Tracy is the daughter of Ray (Neville Buswell) and Deirdre Langton (Anne Kirkbride), born in 1977. Ray leaves when Tracy is a baby and she is raised by her mother and stepfather, Ken Barlow (William Roache), who adopts her.
Ken and Deirdre separate in December 1989 when Ken has an affair with Wendy Crozier (Roberta Kerr), his secretary at the Weatherfield Recorder. Initially Tracy supports Deirdre, but above all else Tracy wants a return to family life. Once Ken sees the error of his ways and begins seeking a reconciliation, in opposition to Deirdre who wants a divorce, Tracy's allegiance shifts to Ken. Deirdre is subjected to further resentment when she takes up with joiner Dave Barton (David Beckett), who rescues Tracy when she accidentally sets the kitchen on fire. The divorce even affects Tracy's school life as Ken gets a teaching job there in 1990, as he can stay updated on Deirdre's exploits through Tracy. Caught between two warring parents, Tracy starts to rebel by playing truant from school, going instead to the amusement arcade with Steve (Simon Gregson) and Andy McDonald (Nicholas Cochrane). The year also sees Tracy get her first boyfriend, Graham Egerton (Paul Aspden), but it does not last long and they end their relationship.
Tracy meets carpet fitter, Robert Preston (Julian Kay), and they decide to marry. They intend to tie the knot in London, where they are living but on telling Ken and Deirdre the news, Tracy decides to marry in Weatherfield instead, on the cheap; she books the Registry Office immediately and buys a £14 wedding dress from a charity shop. The wedding is a success and the Prestons return to London. Tracy visits Weatherfield three times over the next few years: she comes to Deirdre and Jon Lindsay's (Owen Aaronovitch) engagement party in 1997 and approves of airline pilot Jon (who is really a confidence man), and then two years later, seeks refuge in Weatherfield after falling out with Robert, who accused Tracy of having an affair with her friend Dan after he saw them kissing. Robert follows Tracy to Weatherfield and they reconcile when he accepts her story that she and Dan are just friends. Tracy is delighted when her parents finally reconcile.
Tracy returns on Christmas Day 2002, claiming that Robert has cheated on her but it emerges that she was sleeping with Robert's best friend; so she and Robert divorce. Tracy has a brief fling with Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin) but when she realises Dev thinks she is not "marriage material", she dumps him before cutting up his suits and stealing his credit card.
Tracy places a bet with Bev Unwin (Susie Blake) that she can sleep with married Roy Cropper (David Neilson). She spikes his drink and then claims they slept together when he wakes up in her bed the next morning. Roy is racked with guilt and his partner Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) is heartbroken and when Tracy discovers she is pregnant, she threatens to have an abortion unless the Croppers buy the baby for £15,000. With Hayley being a transsexual, they agree, much to the disgust of Tracy's family. The Croppers worry Tracy will flee with their money and the child so Roy marries Tracy to gain legal rights to the baby. After delivering her daughter, whom the Croppers name Patience, Tracy wants her baby back and admits at Steve and Karen Phillips's (Suranne Jones) wedding that Steve is the biological father, not Roy and she lied about them having sex. Not surprisingly, this causes a feud between her and Karen but Roy is persuaded by Ken to return Tracy's baby, whom she renames Amy.
Tracy taunts Karen when she does not get pregnant as quickly as Tracy did, calling her "Barren" Karen. Karen does get pregnant but miscarries soon after in December 2004. Karen struggles to cope and finds Tracy's sympathy harder to cope with than her taunting, leading her to steal and torch Tracy's car. Tracy is devastated, thinking Amy is dead because she was in the car, and angrily goes after Karen, threatening to kill her. Only Steve's insistence that Amy is safe with Roy and Hayley, makes Tracy stop and he ends his marriage to Karen, reminding her that he is grieving too and could have lost two children. Tracy watches triumphantly as Karen leaves on Boxing Day 2004 and Steve tries to reconcile with Tracy but realises he wants Amy, not her. This leads to a bitter custody battle, with Tracy making it look as if Steve tried to kidnap Amy and even accusing him of abusing her. While Tracy wins primary custody, the judge does not believe her accusations and allows Steve visits with his daughter.
Short-lived flings with Ciaran McCarthy (Keith Duffy) and Nathan Harding (Ray Fearon) follow, until Tracy starts to date builder Charlie Stubbs in late 2005. However, Charlie has a one-night stand with his former girlfriend, Shelley Unwin (Sally Lindsay), ultimately resulting in her pregnancy. Though Tracy forgives Charlie, he betrays her again with Maria Sutherland (Samia Ghadie). Tracy concocts a plan for revenge, spreading lies that Charlie is abusing her while suggesting to Charlie that she is cheating. When Charlie decides to throw Tracy out, she announces her intention to kill him, which he does not believe. On 12 January 2007 she seduces him, then hits him twice on the head with a metal ornament, taunting him as she does; she tries to convince the police that it was self-defence but fails and is charged with murder after Charlie dies. Tracy is released on bail and David Platt (Jack P. Shepherd) gives the police a statement, claiming to have witnessed the murder in return for sleeping with Tracy, which she does, desperate to avoid going to prison. He lies under oath but his evidence is dismissed by the court and, following Tracy's confession to Deirdre that the murder was planned, Deirdre is unconvincing as a witness. Consequently, Tracy is found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum of 15 years before parole. In financial ruin, Ken and Deirdre cannot pay for an appeal, leaving Tracy to serve her sentence.
