Wednesday, 18 March 2015

EXCLUSIVE Coronation Street Blog interview with David Neilson

I’ve had to pinch myself a few times since I started writing for the Coronation Street Blog but never more so than last Friday when I met up with David Neilson in Westminster, London to talk about his life and career and 20 years spent on Britain’s most famous cobbled street.

I was 12 when Roy Cropper first arrived in Weatherfield, mithering Deirdre in that block of flats on Crimea Street. I’ve grown up with Roy and seen him become one of the most loved characters in Coronation Street history – a national treasure!

David Neilson with Corrie Blogger, Martin Leay
(Photo by David Doig)

David Neilson doesn’t do many interviews and so, it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to speak to him exclusively for the Coronation Street Blog. He was great company and only too happy to chat to the many people who recognised him during the hour and three quarters we spent together. I am very grateful to David for being so generous with his time – and on his birthday, no less!

There was so much to talk about that I have split the interview into three parts, the first of which you can read below. This part focuses on David Neilson - his background, his passion for acting and how he came to play Roy Cropper in Coronation Street. 

The second part, in which David talks about playing Roy over the past 20 years, will be on the website tomorrow (Thursday 19th March).

And the final part of the interview, in which David talks about Roy’s relationship with Hayley, working with Julie Hesmondhalgh, and what the future may bring for Roy Cropper, will be up on the website on Friday 20th March.

So, here is part one of our exclusive interview with David Neilson…

Martin Leay (ML): What made you want to become an actor? 

David Neilson (DN): I didn’t want the life that was offered me. I was a gas fitter when I left school - when I was 15.  My brother had tried for drama school. I remember him telling me he’d done this audition and you didn’t need O-Levels - you could just go along. And I thought I’d like to go into the movies. I really like those old movies like ‘Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’,  ‘A Taste of Honey’, ‘Billy Liar’ – those movies were about escape – ‘get out, you don’t have to be in this thing’.

ML: How did you break into acting?

DN: I was dead lucky. I used to go to Technical College in Leicester – a day release thing opposite the Phoenix Theatre and I went to see ‘The Caretaker’. I didn’t know what it was but I went to see it and Anthony Hopkins was in it. It blew me away, the whole thing – I thought, wow, I understand that world. So I did a bit of that for my (drama school) audition and I did a bit of Shakespeare. I did one audition and they offered me a place and it changed my life in one afternoon. I came to London and I did a lot of theatre work but I had unemployment as well and picked my tools up again.

"How's that old boyfriend then, Nat?"
(David Neilson in Life Is Sweet)

ML: You were in two Mike Leigh films. How did that come about?

DN: I did a bit of plumbing for Mike! I’m in ‘Life Is Sweet’ and I’ve got one line. I’m the plumber - I’m working with Claire Skinner and I carry a radiator. Mike rang me up and said there’s this part. So I did it and the next one was ‘Secrets & Lies’. We filmed it on a Saturday in June 1995 and one of the actors in it was saying ‘it’s one of my ambitions to be in a Mike Leigh film’ and he said ‘my other ambition is to be in Coronation Street’. I said ‘that’s really weird because I’m doing both of your ambitions this weekend’. On the Saturday I was in the Mike Leigh film and Sunday was my first day on Coronation Street.

ML: How did you land the part of Roy Cropper?

DN: My friend Stephen Mallatratt was writing for the show… we were at drama school together. He’d written one of the 6 episodes. He got a call from the producers saying ‘this character’s got this facility with language – you’ve written him a bit more downmarket than the others - can you just adjust it?’ He was thinking about this guy and how completely inept he was and he thought of me! He rang casting and it was 5o’clock… and he said ‘have you cast this character?’ and they said ‘no, but we will tomorrow morning’. Now if he’d have been half an hour later it wouldn’t have happened because they’d all have gone home – if I’d have been doing a training film somewhere – or if he’d have written it right in the first place, this chance would never have come up. When I got there for this audition, or just an interview – there were all sorts of shapes and sizes – there were older people, fat ones, little ones and the one thing I realised was they didn’t know what they were looking for. So I got it and that was it.

ML: Were you a fan of Coronation Street before you joined the show?

DN: I liked the humour. There have been some great talents and there still are hugely talented people and I know the care that goes into it.

ML: Are there any characters you would like to do more scenes with?

