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Roy is just an anorak of fire!; Coronation Street Tomorrow, Monday, Wednesday and Friday,ITV, 7.30pm.

Soap anorak Roy Cropper may be the oddest character in Coronation Street - but he isn't as stupid as he looks.

The new cafe boss is a walking mass of eccentricities ... invariably wearing an anorak, carrying a bag and keeping his key on a piece of tape and cash in a tiny purse.

If he looks weird and dim, then that's a tribute to the actor who plays him - David Neilson.

For, in reality, David is as bright as a button. He's just proved that by getting a BA Honours through the Open University.

It's quite an achievement for David, who failed his 11-plus and left school without a single qualification. He told me: "Doing the Open University was time-consuming but the studying became addictive. I did it on trains and whenever I had spare time."

Getting his degree as a mature student meant a lot because he had been an angry young man when he was forced to leave school at 15.

David explained: "I didn't want to quit and went to see the headmaster. But he didn't know who I was and sent me away.

"So, in stead of trying to get qualifications, I became a gas fitter apprentice. I was the one who didn't turn up to do your job on Monday morning.

"It wasn't what I wanted to do. I felt stuck. This was Loughborough and the swinging Sixties were happening - happening somewhere, but not in Loughborough. They didn't arrive there till 1982. I used Sixties movies like Billy Liar and Saturday Night, Sunday Morning as an escape. I felt the best way was out."

David made his escape by being accepted by drama college. He insists that being enrolled was a complete fluke.

He recalled: "I took a day off work to go to London to audition. It proved to be a day that changed my life. But I don't know why they accepted me because I knew nothing.

"But what I did know was that I didn't want to go to work. To me, work meant being on a building site and having callouses on your hands. Acting wasn't working."

Amazingly David's first acting job, with a Watford theatre company, saw him lined up alongside a bunch of actors who were all to appear in Coronation Street.

They included Ken Morley, who was the irrepressible Reg Holdsworth; Glyn Grain, who played gangster Fraser Henderson; John Savident, who is the blustering butcher Fred and Colin Procter, who ran the Rovers Return between Bet leaving and the Duckworths taking over.

David laughed: "Together we did some terrible productions, like a rock version of Shakespeare's The Tempest, with a band called Henry Cow. It was awful.

Joining Coronation Street has given David - who has appeared in lots of shows - the biggest profile of his career.

Yet he was originally only hired to play Roy Cropper for six episodes. But something clicked, he became a regular and now has his own small army of fans.

David has even been a hi-tech hit by becoming the most popular Street character on the Internet.

Inevitably the actor gets recognised everywhere he goes, which he finds quite amusing.

David said: "Once, this blue-rinse woman and her friend spotted me. She started looking at me and then came right up to my face. Then she turned to her friend, said `Oh, without any doubt' and walked off.

"Sometime in the supermarket I'll play a game and just turn slightly away, pretending to examine something on the shelf, so that they can't check to see that it's me.

"It's just part of the job. Your face has always been yours and suddenly it belongs to Coronation Street."

David is pleased that the little eccentric bits of Roy's life have been a success.

And he revealed that one of them - having a length of tape on his house key - was thanks to his mum.

He explained: "She was always losing the key to her house. I'd have to drive up from London or the police would have to break in.

"So I came up with the idea of attaching this tape, so she couldn't lose the key. And I used that for Roy."

Like the rest of the Street regulars, David is careful not to give away plot secrets. But he did suggest that Roy might cause fireworks in future episodes.

He said: "Some folk in the Street might think he's a pushover, but he's not. They'll find that out."

After earning his Open University degree, you might have thought that David would be enjoying a rest.

But he's busier than ever - preparing himself for the London Marathon.

David, who is running to raise funds for the NSPCC, said: "I've always kept fit and have worked hard for this, doing lots of running.

"My target is to complete the course in under four hours. But I'll be happy just to finish."

Rather like Roy Cropper...

Go wild

in the country

EMMERDALE Tuesday and Thursday, ITV, 5.10pm

Down in the dark depths of Emmerdale country, murky work is afoot - and that means a big change for actress Leah Bracknell.

She plays goody-goody Zoe Tate, whose dad Frank is on remand for the murder of his wife, Kim.

Leah said: "Zoe gets more and more involved in the whole murder mess, not entirely through choice.

"She gets a chance to show some strength as well as continuing to be the ultimate devoted daughter.

"She also has much more to do with Home Farm, because her dad's in jail. I like to see the darker, stronger side emerge.

"I haven't been seen in too many storylines recently, so it's nice to be coming back with a vengeance.

"Emmerdale feels a lot raunchier these days, at the expense of the old, traditional farming storylines, which I know a lot of people miss."

The character of Zoe could now easily make Leah Bracknell into the kind of star that gets invited to open super- markets - and get seriously typecast.

Leah said: "I do find it hard coping with filming five days a week these days. I'm happy here, but I have two small children and have so little time to myself.