Tracy is allowed a day release from prison to attend Blanche Hunt's (Maggie Jones) funeral, while at the funeral she argues with Steve's wife, Becky (Katherine Kelly). A few months later, Tracy returns to the Street. She tells the Barlows that the expert who handled the forensic evidence for her trial falsified his qualifications so she has been released on bail, pending a retrial. Tracy is found not guilty at the retrial, owing to the unreliability of forensic evidence. On New Years Eve 2010, Tracy is found unconscious with a head injury, she survives and it later announced it was Becky's friend Claire Peacock (Julia Haworth) who pushed her.
In 2011, Tracy has a one-night stand with Steve and they begin a relationship, Steve later proposes to Tracy and they plan to get married. Tracy later finds out she is pregnant with twins but after an argument with Becky she falls down the stairs she loses the twins however Tracy decides to put the blame on Becky telling Steve that Becky pushed her however when he goes against her she manages to get hold of Tracy's medical records and reveals them to everyone at Steve and Tracy's wedding in January 2012 leading to them both breaking up and Becky leaving to go to Barbados.
Tracy begins dating Rob Donovan (Marc Baylis). Rob and Tracy then buy the bookmakers' and turn it into a pawnbroker's shop. Tracy is furious when Norris Cole (Malcolm Hebden) tells her that Rob kissed Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan), and that Carla Connor (Alison King), his sister knew about it. Tracy attacks Tina, but is stopped by Rob. A public argument between Rob, Tracy, Tina and Carla erupts. Tracy later forgives Rob, and they decide to get engaged. Rob and Tracy then get involved with Tony Stewart (Terence Maynard), who gives the couple illegal products to sell at their shop. Despite Rob wanting to stop the questionable dealings, Tracy continues trading with Tony.
Rob and Tracy decide to hold an engagement party at The Rovers Return. During the party, Carla announces that she is pregnant with Peter's baby, just as Tina, whom Peter has been having an affair with, walks in. Tracy insults Carla and her unborn child, which infuriates her. A distraught Tina runs home, followed by Rob. Tracy then leaves the party to do more dealings with Tony, while Peter admits to Carla that he has been having an affair with Tina. Carla then runs out into the pub, exclaiming that she wants to "kill" Tina for sleeping with Peter behind her back. Elsewhere, Rob attacks Tina in her own home, leading to her running to the balcony, where the argument continues. He tries to persuade Tina not to tell Carla about her affair with Peter – unaware that Peter has told her himself – to save her feelings, and threatens her not to say anything to the police about their dealings with Tony. Tina refuses, so as Rob pushes her away, Tina loses her balance and falls from the balcony, plummeting onto the cobbles below. Rob believes that Tina is dead, so leaves her flat panic-stricken. He then hears Tina's groans, and realises that she is still alive. Tina threatens to tell the police that Rob pushed her from the balcony on purpose, in an attempt to kill her. This pushes Rob over the edge, leading to him picking up a metal pipe and beating her with it.
Tracy is happy that Tina has been hospitalised, as she hated her. When Tina dies, however, she is slightly more sympathetic. Tracy believes that Carla murdered Tina, but Rob tries to persuade her that Peter killed her. When Rob begins acting strangely, Tracy is concerned and he begins to push her out of his life. Rob confesses to Carla that it was he who killed Tina, not Peter, who has now been sentenced to life in prison for her murder. Carla is unsure of what to do but the following morning she sees how upset Peter's family is and calls the police. Rob then runs from the scene, leaving Tracy devastated. Tracy believes it is Carla's fault for not keeping quiet, and attacks her as the police arrive. She is then questioned by the police for providing a false alibi for Rob, as she had previously told them they were together at her house at the time of Tina's murder, to cover up the fact that she was really buying stolen goods from Tony. Tracy confesses to giving a false alibi, but still will not believe Rob is the murderer. The next day, Rob calls her from a B&B, admits to killing Tina but claims he did it to keep them both out of jail. He tells Tracy he is running out of money and Tracy agrees to bring some to him, which she takes out of their wedding cards. Tracy and Rob meet, she gives him the money but upon saying goodbye decides she wants to go on the run with him. They plan for her to collect their things and meet the following evening. She meets Rob and he says they have to get away quickly, but Tracy cries and tells him she is sorry. She has called the police and told them where he would be, as she realised she could not leave Amy, and knew as well that she did not want to be in prison again. Rob is shocked and devastated, telling her she had a choice, and she could have chosen him. He is led away by police, leaving a sobbing Tracy behind. Tracy later reveals to Ken that she believes it is Carla's fault that Rob murdered Tina.
In early 2015, Tracy starts an affair with Tony who is in a relationship with Amy's grandmother Liz McDonald (Beverley Callard) but tells Liz about it before Steve and Michelle Connors (Kym Marsh) wedding in which she becomes more jealous about Carla and seeks revenge, that night Tracy sneaks into Carla's flat and tried killing her however she hears someone go to the toilet, who unbeknown to her is Amy, and leaves a piece of paper which she lit to guide her way around the flat near the curtains and runs out causing a fire, Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) sees the fire and breaks into the flat and manages to get Carla out before her fiancé Kal Nazir (Jimi Mistry) arrives and manages to get Amy and Leanne out before the flat explodes killing him and also Maddie Heath. As Tracy is nowhere to be seen everyone blames Carla for the fire, making Tracy happy.
