Green in which the couple escape the city with their children to start a new life in the country. It ran from 1989 to 1992 over 18 episodes.
Collins' film credits include City of Joy (1992, co-starring Patrick Swayze), My Mother's Courage (1995 in Germany as Mutters Courage, released in the USA in 1997), Paradise Road (1997, with Glenn Close and Cate Blanchett), and Mrs Caldicot's Cabbage War (2001), another appearance with Alderton. In 1999 and 2000, Collins starred as Harriet Smith in the BBC television drama Ambassador, where she played the lead role of the British ambassador to Ireland. Other television credits include The Saint, The Wednesday Play, Armchair Theatre, Play for Today, Tales of the Unexpected, Country Matters, and The Black Tower.
Later in 2006, she appeared in Extinct, a programme where eight celebrities campaigned on behalf of an animal to save it from extinction. Collins campaigned to save the Bengal tiger and won the public vote.
Collins was awarded the OBE in 2001.
Collins passed her test in a car with an automatic gearbox. This means the cars she has driven in various TV series have been automatics: the light green Renault 5 and the Volkswagen Golf convertible seen in 'Forever Green' for example.
She married actor John Alderton in 1969 and lives in Hampstead, London, England, with her husband and their three children, Nicholas, Kate and Richard. She also has an older daughter, Louise, whom she gave up for adoption. The pair were reunited when Louise was 22 years old, and Collins wrote a book, Letter to Louise, about her experiences.