"Since I'm contracted to Emmerdale, I can't freelance, though I'd love the chance to do something else."

She doesn't even have time to watch herself on telly, let alone anything else.

She said: "I don't watch soaps - I think such a lot of TV is rubbish and the standard of chat and cookery shows is appalling.

"The repeats of sitcoms from 20 years ago are head and shoulders above most of the contemporary stuff."

That "contemporary stuff" does include the sort of storyline that woudn't have gone down well 20 years ago - and even causes a stir in today's supposedly enlightened TV times.

Like Zoe's lesbian relationship in Emmerdale, for example.

Leah said: "Zoe came out as a lesbian five years ago, when she was seen kissing Emma - long before Brookside did it with Anna Friel.

"All credit to Emmerdale for carrying on the lesbian storyline for that length of time without abandoning it.

"Zoe is a ground-breaking role and the show has been at pains to show her in a positive light, while Brookside's attitude to lesbian characters has been slightly more cynical.

"And one of the nicer aspects of the new, improved Zoe, is that she's ditched some of the scruffy old clothes she used to wear.

"I don't think Zoe will ever be seen really glammed up, but she is looking smarter these days.

"In real life, though, it would take a great deal of money to persuade me to get into a Barbour jacket."

COVER STORY

Soap star Mark Homer's gay storyline in EastEnders may have saved some lives. The young actor plays Tony Hills, who came out of the closet and then found himself at the centre of confusion over the birth of Tiffany's baby daughter, Courtney.

The soap has really simmered as the action focused on whether Tony or Grant Mitchell was the tot's father.

But Mark revealed that the real drama has been in the way viewers have reacted to the soap's gay plot. He said that some young gay guys have written to say that EastEnders had helped save their lives.

He said: "I've had a stack of mail about the subject, nearly all of it very positive. There have even been a couple of letters from young gay blokes who revealed to me that they had been on the brink of suicide before we introduced the subject.

"I replied to those guys and if that helped at all I'm very proud to have been the person in whom they confided.

"If something as trivial as a soap opera can save or change somebody's life, then I'm even happier to have been involved.

"There are a lot of people out there who only get their information from the TV - so at least we've done something positive."

The actor admitted that some of the mail hadn't been quite so supportive of what was happening in EastEnders.

He said: "There was nothing unpleasant or threatening about those letters."

And Mark admitted he had some doubts about the role when he was told that his soap character was going to turn out to be gay. He said: "I had serious reservations at first.

"During the script discussions I said that the story had to be totally credible and I think the mail bag has proved that we've achieved that."

Before EastEnders, Mark worked in theatre companies which toured schools and he couldn't believe his luck when he was offered the big breakthrough into the BBC's top soap.

He said: "I would have been a fool to turn it down and even more stupid not to go along with the developments in Tony's life - but kissing my TV boyfriend Simon was probably the hardest thing I've done in my career so far.

"Of course, a lot of people probably tuned in that night for the very first time. And, if they stayed with the story, so much the better."

Mark, who started acting after being a bank-clerk trainee, is enjoying his celebrity status in EastEnders.

His only hang-up is the amount of attention that intrudes into his private life.

He admitted: "I dislike the invasion of privacy and so does my girlfriend."

But he also had to admit that quitting the world of banking for his present job wasn't exactly a difficult choice to make. He said: "It was a good steady job, but I knew that it wasn't for me. Too boring."

SOAP BOX

Coronation Street: Des sets sail on his canal boat to get a rest from women problems, while Don hatches a plot when he hears that Mike has closed the factory and laid off the workforce. Mike gets a visit from Trading Standards - then from the police.

Eastenders: Tiffany has a heart-to-heart with Tony, while Carol plans to cheer up Bianca. Ted reaches breaking point over Sarah, Alistair has had enough of Frankie's behaviour and Robbie has a lot of explaining to do as the Jacksons' nightmare begins.

Brookside: Will Nat and Georgia leave Liverpool? Ollie and Bel are still trying to salvage their relationship and Jimmy is in turmoil over who is the father of Jackie's baby. Sinbad and Mick have words over the wedding.

Emmerdale: Disaster brews at The Woolpack as Donna and her mates discover alcopop. Terry is awkward with Helen after his one-night stand, while Eric Pollard is gunning for Vic after his insulting suggestion to Dee. Rachel is very uncomfortable with boyfriend Steve's involvement at Home Farm.

Neighbours: Stonefish arrives back in Ramsay Street with a surprise visitor for Angie. Shona goes to extraordinary lengths to hold Mal's attention and Cheryl vows to keep her son Darren out of jail, n matter what it takes and tries to prove him innocent of theft.

Home And Away: Casey feels miserable because she doesn't know where her life's heading, while Fisher pampers Marilyn. Tiegan's first day of school in Summer Bay is less than a success - keeping her out of trouble is no easy feat for Joey.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Mar 22, 1997
Words:2030
Previous Article:Star turns deserve all the credit; Out of the Box.
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