David Platt isn’t exactly someone you envy: the last 12 months have, for instance, seen him reel from the murder of his wife and almost kill his daughter in a car crash. And yet actor Jack P Shepherd doesn’t think his Coronation Street character has got it all bad:
“I was thinking the other day that, despite all the drama, I wouldn’t mind David’s life,” he deadpans. “He’s got a job and his own business – well it will be his when his grandma dies. People will always need their hair cut. He’s got healthy kids. All right, so his wife’s dead, but he’s got his own house. It’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?”
It’s a comment delivered in typically dry style and a reminder that – despite being only 28-years-old – Shepherd is an old head on young shoulders. He’s had to be that way, having been a mainstay on Corrie since 2000 when he debuted at the age of 12.
“I was the only kid surrounded by adults, so I heard things as a child that I probably shouldn’t have. It was an adult environment,” he says of those early years. “I wouldn’t say I was mature – because I don’t feel mature in any way. But I feel that I’m a lot older in my head than I actually am, if that makes sense. I actually feel like I’m 78-years-old.”
And in a ruthless business where child actors are routinely replaced in their teens, Shepherd has managed to remain a constant. It’s unusual, maybe even unique on Coronation Street. So what’s the secret to emerging relatively unscathed and still employed?
“Maybe it’s just having the right people around you. Helen Worth [screen mum Gail] has been here over 40 years and she’s always been my guide. Everybody I’ve worked with has guided me in some way. So it’s that and also the potential for always getting storylines out of the Platts.”
The family’s most memorable crisis of 2016 saw David seek revenge on the thug who knifed wife Kylie, only for the plan to go awry in classic soap style when poor Anna Windass ended up burned and scarred for life after the fuel-laden vehicle David had been driving exploded.
It’s a turn in the spotlight that has earned Shepherd a nomination for Best Serial Drama Performance at this year’s NTAs (vote here), but I wonder whether there could be more anguish to come for David? After all, soaps exist in a very moral universe and David has yet to be punished for his actions.
“Well, apart from the Platts, nobody knows that David had all that petrol in the car. So if Anna gets the full facts and decides to sue, then David could be looking at some prison time,” Shepherd comments.
Some would argue, of course, that David has suffered enough already, having lost the love of his life. But when I point out that it would be hard for viewers to see David find happiness by embarking, say, on a new romance, Shepherd disagrees:
“Whenever I say that David could go off with other people, journalists have always said that he has to be sad forever because what happened with Kylie was so traumatic. But things do move on quickly in soap. Before you know it, he’ll be shacked up with somebody else or getting married again.
“It’s one of the reasons I like playing the character so much. I just read what the writers have in store for David and believe in it. And if I believe in it, then the audience will believe in it too.”
But does he have a craving to spread his wings? Seventeen years is a long time in one role and Shepherd was seen last year starring in short film Taubman, written and directed by his Corrie brother Ben Price. Was this the start of a move away from the Street?
“Well, the Platts always get the good stories, so I’ve been lucky. But our producer Kate Oates is receptive to people going off and being creative. Before she arrived, there was always a blanket ban: thou shalt not go off and do other things.
“But the actors who want to venture out are the ones she wants to keep hold of because they end up bringing a different element back to the Street. So, she encourages us rather than pooh-poohing our ideas.”
However, one place you won’t be seeing Shepherd anytime soon is on a reality show, despite his support on Twitter for Emmerdale’s Adam Thomas during the latest series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! When I ask about him doing a stint in the jungle, he quickly rules himself out:
“I’m all right with insects, so as far as all that goes, I’d be very boring. The only problem would be someone telling a joke and me saying something offensive and getting escorted out of the jungle. So I’d come back to Manchester and I wouldn’t have a job anymore.”
All of which would be a terrible shame, seeing as Corrie is currently on rejuvenated form under boss Kate Oates. When I ask about the state of the Street, he notes, “I think Kate’s done a great job so far. She’s giving everyone more of a chance to be on screen, so that the viewers can see a greater number of characters. I thought it was really noticeable during the big crash in October – we saw all the cast having their own input. For me, the show is at its best when the whole Street comes together.”
And as for his personal contribution, why does Shepherd feel that David and Kylie’s story resonated so much? “It was the chemistry. The fans bought into David and Kylie and believed that they were a couple. So, naturally, it was especially sad when Kylie was murdered.”
But, hey, at least it’s got him on the awards shortlist. “Yep,” he laughs, that healthy realist humour coming back into play, “that’s the top for me, really. It’s not going to get any better now.”
But if we’ve learned one thing, it’s to never underestimate David Platt. Coronation Street would certainly be a poorer place without his streak of devilry and Shepherd is in doubt that David’s potential to cause mayhem is always present:
“The beauty of the Platts is that you can do both funny and serious plotlines with them. One minute Gail’s singing in the kitchen, the next David’s flipping a car over and she’s crying in the street.” Let’s hope for our sake – if not for Weatherfield’s – that there are plenty of Platt-related crises still to come.
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