In July 2015, Tracy is distraught when Deirdre dies. At Deirdre's funeral, Ken snaps at her after learning that his late wife wouldn't come home as she felt ashamed of what Tracy's done. Tracy storms out and her ex-husband Robert Preston (now played by Tristan Gemmill) follows. Back at the house, Robert and Tracy admit there's still feelings between each other and Tracy tries to seduce him. However, Ken decides to give Tracy another chance and goes round to sort things out, only to find Robert and Tracy half dressed, he throws Robert out and lashes out at a guilt-stricken Tracy. Ken later argues with Tracy saying she was the reason Deirdre didn't come home. When Carla contemplates suicide by jumping from a cliff Tracy tells her it was her who started the fire.
Tracy later opens her own florist and calls it "Prestons Petals" in a bid to win Robert back however she later finds out Robert slept with Carla and she threatens her. She then blackmails Carla to get her fiancée Nick (Ben Price) to hand over his business to her, give her money and get out of the country or she will tell Nick. She does this but Tracy forever taunts her. On Carla's wedding day, Tracy sends the flowers to the wrong place and Carla's dad Johnny (Richard Hawley) finds out about this. To stop her ruining the wedding, he asks her to meet him for him to give her money and call a 'truce'. However Tracy declines and when looking for her money Johnny locks her in the cupboard. She manages to escape by setting the fire alarm off and tells everyone at the wedding about what has happened. Nick says that Carla has already told him embarrassing Tracy but he doesn't know about the blackmailing, they still get married but unknown to Tracy, Nick regrets it and walks out leaving Carla in tears, looking for revenge. Robert finishes with Tracy when Nick hits him. The only person who stands by her is Ken as Amy doesn't want to see her. Carla attempts to run Tracy over however in doing so she causes herself a crash and also causes a truck to have a crash. Everyone then leaves her apart from Ken. Carla comes to tell her that their feud is over before leaving. Tracy later collapses due to her kidney and is hospitalised. After being discharged from hospital Ken suffers a stroke himself but stops Tracy and Peter from seeing him as he believes it was the stresses of them which caused him to have the stroke. She later begins pretending to be seeing Luke Britton (Dean Fagan) but after her 40th birthday when Tracy opens up to him, they begin to see each other properly and he gives her a necklace.
Tracy was created as the daughter of Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) and Ray Langton (Ray Langton). The first actress to play Tracy was Christabel Finch in 1977, who first appeared in the role when she was 15 days old. According to Finch in 2007, "It was a case of being the right baby, in the right place, at the right time. The casting director came to the baby unit and picked me at random, then asked my parents if I could be in the show." In 2001 Finch reflected on her time in the soap, remembering that she used to share a dressing room with Anne Kirkbride who plays Tracy's mother Deirdre and one of her most prominent storyline memories is her involvement in Deirdre's affair with Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs): "Because I was a kid, everyone was really friendly to me. Julie Goodyear, who played Bet Gilroy, was really lovely and a very down-to-earth person. The biggest plot I was involved in was when Deirdre had an affair with Mike Baldwin. There was a lot of shouting going on and Ken was screaming at her, 'Get out of the house!' I just thought, 'what's going on, why are they shouting?'" Finch left the role when she was seven as her parents had opted to move to Guernsey. It was two years until the producers recast Tracy. On screen during that time, Tracy's parents Ken and Deirdre would say that Tracy was either in her room upstairs or at school. Eight-year-old Holly Chamarette was given the role in 1985. At the time she reportedly commented, "I'm thrilled. I've been watching Coronation Street for ages." She was chosen from more than 60 children, but left the role when she was 11 in 1988, quitting the acting profession to become a doctor.
The third actress to play the part was Dawn Acton, appearing between 1988 and 1999. Acton was 11 when she took on the role and played the character through her teenage years, in what Acton has described as Tracy's tarty phase. Acton has said that Tracy's appearances became rare in the mid 1990s, until the casting director James Bain informed her that her contract was not being renewed as "the storylines involving Tracy had dried up". Acton adds, "I was 17 but I wasn't devastated. There were no tantrums, like the ones Tracy was famous for. James said I should try other things in the acting world. I did – but it didn't work out."
In November 2002, it was reported that Dawn Acton reauditioned for the role of Tracy but was unsuccessful which resulted in the role being given to Kate Ford. A spokeswoman for the soap said: "[Kate] is very excited to have got the part. The character has changed substantially in the past four years and really hits the ground running. Kate is thrilled." Discussing why Acton was not brought back, a spokesperson said, "We [looked] at other actresses because the character has changed so much—she's going to be explosive." Ford was a fan of the show as a child, and revealed that when she was 12, she wrote around ten letters to the casting director requesting a part. The character is portrayed as being extremely selfish and dangerous. She appears to be a tough, fiery and very bitchy character, with actress Kate Ford stating that "underneath she does care about her daughter which does show a soft side to her".
