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Get to C soap's only ghost.

Byline: By Rhodri Owen Western Mail

Bernard latham will be pushing back the boundaries of TV soap tonight when he returns to Channel 4's Hollyoaks just a week after his character was killed off in a car crash.

'I'm coming back in Friday's episode as a ghost,' the Cardiff-based actor revealed yesterday , 'which is a first for British soap.'

For the last eight years Latham, 52, has been a regular in the youth-oriented drama playing the popular father figure George Cunningham, otherwise known as Mr C.

And after Mr C suffered a heart attack recently, viewers watched in tears last week as both he and wife Helen died as a result of a traffic accident.

But while that might usually be that for any normal inhabitant of a well-known soap community such as Walford or Weatherfield who has been given the chop by the scriptwriters, Mr C is set to rise again, albeit briefly.

'In tonight's episode I appear as a figment of the imagination of one of the wackier characters, Bombhead,' said the Manchester-born actor who is no stranger to soap firsts, having enjoyed the rare distinction of appearing in two British TV soaps, Hollyoaks and Pobol y Cwm, simultaneously.

'At the moment it's a one-off, but who knows? It depends on what the channel and the audience think, and apparently there's a gay website which is running a chatroom for people who can't cope with his death.

'But I don't think there are barriers in soap. Just as long as there is some point of realism.'

After a protracted stay in Hollyoaks Latham has mixed emotions about leaving both the series and the character.

'I'll miss him,' he said, 'but I think it's the only way out. It was the right move to kill him off. When we started talking about leaving the last thing I wanted was to go out in the back of a taxi like they do in Coronation Street.

'It was not my choice initially but to be perfectly honest it was mutual. I was all right about it.

'I was commuting at weekends back and forwards from Liverpool to Cardiff. I have a 14-year-old son who is 6ft tall now and I never noticed the last four inches.

'It got to the point where I was coming home and not recognising the guy in front of me. There's lots to do here and I'm back with the family.'

He insisted he would have fond memories of his time in the Chester-based show.

'I'm sad to be leaving because they're a lovely bunch,' he said.

'I've been acting for 35 years and in all that time the people I have been working with at Mersey TV are the best I have worked with.

'And after eight years I fell in love with the character. He's not too far removed from me, though I'm a little more ballsy.

'I decided to make him a bit more comical because he was just a grumpy dad. I worked on the comedy and that's what got me back after being given initially just six episodes.

'One of the nicest things has been to go out clubbing with the kids from the show and have other youngsters come up to me and say, 'I wish you were my dad.' Mr C's quite acceptable. He can go anywhere.'

That was proved to comic effect in the show when Mr C followed daughter Cindy to the Glastonbury festival, where he ended up scoffing some 'space cakes' and staying to enjoy the bands.

'That was one of my favourite story lines,' said Latham. 'We shot that on location on one day. It was a glorious summer's day and it was just brilliant.

'And they were definitely just Mr Kipling.'

Welsh challenge :Former Hollyoaks actor Bernard Latham will grapple with both reality TV and the vagaries of the Welsh language when he starts filming for S4C's Cariad@Iaith next week.

He will join a host of Welsh celebrities to learn the language at Nant Gwrtheyrn on live TV.

It may come as a surprise to Pobol y Cwm fans that he cannot already speak it, as his character Ron Unsworth both learned and spoke Welsh.

He said, 'I had to take the script home at night and have it translated into English by a friend next door. I learned it in English so I knew what I was talking about, and then my friend put it on a dictaphone and I translated it phonetically and learned it again.'

He said learning that was harder than Shakespeare.
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 27, 2004
Words:763
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