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The Box: It beats The Bill.

Byline: ROZ LAWS

IN the next few weeks, millions of viewers will see Karl Collins blown up, electrocuted, publicly humiliated and discovering his best friend in bed with his mum.

Life was never like this on The Bill! Karl was cool and dependable DC Danny Glaze for four years - but now he's back on TV in two new roles which are a world away from Sun Hill. And both have brought him back to his native Midlands.

First he came to Birmingham to film the offbeat BBC3 drama Grease Monkeys, which begins a second series on Sunday. Then he returned to his home city of Nottingham to make A Thing Called Love, which comes to BBC1 next Tuesday.

'I left The Bill a year ago because I wanted to do something different, and I've certainly achieved that,' smiles Karl, 34.

'My character in Grease Monkeys is nothing like Danny or me, I hope. Trevor is a complete geek.

'He's served a prison sentence for fraud and on his release he joins Dave, played by Ace Bhatti, selling dodgy used cars.

'He tries to commit suicide in the first episode by electrocuting himself in the bath. That was quite tricky. I had to lie under water with all my clothes on for take after take, keeping very still and not breathing, with my mouth and eyes open. I insisted they used warm water - I will suffer for my art but not that much!

'Then there's a massive explosion at the garage. Ace and I rehearsed diving on to crash mats, but when we did it for real we didn't have to throw ourselves because we could really feel the power of the blast.

'In a particularly embarrassing scene, Trevor is forced to show a customer his private parts and she says 'It's not as big as I thought it would be'.

'A Thing Called Love is about six Nottingham friends including PaulNicholls. I play doorman Floyd who feels left out after the arrival of his baby. In the third episode he takes out his frustration by beating up a punter, then comes home to find Paul's character in bedwith his mother. She's Cathy Tyson, who is only about four years older than me!'

Both dramas reunited Karl with old friends from Central's Junior Television Workshop. He joined at 13 along with Ace Bhatti and Chris Gascoyne, who played bigamist Peter Barlow in Coronation Street and now appears in A Thing Called Love.

'I was 14 when I got my first paid job, with Chris in the Birmingham-made TV series Dramarama.

'I was in plays at Charnwood School, but I thought you had to be a rich kid with pushy parents to be an actor - and that's not me. I grew up on the Clifton Estate which was Europe's biggest council estate. You could live and die there and not see the rest of Nottingham. 'My mum Elaine still lives there. She's separated from my dad Osbourne Myers, who used to run the Marcus Garvey community centre.

'We were paid pounds 300 for Dramarama - a fantastic amount of money. I remember working on a programme called Your Mother Wouldn't Like It and my wages doubling on my 16th birthday. I didn't flash my cash about but we went to Alton Towers a lot.'

The Bill was Karl's big break, which brought him extremes of fan mail.

'I hada very abusive piece of race-hate mail. The police said I was one of several people, like footballers and politicians, to get this nasty calling card.

'There was also a woman who was a bit obsessed with me and wrote every week. She even sent me a pounds 5 note in a Valentine card. It was sweet, but I sent it back - you have to be careful or you could get involved in all sorts of madness.'

Karl, who has a partner and young daughter, stood out when he joined The Bill thanks to his huge afro hairstyle.

'I convinced them to let me keep it, but after 18 months they said 'Okay, joke's over, get rid of it now'. I grew it when I left and it's pretty big in Grease Monkeys, but I had to crop it again for A Thing Called Love.

'People recognise me however I have my hair. They often say'What'sgoingon in The Bill? The storylines are ridiculous now'. I still have friends in it so I have to be loyal.

'Actually I don't watch it - I don't have the time. I've only recently got a Freeview box so I can get BBC3. Five channels were too much for me - I don't know how people can watch all those satellite channels. There are better things I could be doing!'


VERSATILE: Karl Collins with his colleagues in A Thing Called Love and, right, as Trevor Baptiste in Grease Monkeys; BLAST OFF: Ace Bhatti and Karl; TOP COP: The Bill's Danny Glaze
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Sep 19, 2004
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