On 23 October 2002, it was reported that Tracy would be reintroduced later that year. A show spokesman says the new Tracy will be sexy, sassy and opinionated. She will make a beeline for womanising bookie Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne), her own stepbrother, before moving on to former sailor Ciaran McCarthy (Keith Duffy) and knicker factory boss Joe Carter (Jonathan Wrather). Tracy returns home to Weatherfield at Christmas after turning to mum Deirdre when her marriage breaks down - she left the Street after marrying Robert Preston (Julian Kay) at Weatherfield Register Office. The character was last played by Dawn Acton. A Coronation Street spokesman said: "We are looking at other actresses because the character has changed so much - she's going to be explosive." Explaining the decision to bring Tracy back as an anti-hero, writer Daran Little commented: "You only have to look at a character whose parents got divorced when she was very young and then pulled either way to find out this woman is very flawed and has a chip on her shoulder. So you take that and bring her back a few years later as a very selfish person." On 13 November 2002, it was announced that Kate Ford had been cast as Tracy. It was reported that Acton was said to be "devastated" when she failed to win the part which Instead went to Ford. But whereas Tracy Barlow was a glum-faced teenager, Tracy Preston - as she is now called - is a sexy, sassy and opinionated man-eater. At the same time it was also reported that Tracy would sleep with her mother's former flame Dev Alahan (Jimmi Harkishin). A Coronation Street spokeswoman said Ford, fresh from London's Webber Douglas Academy but originally from north Lancashire, was "thrilled" to have landed the role. "She is very excited to have got the part. The character has changed substantially in the past four years and really hits the ground running. Kate is thrilled." Tracy returned on screen on 25 December 2002, and she spent no time moping over her failed marriage. "She's been bored in London and she's ready to let her hair down and have some fun. Tracy's a strong, feisty woman and I think at last Dev may have met his match."
A storyline involving Tracy in 2003 saw her have a one-night stand with Steve McDonald (Simon Gregson) and wanted to take things further but Steve got back together with his wife Karen (Suranne Jones) instead. In need of an ego boost, Tracy bet Bev Unwin (Susie Blake) 1p that she could bed Roy Cropper (David Neilson), to prove that she could have any man she wanted. Tracy won the bet by subterfuge - drugging Roy. A few weeks later Tracy found out she was pregnant and booked an abortion. Her original intent was to keep quiet but, when confronted by a furious Hayley Cropper (Julie Hesmondhalgh), Tracy blurted out that she was pregnant with Roy's baby. As Roy and Hayley couldn't have children and longed for one, Tracy suggested that they adopt her baby for £20,000. The Croppers agreed but tried to persuade Tracy to marry Roy to guarantee his parental rights. Faced with a legal bill from her divorce from Robert, Tracy agreed, marrying Roy with Hayley and Ciaran McCarthy (Keith Duffy) as their witnesses. David Neilsen who plays Roy said: "Roy really loves Hayley and he doesn't want to marry someone else, especially not Tracy. As far as Roy and Hayley are concerned, ever since their blessing they've been man and wife, Inside Roy hates himself for this because what they are doing goes against all his morals, but he is desperately trying to be strong for Hayley. Roy gets himself so worked up, he is actually physically sick. If they ever found out that the baby wasn't theirs it would absolutely devastate the Croppers. They have put their hearts and souls into this baby coming into the world. The conclusion of the storyline saw Tracy give birth to baby daughter Amy in February 2004, who was revealed to be Steve's child and not Roy's, leaving Tracy to later go on to have a feud with Steve's wife Karen.
In 2005, Ford made the decision to leave the serial but after being promised of more "juicier storylines" Ford decided to stay. In January 2006, it was reported by the News of the World, that Ford had again insisted that she will bow out next year when her contract expires. A Coronation Street spokesman told Digital Spy: "Kate is contracted until next Spring so she's with us for the foreseeable future." Bill Ward who plays Charlie Stubbs, the boyfriend of Tracy announced his departure from the serial in June 2006, an ITV spokesperson commented: “Contrary to press reports Bill’s decision to leave is not linked to the future of the character of Tracy Barlow. Actress Kate Ford is contracted to Coronation Street until March 2007.” After months of speculation, Ford announced in August 2006 that she is to quit the show next year. Talking of her decision to leave, she told The Sun: "It has been the best time of my life, playing Tracy Barlow. I cannot wait to see what the writers have got in store for her.” Producer Steve Frost confirmed that Tracy would not be killed off in her exit. “Kate will be involved in a major storyline which will see her leave next spring," he said. "Kate is a great asset. Her character Tracy has left the cobbles before and we hope she’ll return one day.”
It was announced that Tracy would kill Charlie as part of Ford and Ward's leaving storylines which saw Tracy sentenced to life imprisonment for Charlie's murder. Brian Capron who played killer Richard Hillman from 2001 to 2003 warned Ford and Ward that the murder plot could harm their careers due to the storyline being a high-profile storyline. Ford promised that it’s a fitting end for the Street's resident love rat. "Charlie has had this smug attitude that he can do whatever he wants and it has just driven Tracy insane," she said. "He lives by the sword and dies by the sword. I don’t think there's a man Tracy’s met who's going to get the better of her. She hates what he's turned her into and wants him to die after he continually cheated on her." Bill Ward commented: "He doesn’t believe that Tracy would actually go through with murder and thinks himself much smarter. "Charlie has long suspected that Tracy was concocting something evil, and when she reveals her wicked plans he challenges her to go through with it. He doesn’t believe she would actually go through with it for a second, so when Tracy actually goes for him it’s a complete shock. She attacks him with such ferocity that he doesn’t stand a chance." The storyline saw Tracy spending weeks staging arguments, locking herself in the house, and even burning herself with an iron, in order to convince neighbour Claire Peacock (Julia Haworth) that Charlie is abusing her. Ken and Deirdre are also concerned for Tracy's well-being, but she will not leave Charlie. Tracy gives Charlie a lap dance and begins to tell him they will be together forever. While he is distracted, she hits him over the head with a heavy metal sculpture. She taunts him and then hits him again, with a fatal blow. This resulted in Charlie ending up in hospital in a coma. Tracy, meanwhile, is successfully granted bail following an intense grilling by detectives. She ignores her bail conditions and sneaks to the hospital where she leans over an unconscious Charlie urging him to hurry up and die. “When Tracy finds out that Charlie hasn’t died straight away she's terrified that he might actually wake up and tell the cops the truth," Ford revealed. "She planned to kill him so knowing he's still alive puts her into a panic. She orders Deirdre to take her to the hospital where she wishes her cheating boyfriend would hurry up and die. It’s a really worrying time for Tracy as she's desperate to cover her tracks and not be charged with murder. Ford added: “As far as Tracy’s concerned Charlie was trying to kill her and that’s what she has told everybody. But if Charlie comes to and tells the truth, Tracy will almost certainly be done for attempted murder.” Charlie later ends up dying in hospital much to the relief of Tracy.
