For Jack P Shepherd, this is an anniversary week. He’s just marked 16 years on Coronation Street, which means that the 28-year-old actor has spent over half his life playing the role of David Platt.
“Yeah, I started Corrie when I was 12, so I’ve been David longer than I’ve been just Jack, so that’s weird,” he admits. “It is over half my life, but it’s not like I’ve spent the time in prison, do you know what I mean?”
You can get a lesser sentence for murder, though, I point out. He laughs, good-naturedly. “That’s true. But it’s a good job and it’s a nice life. Although I am about to do a night shoot from nine at night until six in the morning. Can you believe that?”
Ah yes, the dreaded nightshoots, this one set to feature yet more drama for the Platts, who since September 2015 have been concealing the fact that the corpse of drug dealer Callum Logan has been stashed down Gail’s manhole at number eight. But secrets (and cadavers) never stay buried for long in soapland and Shepherd doesn’t mind keeping irregular hours to tell the next chapter in his screen family’s saga.
“If it’s raining or snowing then people can get irritated. But if it’s dry and we’re cracking on and what we’re filming is good, then we’re usually in high spirits. Plus The Masters are on tonight, so we can watch some of that until midnight. We only have another six hours to go after that.”
Another chuckle, something that comes readily to Shepherd, but not so much to David, who has traditionally got by on sarcastic sneers and malevolent plotting. In fact, Shepherd even laughs when I cheekily note the amount of dead bodies dumped beneath Coronation Street landmarks, this latest being mere yards from where John Stape got rid of Colin Fishwick at the Underworld knicker factory.
“Well, soaps always have these type of things that get repeated. It’s real life but blown out of proportion a little bit. You’ve got to have some drama, haven’t you? We all share the same storylines: Brookside did it, EastEnders have done it too. So these things get passed around – whoever’s flavour of the month gets a body buried under their floor,” he jokes.
However, this latest cliffhanger plotline has proved to be bittersweet, seeing as it’s led both to a Best Actor nomination for Shepherd at this year’s British Soap Awards and the announcement that Paula Lane, who plays his screen wife Kylie, is to leave the show. Shepherd, though – who in his decade and a half in Weatherfield has already witnessed the departures of both David’s dad Martin and a previous incarnation of brother Nick – is sanguine about what lies ahead.
“If I come away with an award then that would be a bonus. As for Paula, it’s not a sad thing. She wanted to leave, so it’s not like they wanted to get rid of her. And obviously, she’s going off to have another child and be a mother for a bit. And then she’ll probably get back into it.”
But will he miss the relationship between David and Kylie? “Yes, they’re a good partnership. I’ve always said that. So it’ll be a shame when that goes. But there might be somebody else – who knows?”
Corrie itself has always thrived on double acts and just as important to David as his marriage is that sibling bond with Nick (played since 2009 by Ben Price), which has survived Nick sleeping with Kylie and David orchestrating a van crash that left Nick with a permanent brain injury (keep up! This is real life blown out of proportion, remember!)
And that David-and-Nick partnership has now taken a fresh twist with Shepherd starring in a thought-provoking short film called Taubman, written and directed by Corrie co-star Price. The movie, set in the near future, sees Shepherd feature as an officious bureaucrat who refuses to give a passport to a Jewish piano tuner (played by former Corrie star Ian Puleston-Davies).
As well as offering a timely allegory about such issues as asylum, immigration and freedom of movement, Taubman also gives Shepherd the opportunity to flex very different acting muscles to the ones he uses playing David.
“There’s a scene at the end where I have the tables turned on me and I almost start to cry. And because I’m so used to Corrie’s cameras not picking up the tears in your eyes, I felt like I had to give it the full guns, so that everyone could see it.
“When we’d done a take, I felt like I needed to go again. But Ben insisted that he’d seen everything he needed to and that I should trust him. And he was right. When I got to see the finished film, I was a bit speechless at how good it was.”
And was it easy being directed by big brother? “I really didn’t think about it like that,” he says. “It didn’t enter my head that he was my brother by day and my director by night. It just worked. And we had a lot of laughs making it. We’d finish work at seven in the evening and we’d cleared it with ITV to then rehearse the film at the studios until midnight. Then we’d go home and learn our Coronation Street lines and come back to do our actual jobs.”
So has it inspired him to follow in Price’s footsteps? “Not to direct. I’ve never fancied it. I think I’m too vain! If I was directing, I’d be wanting to say, ‘no, change places with me. I’ll do it. Watch what I do’.”
Of course, the current trend among stars of the Street is to temporarily leave Weatherfield behind and pursue outside projects – David Neilson, Les Dennis and Brooke Vincent among those taking on roles in the theatre. So will Taubman be the start of a break away from David Platt?
“Obviously, if something came about and it was too good an offer to turn down, then of course I would want to do it. And, as you say, there are a lot of people who are going off to do something else while not leaving the show. They’re coming back. So, that’s an idea.
“I have loved being at Corrie, but doing this film with Ben has opened my eyes. It’s been entered into film festivals, so if it does well, we could be at the Oscars.”
So might he be swapping the Soap Awards for the Academy Awards? “Well, there’s a slim possibility,” he says, with the David-style tone of a man with a plan. “But we’re not getting carried away!”
Vote for Jack P Shepherd at this year’s British Soap Awards here.
Watch a trailer for Taubman below.
And beneath that, there’s a 60-second rundown of all next week’s drama on Coronation Street