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Sixty Seconds with Bill Ward

The former Corrie and Emmerdale actor, 52, reveals his real-life TV skills, learning to walk in heels and his role in a tour of The Glee Club

You’re playing a manly miner in The Glee Club. It’s a bit of a change from your last role as a drag queen in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, isn’t it?

Yes! Although my character, Bant, does dress up in women’s clothes. The show is about six miners who sing barbershop songs. When they’re staging some of the songs for the village gala, somebody has to play a woman and Bant, because he really doesn’t have many boundaries, says, ‘All right, I’ll do that then.’

Your character isn’t the greatest singer — does that suit you?

It’s a delight! I’ve done quite a lot of musicals but I’m essentially an actor who sings a bit. Funnily enough, I’ve played jazz music in a band called the Branflakes for 30 years. We play parties and weddings, that kind of thing.

Is The Glee Club similar to The Full Monty?

I think that’s fair to say. You’ve got six pretty tough characters who rely on each other. It’s based on a true story. We join them in 1962 as they prepare for the village gala. The year before they were a smash hit but all their lives are falling apart in different ways. My character is a lot of fun. He’s a scrapper, a boozer and a bit of a law unto himself. He’s quite foul-mouthed and gets himself into a lot of trouble.

Deadly: Kate Ford as Tracy Barlow

Do you still get recognised as Coronation Street bad guy Charlie Stubbs?

Yes. I think probably because he was quite full-on as a character and also Tracy Barlow [who killed him] is still in the show. She still references him occasionally I gather, so he lives on a bit in the writing.

Was it overwhelming playing somebody so horrible?

I was sent a Bible once and people would shout stuff at me. To most people out there you become your character. It was an extraordinary acting job for me and the character took on a life of his own. I did a lot of research with Women’s Aid and became an ambassador for them. They were brilliant in helping me get to the heart of what made Charlie tick.

You were murdered in Emmerdale too — do you fancy your chances in EastEnders?

Actually I’ve already had a go at it. EastEnders was one of my first jobs out of drama school. I did two episodes and had to present Kat and Alfie with an award for East End pub of the year.

Heels: Bill dragged up in Jamie

That’s you finished in soap then, unless you come back as a ghost and haunt Tracy Barlow…

I managed to come back as a ghost in Emmerdale, so you never know!

How do you unwind when you’re not working?

Photography is my thing. It balances the day job. I’m an ambassador for Pentax cameras and I provide them with a certain number of photographs every month. I won at the UK Landscape Photographer Of The Year Awards in 2015. It’s very much part of who I am.

Didn’t you used to be a surfer?

I have an eight-year-old and a six-year-old, so all of the spare time where I used to surf, I spend hanging out with my partner and our kids. But I’ve still got the boards and I’ll come back to it at some point, I’m sure.

Having played a builder in Coronation Street and a farmer in Emmerdale have you picked up any skills?

I’m dreadful at both! But I’m a bit of a researcher so I bought farming magazines when I was in Emmerdale and various DIY manuals when I was playing Charlie Stubbs. One script had Charlie turn up with a mastic gun and I didn’t know which end was which. It was the same with cows in Emmerdale. In one episode we had to give them some oral antibiotics through a squirty thing while doing our lines, which was pretty tricky!

What was it like appearing in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie?

It was completely unlike anything I’ve done before and I had to work very hard to get myself moving like a drag queen. My character had four-inch heels and I spent two months practising how to walk in them in my kitchen. I kept falling over, it was a bit embarrassing.

What home comforts do you take with you on tour?

Sometimes I’ll take a sleeping bag fleecy liner, just in case I get to digs where the central heating isn’t on and there aren’t enough blankets. But I travel as light as I can. You’re often on trains or in cars and trying to make quick getaways after shows.

What’s coming up next?

I’m in the second series of After Life later this year but apart from that I don’t know. I tend to just see what comes up.

The Glee Club is on nationwide tour, outofjoint.co.uk

One script had Charlie turn up with a mastic gun and I didn’t know which end was which