Coronation Street broadcast an episode on 25 March 2007, which only featured Ford and Anne Kirkbride who played Tracy's mum Deirdre Barlow, this was the first episode to feature only two actors since Kevin Kennedy and Sarah Lancashire who played Curly and Raquel Watts in 2000. The episode saw Tracy confess all to Deirdre. Speaking of the episode, Ford said: "Deirdre’s been asking questions and Tracy knows she’s onto her. Also Tracy’s feeling the pressure and she needs to confide in someone after keeping it to herself for so long. It’s all too much, so when the big confrontation comes Tracy lets go and confesses to Deirdre that she murdered Charlie in cold blood. She feels like she wants to take the weight off her. For months she’s been carrying round this big secret and she needs to offload it, especially now Deirdre’s sniffing around. Also, Deirdre intimates that she would lie for her so Tracy’s quite confident that she can freely offload." Ford added: "She forces her word that she won’t tell anyone and that she’ll back her in court, but Deirdre’s wavering. She’s appalled and wants Tracy to come clean, but she’s also her child, her own flesh and blood, so it’s hard to consider giving her up. Tracy expects that as her mum Deirdre will stick by her whatever. It was amazing to be able to do an entire episode just with the two of us. I love working with Anne and this was a fantastic opportunity to explore the relationship between the two of them.” Tracy's trial aired in March 2007 and the jury delivered the "guilty" verdict, resulting in Tracy being sentenced to life imprisonment. Ford's final episode as Tracy was broadcast on 8 April 2007.
When asked by itv.com in 2013 whether Tracy would ever be driven to kill again, Ford replied: "I don't think she ever wants to go back to prison, she absolutely hated it, so for that reason no. Also I think she was in such a dark place when she was with Charlie, I don't think she just killed him for the sake of it, she'd gone a bit mental because he was playing games with her head."
On 5 January 2010, it was announced that Ford would reprise the role of Tracy after more than three years away. The actress attributed her return in part to the 2009 return of her friend Shobna Gulati as Sunita Alahan, and her desire to work with Gulati again. Ford believes that the time she has spent in prison has made Tracy's attitude worse, characterising her as "a bit cagey and a bit bitter". She stated that Tracy still loves Steve, but that his new wife Becky would beat her in a fight. Her first scenes were shown in May, when she returned for her grandmother Blanche's funeral. Ford found the scenes difficult to film, following the then recent death of Maggie Jones who played Blanche. She described Tracy as a more ruthless and extreme version of her grandmother.
Tracy returned to Weatherfield on a permanent basis later in 2010. The storyline depicting her initial return involved her being offered an early release in exchange for extracting a murder confession from Gail. She falsely accused Gail of her husband Joe's murder, by telling the police that she hit him with a rolling pin, after Gail told her that she hid a rolling pin on top of a bedroom wardrobe in order to stop poor cook Joe from baking potato pie. The police subsequently found the rolling pin hidden in the house, making Tracy's lie appear true. Tracy decided to testify in court, alleging that Gail was guilty of murdering Joe; Gail was found not guilty of murder and Tracy was furious that she might not be let out early, thus throwing a chair across the room at two police officers who were involved in Gail's case. Later that day, Tracy was attacked by Gail's fellow inmates after they threw water at her and locked her in a cell and beat her up for being a "grass". Tracy was hospitalized.
Executive producer Phil Collinson has revealed that Tracy's return will bring a few years' worth of storylines for her and many other characters in the soap, and that there is a possibility of Becky McDonald and Tracy appearing in a special two-hander episode. It was revealed on 4 October, that Tracy would return on Christmas Eve 2010, following her shock release from prison. Speaking to Inside Soap, Ford said: "Tracy's absolutely ecstatic to be out of prison, and excited to be home. She's a bit nervous because she knows everybody is going to hate her - but she's basically the same old Tracy!" Ford added: "Primarly [sic] she wants Amy back, but she'd like to be with Steve as well. She wants them to be a family. Steve is Tracy's true love, and she'd do anything to Becky if it meant she could have him." Speaking to Soaplife about Tracy's comeback, Simon Gregson who plays Steve McDonald explained: "I'm really excited. Tracy's a brilliant character. You've got that lightness and then pure evil. And Kate (Ford) does such a good deadpan face. I sometimes have to struggle not to laugh. Her return is a massive shock. Steve instantly thinks, 'Oh no!' He just knows she'll be bringing him loads of flack." Discussing Tracy's demands for custody of Amy, Gregson continued: "Tracy's got [Steve] over a barrel. It turns out Amy's heard Steve and Becky talking about buying Max and she's told Tracy. "That's all the ammunition she needs. She tells Steve if she doesn't get custody she'll shop him and Becky to the authorities."
