YOU'RE OUT, KID!; Street's Andy tells of agony as bosses sacked him after 8 years.
Puzzled and more than a little nervous, Nick - Coronation Street's nice- guy barman Andy McDonald - made his way to the office of Brian Park.
Minutes later he was being told by Park that his Corrie career was over. The Axeman of Weatherfield had struck again.
"I thought: 'Oh s**t, what am I going to do, how am I going to pay the mortgage?'" says Nick, 23, who was just 15 when he won his role in the show.
"I was driving home, thinking what on earth to tell my girlfriend Denise and wondering what she would say.
"I told her to sit down, that I had something to tell her. She said: 'It's your job, isn't it?' She knows me backwards. We just sat and had a chat about it.
"But what can you do? I couldn't go mad or say I'm going to have this out with Brian. You have to keep yourself together, you can't just fall apart."
Nick, who earned pounds 60,000 a year, was one of three stars booted out in May as part of Park's soap shake-up. He joined Sherrie Hewson (Maureen Holdsworth) and Peter Armitage (Bill Webster) in the clear-out. Other actors chopped this year include Peter Baldwin (Derek Wilton) and Geoff Hinsliff (Don Brennan).
But it was the sacking of Nick, one of the Street's youngest stars, that surprised most people. The next day his screen family Charlie Lawson, Beverley Callard (seen right with a young Nick) and Simon Gregson were first on the phone.
Nick says: "Everybody was ringing to ask if it was true, because it was all over the papers. Charlie rang and said: 'What is going on?' I told him what the crack was. He said I would never struggle for work. He was very concerned and I love him for it.
Bev offered to help in any way possible. Simon is never usually serious but now he was, asking what was happening.
"I told him I was sacked and he said: 'Oh, OK - but you'll still play cricket for us in the summer, won't you?' That's typical Simon."
Nick started in the soap with schoolboy chum Simon who plays Andy's twin Steve. With parents Liz (Callard) and Jim (Lawson), Andy McDonald became one of the most familiar faces in the Street.
Nick hadn't a clue that his tenure at Granada was coming to an abrupt end - although he had felt disappointed that his character was going nowhere.
"Brian told me what I already knew, that Andy's part was in a rut," he says. "They were struggling to find storylines to get him out of it. He was too much of a goody two-shoes. Brian said the best thing would be to give the character a break and look at bringing him back in the future.
"Looking at it now, I realise it is probably best for both me and the character."
Andy was constantly in the shadow of his roguish twin Steve and warring parents Liz and Jim. He was either seen cleaning glasses or drinking on the other side of the bar.
Nick, too, was losing interest in Andy and going through the motions with his lines. "When you are saying 'pounds 1.50 please, Rita', and 'Thanks, Des' and 'Where's Jack?' week in and week out, it gets to be a bind.
"I don't think there was anything really wrong with the character. But he wasn't going the way I wanted him to."
Nick wishes Andy had got into more scrapes. In recent months he has been at loggerheads with Liz over her fling with ex-con Fraser Henderson (Glyn Grain). And they clashed dramatically after a gunman burst into their house.
Nick enjoyed the scenes but wanted them to develop even more dramatically. "I'd have loved Andy to have gone off the rails," he says.
"It would have been great to have a huge bust-up between him and Steve - a bitter feud between the brothers."
But it was not to be. Neither was Nick's dream of becoming a Street fixture. "After three years, I thought I might be in it forever," he says. "But you see people come and go and you realise it is not for life. Bill Roache (Ken Barlow) is different - he is here for life. But I started to get past the stage of thinking it would be like that for me.
"But I need to work. I would like to present The Big Breakfast like Simon did. I can't see myself doing Shakespeare but I would have a go at anything. I have got to become a real actor now and go out and do a bit."
Nick also revealed that he really wanted to be bad boy Steve. "There are many times when I have thought I could have played him," he says. "And Simon would have been playing the good character."
He landed the dream job of Andy after being spotted in a charity play by a Granada talent scout.
"They came down and took a few pictures of a few of us," he says. "About a week later, they rang the school and asked if Simon and I could go along for an audition.
"Bev Callard and Charlie Lawson where there, with about 12 lads also hoping for the part. We were put into an improvisation situation and because Simon and I were the only two from our school, we teamed up.