DN: It depends what the scene is. There are some people you never get to speak to apart from serving them in the cafĂ©. I enjoy watching other characters. I don’t do anything really with Steve McDonald and for me, he’s the centre of The Street – I think he’s got the spirit of Jack Duckworth. He’s got that humour. I love him – Simon and Craig Charles together – I think they’re great.

ML: So you watch Corrie?

DN: Yeah, you have to.  I go through binges. When you’re not in the episode you can sit back and say ‘this is remarkable really’. Some of the things in it are fantastic. I can watch it and feel very proud to be part of it. And there are some really good people in it and some really good people have gone through it. I think it’s a good show.

ML: What is it that you like about it?

DN: The show is entertainment for people who graft all day. It is something they can switch on and go ‘I know where I am here, I’ll watch them have the problems’. And people are very sophisticated about it. Our viewers know what’s right and wrong. They have an instinct for it.

ML: Can you see yourself doing another 20 years at Corrie or are there other things you would like to try?

DN: I’m very fortunate – it’s been very good to me and I feel very valued by the company.  I’m quite happy – there are things I might want to do, it depends what I’m offered. I’ll always be grateful to it, whatever happens. It’s a great show to be part of. I went in for 6 episodes and I’ve been in for 20 years so that’s quite immense really when I think about it. But I don’t normally think about it!

ML: Is it difficult to keep your day job and your private life separate?

DN: Yes… but you learn what to do. I was a plumber but when I finished work I didn’t go home and sit in the bathroom all night. It’s a job.

ML: Can it be difficult to switch off from certain storylines?

DN: I’ve lost more sleep about being a plumber than I have about being an actor because it really matters to people if there is water pouring through their ceiling. But because you are tapping into emotions and experiences that you’ve had, it must open up certain things within you so that if it’s a depressing storyline you can get depressed. You have to look after yourself.

ML: Do you think Roy could fit a boiler?

DN: I think he could, intellectually… but I wouldn’t let him!

Be sure to log on to the Coronation Street Blog tomorrow (Thursday 19th March) for the second part of our exclusive interview with David Neilson, which will focus on David’s role as Corrie’s Roy Cropper.

Interview by Martin Leay
You can follow Martin on Twitter @mpleay
You can listen to Martin on Croydon Radio

Download our App | Follow on Twitter @CoroStreetBlog | Like on Facebook

Creative Commons Licence
All original work on the Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


Sarah Heaton said...

Brilliant, I really enjoyed reading this! Roy is my favourite character, and I am so envious that you got to chat with David Neilson, he seems like a great guy. I'm very much looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

Rachal said...

Love the interview and so looking forward to parts 2 and 3. David and Roy are National Treasures. It's lovely to get his take on things.

Llifon said...

Great interview! Wow 2.45 hours with him that was great! Very lucky!

Flaming Nora said...

Loved it!

Beth said...

Fantastic, thanks for that. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3!

Laura said...

Really enjoyed this, very much looking forward to the next two parts. What a lovely surprise this morning!

As much as he says he feels lucky, Coronation Street and the viewers are infinitely more so to have him on our screens as Roy.

Gail said...

Martin, thank you so very much for sharing. A fan in Canada.

Graeme N said...

Excellent :)

abbyk said...

Thank you, Martin. Just finished reading part 2. These are fantastic.

vintgal003 said...

Gosh I ENVY you for be able to sit down with 'our Roy'...gosh...I would love to have a cup of tea with him!

Thanks SO MUCH for the excellent parts 1 and 2...looking very forward to your part 3 !!

Martin Leay said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments - glad you enjoyed the interview. It was definitely a very memorable day.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Our Top 10 Blog Posts in last 7 days (automatically updated)

Click on a name to find out more about your Corrie favourites!