Tracy returns just as the tram crash memorial service is taking place. By the end of Christmas Eve she has managed to alienate most of the community, particularly Gail McIntyre and the recently widowed Claire Peacock. On 30 December 2010, after Tracy has complained to Deirdre, Ken and Peter about being deprived of sex, David Platt confronts her at home about her conduct towards his mother. After a bitter argument, Tracy seduces David. Shortly afterward, Tracy sleeps with Nick Tilsley (Ben Price); they are discovered by Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson). On New Year's Eve, Deirdre and Ken find Tracy unconscious with a head injury. Suspicion falls on Steve, who is standing nearby with blood on his hands.
On 19 May 2011, Kate Ford revealed that the main thing driving her Coronation Street alter-ego Tracy Barlow is the desire to have a family with daughter Amy and former husband Steve McDonald. Speaking to TV Times, Ford said that Tracy is feeling as if her meddling is starting to pay off. "She thinks she can see a shift in Steve, and she knows that his and Becky's relationship is not on firm ground. She's excited because she thinks an opportunity might be presenting itself," Ford explained. "All Tracy wants is for her, Amy and Steve to be a family. She sees that as the key to her fulfilment and happiness. She does love Amy and she's really worried about her mystery illness. When it comes down to it, she will put Amy above anything."
In December 2012, it was announced that an upcoming storyline would see Tracy begin a relationship with Rob Donovan (Marc Baylis) the brother of Carla Connor (Alison King). Speaking of the storyline a Coronation Street source said: "Tracy and Rob are a match made in soap heaven, They will be fiery, passionate and out to cause trouble." Baylis went on to say: "Watch this space – interestingly, Tracy Barlow comes onto his radar.
That is an interesting combination. Without a doubt, he sees something of himself in Tracy and finds her intriguing!" Ford admitted: "She [Tracy] likes the fact that he's quite feisty – it takes one to know one, after all. Maybe they're kindred spirits!" Asked about the kind of a dynamic between Rob and Tracy, Baylis told Digital Spy: "There's a lot of joyful banter - they challenge each other in a fun way. They're quite similar, they can see those similarities and they do have a lot of fun together. They put a smile on each other's faces, and we'll just have to see how it goes from there." Asked if Rob can hold his own when it comes to Tracy, Baylis replied: ""Definitely, otherwise he wouldn't get involved. He is aware of the whole situation that happened with Ryan last year, but he's got a few more years on Ryan and he's been round the block a few times. Rob definitely wouldn't get involved in something that he didn't think he could handle. But Rob does have an arrogant side, and he feels like he could deal with anything. That's one of Rob's main flaws. I've really enjoyed working with Kate Ford on the storyline - we've had an absolute blast. We've been working a lot together, and hopefully the working relationship that we've built up behind the scenes will come across on screen. I'm looking forward to seeing that unfold myself." When asked how Rob first gets Tracy's attention, Ford told All About Soap: "Well, Tracy's going off shopping in town and she gets into a taxi at exactly the same time as Rob. She demands that he leave, as it's her taxi and not his. He refuses to move though, and when Steve asks them where they're going and they both say the city centre at the same time, they share a smile and end up going in the cab together. She likes the fact that he's quite feisty - it takes one to know one, after all. Maybe they're kindred spirits!" Ford also stated that not only is Tracy attracted to Rob, she realises that it would also annoy Michelle (Kym Marsh), adding: "If he had got out of the taxi, she probably wouldn't have fancied him. He's quite easy on the eye too, of course. Plus, he hangs round with Michelle, and if Tracy and Rob were an item, it would annoy her - that's another good reason for Tracy." On Tracy's reaction to being asked out by Rob, she said: "She's quite annoyed at first and she turns him down. But he persists and he flatters her, so she thinks, why not? I think he's like a nicer version of Charlie Stubbs (Bill Ward), so maybe. He's got the bad lad streak, he's ruthless, but he's nowhere near as cruel as Charlie."
Tracy convinces Rob to give her a job at Underworld, and when factory boss Carla Connor (Alison King) has doubts over the arrangement, the Tracy promises to behave herself. However, in an interview with The Sun, Ford confirmed that Tracy won't be able to resist winding up her new co-workers. Ford explained: "She loves to p*** everyone off. She annoys Michelle, she annoys Eva and she likes that." Discussing her alter ego's nasty nature, the Ford admitted: "She is so vile. Sometimes when she is being really horrid, I ask everyone, 'Why is Tracy so horrible?' and they all go, 'Because she is horrid!' It's as if she is unhappy with her own life and so she is awful to everyone else. "But I do love playing Tracy and I am always so grateful that I have been given this role. I have such a brilliant time on set and there are never any rows because we all have such a laugh." Ford also insisted that Tracy does have the potential to settle down with one man. She said: "I will leave the writers to come up with the storylines for Tracy. But I do think she could stay with anybody - so long as they let her behave a little bit badly. The reason why she stayed with Charlie [Stubbs] is because she couldn't walk all over him. But who knows what will happen with Tracy in the future?" It was announced that Tracy will put her relationship with Rob before her own daughter as she tries to secure more commitment from him. Tracy decides that she wants to live with Rob, but she knows that he may need some convincing as he is not ready to be a stepfather to Amy. Tracy's interfering step-brother Peter (Chris Gascoyne) is responsible for planting the idea in Tracy's head, questioning why she hasn't moved in with Rob now that they have a business together. Kate Ford, told itv.com: "It definitely strikes a nerve when Peter says that Rob will never see her that way and only cares about himself. Tracy is willing to do anything to move in with Rob, even if it means palming Amy off on Steve and her mum more often. She knows one of the reasons Rob's reluctant to move in with her is because he fears he won't be a good stepdad to Amy, and that's not really the life he wants right now. So to solve this problem, she persuades Steve to have Amy four nights a week and Deirdre the other three." Ford added: "Tracy is very good at twisting people round her finger. Rob's got everything she wants in a man - he's ambitious and driven, he shares her ruthless streak."
