Gail McIntyre is to get a shock when she finds an intruder in her home who’s intent on stealing her favourite necklace! Petty criminal Michael is played by lifelong Corrie fan Les Dennis, who talks here about his Weatherfield debut and how he feels about making the transition from game show host to actor:
How excited are you about getting a role in Coronation Street?
It is absolutely a dream come true for me because I have loved Corrie since I was a kid. I’ve watched it since the very beginning and, of course, I was famous for my Mavis impression. So many people on Twitter have asked if I’m going to come in as Mavis’s long-lost cousin.
Have you had a chance to do the Mavis impression yet in the Kabin?
No, I haven’t been in the Kabin yet. But the thing is my Mavis was on stage with Dustin Gee’s Vera, not Rita. My Mavis never met Rita – it was an unlikely pairing for the sketch. I am looking forward to going into the Kabin and talking to Rita, though. Although Thelma Barlow did tell me that if she ever got that “I don’t really know” line in a script she used to say, “I can’t say this, it’s Les Dennis’s line!”
How has your Corrie experience been so far?
It was a whirlwind in that I got the call from my agent on the Monday as I was driving to the theatre in Bath asking if I would be interested in Corrie. The screen test was the following Monday with Helen Worth and a full crew, which felt quite surreal. And then the following Monday, I was running down the cobbles in my first scene. That was awe-inspiring enough but when I go into the Rovers for the first time or the Kabin, then I’m sure I’m going to be like Charlie in the Chocolate factory.
Tell us about your first day on set…
I kept thinking that I’d love to take some photos, but I wasn’t sure I was allowed. Then someone said I could take one of myself outside the Rovers, which I was thrilled about. What was weird was that we were filming on the new set and when I asked where make-up or costume was, no one else knew either.
Did your first scene run smoothly?
The first thing I had to do was leg it out of Gail’s house and run up the cobbles and nto Michael’s van to make his getaway. And when I did the first rehearsal, someone said, “Oh, better not get in the grips’ van”. I had run down the street, seen a van and jumped in it. But the real van was behind it and I had jumped into the production van. I thought it was a bit big, but behind it was the grubby little white van.
Is your character Michael going to be serious or comedic?
I don’t know yet where my character will fall in that spectrum. I know the storyline is about restorative justice in that Michael Rodwell is not a career burglar. He’s a guy who thinks that the house is empty, that nobody will get hurt, they are insured so they will get the money back. He thinks no one is getting harmed.
But it goes wrong because Gail and Kylie come back to the house and find him there. He runs away, but will be caught and Gail will be given the chance, through restorative justice, to come face to face with him and let him know how the burglary did indeed hurt her. But from that an unlikely friendship will eventually form, which is not going to please her family. So whether he becomes comedic, I don’t know.
How determined were you to get the role?
Gray O’Brien [who played Corrie’s Tony Gordon] is in the play I am in and he helped me with the script for my screen test. He was Gail for a week with me – every spare moment he had me rehearsing. That’s what helped me a lot in the screen test; I didn’t need the script and did it exactly as if we were filming the scene and Gray had been Gail even down to the accent. He was fantastic.
In fact, he’d stayed at mine over the weekend before my screen test and we were driving to Norwich for the play straight after my screen test, so he came with me and stayed in the car in the car park while I did it. I left the window open for him!
Do you still see yourself as an entertainer or do you now think you’ve proved yourself as an actor?
I put ‘actor’ on my passport now, I used to put ‘entertainer’ but I now put ‘actor’ and I confidently put ‘actor’. A review recently said that Les Dennis is now proving he is a comic actor rather than a comic who acts a bit. I have worked hard at doing that and this, for me, is the ultimate prize for that hard work.
What made you decide to go into acting?
Family Fortunes gave me the chance to go away and quietly learn the craft of acting. I’d go and do a play for £250 a week at the Watermill and learn it quietly and slowly and build up. I got quite a few parts in shows such as Casualty or The Bill, but I always ended up dead or behind bars!
Les Dennis makes his Coronation Street debut on Monday 24 March