adam barlow aidan connor alan halsall alex bain alexander bain alison king alison sinclair all about soap awards alma baldwin amy barlow amy kelly andrea beckett andy whyment anna windass antony cotton audrey roberts awards baby Oliver barbara knox barlows battleaxes becky mcdonald behind the scenes ben price ben tagoe bet gilroy bet lynch beth tinker bethany platt betty driver betty turpin betty williams betty's hotpot bev callard beverley callard bill roache billy mayhew billy the vicar blanche hunt brian packham brooke vincent bruno langley can i visit the coronation street set Canada canadian coronation street fans carla connor Cath Tyldesley catherine tyldesley cathy matthews celebrities on coronation street characters joining coronation street characters leaving coronation street cherylee houston chesney brown chris gascoyne chris harper claire king classic corrie clothes worn on coronation street colson smith competition connor mcintyre conversation street coronation street coronation street art coronation street babies Coronation Street Blog - the book coronation street cartoons coronation street fan events coronation street fan of the week coronation street fans coronation street funerals coronation street history coronation street in canada coronation street look-a-like coronation street map coronation street men coronation street merchandise coronation street news coronation street preview coronation street spoilers coronation street weekly update coronation street weekly updates coronation street writers craig tinker damon alexis-rochefort damon rochefort daniel brocklebank daran little david neilson david platt debbie oates debbie rush debbie webster deirdre barlow deirdre hunt denise osbourne derek griffiths dev alahan eileen derbyshire eileen grimshaw Elle Mulvaney ellie leach ellie-louise leach elsie tanner emily bishop emily nugent ena sharples erica stewart exclusive interview exercise dvds famous people who have been in corrie fat brenda favourite females favourite males faye windass feckless fellas in coronation street filming locations filming mistakes fiz brown fiz stape florizel street flying ducks gail rodwell gary windass gary's army diaries gay and lesbians gay men in coronation street gay men in soaps gay women in soaps granada manchester coronation street set granada studios gurn of the week helen flanagan helen worth hilda ogden hilda ogden's curlers Hope Stape hot pot how to contact coronation street inside soap inside soap magazine izzy armstrong jack p shepherd Jack P. Shepherd jane danson jean alexander jennie mcalpine jigsaw jimmi harkishin job vacancies at coronation street joe duttine johnny connor jonathan harvey julie goodyear julie hesmondhalgh kabin kate fitzgerald kate ford katherine kelly kathy jones katie mcglynn ken barlow kev webster kevin webster kieran roberts kirk sutherland kylie platt kylie turner kym marsh leanne barlow leanne battersby leanne tilsley liam bairstow lily platt lisa george liz mcdonald lloyd mullaney Lucy Fallon luke britton maggie jones malcolm hebden manchester tart marc baylis maria connor mark llewellin martin sterling mary taylor matriachs maxine's bench michael le vell michelle connor mikey north mikey north miley windass minnie caldwell mothers on the cobbles music in the rovers nathan curtis new set new zealand newton and ridley nick tilsley nick's bistro nigel pivaro no.1 Coronation Street no.11 coronation street no.13 coronation street no.3 coronation street no.5 coronation street no.6 coronation street no.7 coronation street no.9 coronation street norris cole norris cole's brother nuttalls brewery odd side of the street official coronation street website oldham coliseum oliver battersby on location opening titles original cast our blog is the best blog in the world outside broadcast paper boys paper girls pat phelan pat phoenix patti claire patti clare paula lane peter barlow peter gunn pets on coronation street pictures of the coronation street set pigeons pillars of the community platt family plot holes props qasim akhtar quay street returning characters rita fairclough rita littlewood rita sullivan rita tanner road to coronation street rob donovan rob mallard romanian holiday rosamund street rosie webster rovers bosses rovers fire rovers return rovers return barmaids rovers return fire rovers return landlady roy and hayley roy cropper roy's rolls roys rolls ryan thomas sair khan sally webster sally and tim sally dynevor sally dyvenor Sally Metcalfe sally webster sally whittaker sam aston samia ghadie samia longchambon sarah platt Sarah-Louise Platt schmeichel sean tully shayne ward shelley king simon barlow simon crowther simon gregson sinead tinker six episodes per week sophie webster special effects speculation spin-off spoilers state of the street steve mcdonald storyline speculation storylines streetcars sue cleaver sue johnston sue nicholls susan barlow susan oudot sylvia cropper sylvia goodwin terry duckworth the corrie years the kabin the Nazirs the newspaper boy the road to coronation street through the years tim metcalfe tina o'bren tina o'brien Tina O’Brien tiricia hopkins todd grimshaw tony warren Tony Warren inspiration tours of coronation street toyah battersby tracy barlow trafford set tram crash tricia hopkins tyrone dobbs underworld underworld sign unofficial book unofficial merchandise unseen characters viaduct street victoria court fire vip bloggers walking tours watch coronation street online weatherfield weatherfield arms weatherfield council weatherfield county weatherfield county football club weatherfield fire station weatherfield gazette weatherfield haulage Weatherfield high Weatherfield Open Days weatherfield style weatherfield wayfarer websters' autos wedding wedding dress weddings weekly awards weekly update where have you seen william roache William Roache Interview window cleaners writers for soaps Yasmeen nazir zeedan nazir