A twist in Tracy and Rob's relationship storyline happened when Rob later went to kiss Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan). Asked why they end up kissing each other, Baylis replied: "They're playing games with each other. The thing with Rob is that he can't resist a challenge. He'll always rise to the bait, and Tina challenges him. They're both pushing each other while they are flirting and it's all about game playing. That's how it happens." Tracy later finds out about their kiss and is furious, beginning a feud with her and Tina; which would later build up to the departure of Keegan and the murder of Tina for which Tracey was a suspect. Kate Ford, said: "Tracy has committed murder before and got away with it and she certainly takes no prisoners when it comes to getting revenge on people who have wronged her. She has never really forgiven Tina for kissing Rob and trying to take him off her - and for her campaign to try and close down Barlow's Buys when they first opened. Now that she knows Tina has rumbled their dodgy dealings with Tony, it may be that she thinks enough is enough and slips away from her engagement party to confront her - but Tina is every bit as feisty and Tracy might have bitten off more than she can chew trying to keep her quiet." It was later revealed that it wasn't Tracy who killed Tina and in fact it was Rob who killed her. As the storyline concluded Rob was sent to prison leaving Tracy heartbroken.
In December 2014, it was revealed that Tracy was to have an affair with Tony Stewart (Terrance Maynard) who is in a relationship with Liz McDonald (Beverley Callard). Maynard explained: "Tracy is at her lowest ebb. She's broken and she needs validating in some way by a man. She's realised she's all alone and she's not going to have a relationship with Rob as he's locked up for life. she thinks she'll be older and past it and that nobody will be interested in her. Tony tells Tracy what she wants to hear, because he does feel for her. He tells her that she looks good, that there are loads of men that would want her. That's when Tracy turns to him and asks him if he'd go there with her. Tony refuses to answer and tells her he's with Liz and that he can't answer that question. Tony makes a point of telling Tracy he's happy with Liz and he puts his cards on the table. But Tracy still comes on strong because she needs this - this is something she needs to stabilise her. If she had a good friend that she could cry to and could go to, this might not be happening - but she needs a sexual validation, so it becomes about power."
Asked whether Tony pulls back when Tracy first tries to kiss him, Maynard replied: "He tries to. When she starts kissing him, he is completely disengaged and tries to turn away from her. But there's no doubt about it that there's an attraction to Tracy and he can't deny it. With her coming on so strong, he can't help himself. I think he likes how much of a challenge she's becoming too. He feels lousy afterwards. I think he has concern for what will happen now and for what will happen with Liz. He hopes that's the end of it and that it won't spill out into the public domain. He genuinely loves Liz and he hasn't felt like this about a woman for a very long time so he doesn't want to lose it. He wants to just forget it and move on but it's evident that Tracy isn't going to let it go. From Tony's point of view it's about managing her and playing the game - he wants the business and that's still all he wants." Writers confirmed that the pair's romantic spark wouldn't be just be a one-off, so Tony's attraction to Tracy could grow as time goes on. Maynard added: "He's not in love with her and they're not the same sort of feelings that he has for Liz, but I think he considers Tracy to be a friend of his and I think the feelings he does have for her could well grow." Kate Ford said that Tracy could have met her match in Tony Stewart after he sets her up. Tracy agrees to go into business with Tony when he masterminds a situation that leaves her shaken, forcing her to reconsider her options. Tracy is left feeling threatened by a supplier after buying some dodgy stock, only to be rescued by Tony, who is hoping to finally get his hands on the business. Ford said: "When it all goes wrong she's terrified. When he turns violent, she realises it could have gone massively wrong if Tony hadn't come in. She is quite good at protecting herself - she's been in prison so she can handle herself, but she is shaken." However, although Tracy believes she can keep Tony at arm's length once they become business partners, Ford thinks her alter ego could have her work cut out. She said: "Tracy can kind of see through Tony. She is a big girl and she can look after herself. It's more about the money and the fact that she can't cope without him financially. She doesn't think of Tony as her saviour, it's all about the money. Tracy can be pretty ruthless herself so maybe she'll have to play Tony at his own game. I think she's going to have her work cut out though this time." Liz later finds out about the affair when Tracy breaks the news to her on the day of Steve and Michelle's wedding. Beverley Callard, who plays Liz, commented: "At first Liz doesn't quite believe it. She's not concerned about the dodgy things that Tracy and Tony might get up to at Barlow's Buys, but she doesn't believe Tony would do anything else. Tracy then starts to show her texts which prove they've been having an affair. Liz still doesn't quite believe it, but she soon starts to realise there could be some truth to it. Tracy also tells Liz that they've been trying to get The Rovers from underneath her as well. That just puts the lid on it for Liz, but the one thing she's thinking is that she can't let it ruin the wedding day for Steve and Michelle."