"Coronation Street asked us to go back for another audition. When we got there, we were the only ones around. The Granada people started to tell us how our lives were going to change, and all about contracts, and I did not realise what was happening.
"I can remember getting back to school and having no money. I needed to borrow 10p to phone my mum and let her know.
"I said: 'Mam, Mam, I've got it!' She thought I was stark raving mad because I had not told her exactly what was happening." The teenager's first appearance was the 1989 episode in which Alan Bradley died under a tram - which attracted 25 million viewers.
"I just had one scene, where the McDonalds were moving in. It was the first time you saw the boys. I was terrified - I was still only 15."
Nick relied on help from co-stars Bev and Charlie. "They were brilliant. I was under their wings for three years.
I like Simon an awful lot, too - he makes me laugh. He has a sense of humour that is peculiar to him.
"We have helped each other because we were both complete beginners." Nick enjoys the banter with Simon during rehearsals. "He has a glint in his eye and I will burst out laughing, but he never does it during the shoot.
"Julie Goodyear (Bet Gilroy) was the same. She would crack me up during rehearsals, but when it came to the take, she was word perfect. Roy Barraclough (Alec) is another who enjoys a laugh but is a complete professional." Nick may have an angelic image on screen but he sometimes loses his temper - especially playing for the Corrie cricket team.
He says: "The cricket nights are fun and at the end of the season we have an awards evening for the lads, when Charlie Lawson hands out some daft prizes over a few pints.
"Last year I got one for losing my temper on the pitch. I am a different person once I pull my cricket whites on.
"I'm always arguing with umpires over appeals but I have tried to curb it as I got told off for it last season."
You might expect Nick to be bitter at losing a role in one of Britain's top soaps. But he does not blame Brian Park.
"He is only doing his job as viewers demand more exciting storylines rather than character development. Previously the cast was the cast, and had been for years. So if you lose your job after that length of time, you are struggling. I would not say people are frightened, rather they are concerned. But that is because there have been so many changes in such a short space of time.
"When you get headlines such as Street Massacre and Bloodbath On The Street, the cast obviously are shocked and wonder what is happening. But people are not saying: 'Be on your best behaviour or you will be out'."
He denies the soap has become sleazy with too much sex, as colleague Bill Waddington (Percy Sugden) claimed recently.
"The viewers seem to be looking for exciting things to happen all the time, with people jumping into bed with each other.
"But I don't think it is any sexier now than it was 15 years ago. Sex as a storyline is a good seller and it has always been in the Street. Just look at one of the biggest storylines ever, the affair between Deirdre and Mike Baldwin. But it is true to say there are a few younger characters in it now, which is good,
"And they are having sex - when in the past it was just the older characters getting down to it."
Nick is now pondering his future. "I think I'll be back in the Street," he says.
"They are not killing me off and my family is there. But in an ideal world, I'll not be waiting for them to phone me to do odd episodes.
"In an ideal world, I'll be sitting in Los Angeles next year working on the next Lethal Weapon film with Mel Gibson!"
MY DAYS OF SOAP AND GLORY
Nick describes some favourite episodes from his eight years in Weatherfield:
My first fight scene with Simon was fantastic. I was only 16 and we had great fun. It was my first taste of proper action.
We had to remember how to move so that it looked as if we were having a real go at each other.
Andy and Steve were fighting over a girl. Simon and I ended up costing the props department a fortune because we trashed the set.
I really enjoyed a day at Knowsley Safari Park with one of Andy's girlfriend's and her little boy.
I was also butted by an elephant when I got too close and ended up with a big lump on my head - which made it even more memorable.
Jim (Charlie Lawson) was suffering with his drinking and had the shakes.
We rehearsed it a couple of times but when it came to the take, I found myself sitting in awe of Charlie because he was so good."
Andy was drinking too much. Jim challenged him to a drinking session to show him where he was going wrong. It really frightened Andy to think his dad was going back on the bottle.
All the adrenaline was pumping and I ripped Charlie's shirt during the scene.
ANDY decided he wanted to join the army like his dad. Liz was gutted and gave him a good talking-to.
Bev was brilliant - word perfect - and I remember thinking: 'Will I ever be this good as an actor?'"
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|Publication:||The Mirror (London, England)|
|Date:||Jul 7, 1997|
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