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My brother was a fitness freak and he died at 52. I quit Corrie because there's other things I want to do before I shuffle off; CRAIG CHARLES: ACTOR, POET... AND 51-YEAR-OLD DJ; EXCLUSIVE.


Craig Charles has just come back from having a sneaky ciggie, and is now clutching an ice cold glass of white wine. But that is about as crazy as it gets these days for the actor and DJ.

Now into his fifth decade, the star - who quit Coronation Street last month - says he is starting to feel old age creeping in.

"I have been noticing that I do get too tired if I don't have a proper night's kip. I am 51 for God's sake - I'm not a young 20-year-old," he laughs.

"When I DJ I really go for it, we are a party in a box. I do get a bit tired when I come off stage. I'm getting disco injuries. I am starting to make noises when I bend over.

"You know what, I probably drink too much, I smoke too much, and I am trying to be better. I'm going to get one of those vapers. I will try to stop at some stage soon because cigarettes kill you, and I don't want to die just yet."

But Craig has another, more poignant reason to question his own mortality.

Almost a year ago he was in the I'm A Celebrity jungle when he was given the devastating news that his older brother Dean had died suddenly. Viewers saw a clearly shocked Craig break the news to his camp mates and leave the jungle to return home to his grieving family.

Looking back now, Craig says his brother's death was instrumental in his decision to quit Corrie after 10 years of playing lovable cabbie Lloyd Mullaney.

He explains: "He was 52 when he died, and he was a fitness freak. He cycled to work, didn't smoke. I smoke, I'm not a fitness freak at all.

"And he had this narrowing of the arteries leading to his heart which formed a blood clot, and he just dropped dead at work at 52.

"I just thought 'well I am 51, if that happened to me would I be happy with what I have contributed artistically?'

"I thought, 'no I wouldn't'. There's things I want to do before I shuffle off. There are things I would like to achieve."

Looking at Craig's schedule, you wonder how much more he can fit in.

He hosts a BBC Radio 6 Music show, stood in for Graham Norton on Radio 2 over the summer and does weekly live DJ gigs.

He has an album in the charts and is about to start filming a new series of Red Dwarf, the sci-fi TV show where he made his name playing Dave Lister. And we are chatting backstage after a spine-tingling performance of his poem Scary Fairy - live with the BBC Philharmonic orchestra, no less. It is no wonder he needs a drink and a fag.

But it is all very tame compared to the Craig of a few years ago. In 2006 he was pictured smoking crack cocaine in a car. A stint in The Priory followed.

With the support of his wife Jackie and his bosses at Corrie, he quit drugs and got his life back on track.

And Craig says these days you are more likely to find him trying to sneak in a nap between his DJ gigs. He says: "The thing about it is, I don't really go into the audience. I arrive with my team, do the gig, get in the car and go home. It is not as glamorous as people would have you believe - television, radio, or international DJ. It is a lot of travel, short bursts of activity and go back to sleep."

Talking to Craig, it is clear that his family is his top priority. He has a 27-year-old son, Jack, with his first wife, actress Cathy Tyson, and daughters Anna-Jo, 17, and Nellie, 12, with Jackie. And it is his daughters who inspired Scary Fairy.

When they were little he made up the poem as he was reading to them at bedtime, gradually building it up and making it more gory and gruesome as the girls got older.

He explains: "It all started when my kids were into Harry Potter and the Goosebumps books.

"I used to make up little poems when I was reading to them before they went to sleep. Eventually it built up and built up and it is 32 minutes long now.

"When I decided that I was going to leave Corrie at the beginning of the year, Nellie said, 'Dad why don't you get that poem out that you used to tell us when we were kids and do something with it?'

"So I dusted it off and thought it held up quite well. I went to the BBC - you don't get if you don't ask, do you?

"I asked if there was any chance I could take over Friday Night is Music Night for Halloween, and can I nick the Philharmonic orchestra?

"Poetry is how I started out. I never imagined that one day I would be performing with the BBC Philharmonic. I have always tried to put music with poetry but it was always rock bands and funk bands. Doing it with an orchestra, top composer and top players is a dream come true."

Scary Fairy is about to be made into an animated film, and Craig has more fairytale-inspired poems up his sleeve.

But he says that if things don't work out, he would be quite happy to go back onto the Corrie cobbles and continue Lloyd's bromance with Steve McDonald.

"I will miss all the people, the cast and the crew. I will miss my mates, Steve McDonald - Simon Gregson. I will miss him terribly.

"We are best mates in real life. He lives round the corner from me and he comes into my house, picks up my newspaper and goes to the toilet and comes back 15 minutes later and says 'sorry about that'.

"Corrie is such a nice place to work, they make it very difficult to leave. It is cold out there for actors a lot of the time. A lot of people leave to go onto bigger and better things and then you see them three years later with a walk-on part in Waterloo Road. But I didn't leave in a box did I? So if it all blows up in my face I could hopefully go back with my tail between my legs.

"I know it is a risk and that. But Coronation Street will go on and on without me, but they wouldn't do Rred dwarf without me, so unless I agreed, they would scrap it. And I have known those guys for 30 years and it is nice to go and finish that adventure."

Craig thinks his ethos of being nice to people along the road has kept him in work when he has been through tough times.

"When my life has blown up in my face, people have known the real me and stood by me," he says. "I am always nice to people, a I am easy to work with, and the gift of the gab comes in handy."

Friday Night is Music Night: Wizards, Witches and Scary Fairies was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 last night and will be available for 30 days afterwards via the Radio 2 website.

"I'm not a 20-year-old, I'm starting to make noises when I bend over CRAIG SAYS HE HAS CUT DOWN ON HIS PARTYING


PAIN Leaving the celebrity jungle

SUPPORT With wife Jackie after brother's death

BEST MATES Craig with pal Simon Gregson in Coronation Street

RED DWARF Craig is returning to role that made him famous

DECKS HAND His DJ set at last year's Lindisfarne Festival

BACK TO FUTURE Red Dwarf is just part of Craig's plans

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2015
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