On 10 May 2015, it was announced that Tristan Gemmill had been cast as Tracy's ex Robert Preston. Robert (then played by Julian Kay) had previously been married to Tracy when Dawn Acton was playing the role. It was announced that Robert will return to Tracy's life in the summer when he turns up unexpectedly at the funeral of her mum Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride). With Tracy grieving following her mother's sudden death and also newly-single after splitting from Tony Stewart, she quickly seeks comfort by falling back into Robert's arms. However, if Tracy harbours any hopes for a full reunion with Robert, it won't be easy for her as he is still married to his second wife - something he has neglected to tell her. Played by former Girls Aloud singer Sarah Harding, Robert's wife quickly joins him in Weatherfield to fight for her man. Asked what Robert likes about Tracy, Gemmill replied: ""Now there's a question! I guess some people are attracted to broken people. I've got friends who have poor relationships by anyone's standards because they keep making the same mistake. Maybe Robert is one of those people who is attracted to danger, maybe he thinks he can fix her. There's an element of thrill being with someone who's unpredictable."
On 16 May 2016, it was reported by the Metro that an upcoming storyline would see Tracy at "death's door" as her health will take a turn for the worse. It was also revealed that as she faces a fight for life, she may be doing so alone as all of her family will have turned their backs on her in the wake of her feud with Carla Connor (Alison King). With Tracy only having one kidney, she will end up with an infection. Speaking to Metro.co.uk at a recent press event, Kate Ford explained: "She gets an infection and the people that she thinks will be there for her aren’t and she realises she’s pushed everyone too far. There’ll be a big, bad karma – even her daughter who she took for granted doesn’t want to know. Even Ken has been pushed too far – although he does go and see her at the hospital, she is his daughter after all and she is at death’s door." Ford also hinted that the terror of the situation might make Tracy change her ways: "It’s a different Tracy post-this, for quite some time. She realises she has cut off everybody – the health issue makes being conniving quite difficult! We won’t see as much of that in the future.". In an interview with Digital Spy, Ford explained why Tracy only has one kidney: "She has only got the one kidney because when she was younger she took an ecstasy tablet in a nightclub and had organ failure. The kidney she's got is Samir Rachid's kidney". Ford also went on to explain the storyline in more detail: "Tracy gets an infection in her kidney, which means that she becomes very poorly as it isn't functioning properly. She's been feeling pain for a while and feeling tired but she's been taking her medication, so isn't overly worried until she suddenly doubles over in agony in the flower shop. She tries to make light of it when she's referred to the transplant clinic, claiming as soon as she's ill, the doctors always presume it's her kidney. But deep down I think she's more worried than she's letting on." Discussing the aftermath of Tracy's subsequent collapse, Ford confirmed: "Well she doesn't die! I think for Tracy the only positive that comes out of it is that she hopes it will bring her and Amy back together. But Amy is quite a tough cookie and she doesn't come to the hospital to see her, even though Tracy is on her deathbed. That really affects Tracy. She's desperate to try to make amends with Amy but it doesn't seem to work. She's very lonely and very emotional when she's at the hospital. Robert visits her and she's hopeful it means they have a future together, but it's not going to be that simple. Especially with Amy, who Tracy fears she may have lost forever.".
When Tracy was blackmailed by David, Steven Perkins of Lowculture commented: "It's very incredibly wrong, and yet they're both so vile that it goes right around the loop and goes back to being a thoroughly great idea." Fellow Lowculture contributor Nick Linsdell praised Tracy as "one of the all-time great, completely horrific, self-absorbed soap monsters." He deemed her trial testament to the show's writers, as, even with a character who has been part of Coronation Street since birth: "they've come up with an exit storyline that outdoes all her previous exploits and dragged in half the cast to enjoy the fun." Perkins also praised the trial storyline, commenting: "It makes for quite a nice change to have sat through a soap trial, knowing for once that The Accused was (a) guilty as sin, (b) acting in a deliberate, calculated and premeditated fashion and (c) not trying to frame someone else." Alongside this unusual premise, he noted: "there are probably quite a few people who secretly want to see That Bitch Tracy Barlow finally get hers."
Radio Times included Tracy in their feature profiling 'bunny boilers' of soap opera. Discussing her they stated: "Qualifying as much as a soap villain as a bunny-boiler, grown-up Tracy in her final incarnation displayed enough deranged behaviour to have Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail bounding for the hills." Opining on her temper they added: "Tracy was capable of a rage so hot that, by comparison, the fires of hell were chilly." They also offered their opinion on what could have made her this way, blaming Ken's and Deirdre's behaviour. The character has been dubbed by the media and viewers as, "Toxic Tracy".
A reporter writing for the Inside Soap Yearbook 2017 named Tracy and Carla's feud as one of the "best bits of February", describing the pair as "sworn enemies". They described Tracy confronting Carla as "the big moment" in the episodes.
In February 2011, Ford was nominated for Best Comeback in the Soap Bubble Awards for her portrayal of Tracy. Tracy was nominated in the category of "Villain of the Year" at the 2011 Inside Soap Awards.