A resident of Coronation Street for 23 years, Salford-born actor Alan Halsall talks to Kathryn Austin about his latest storyline, working during a global pandemic, and what is next for Tyrone Dobbs.
The infamous cobbles of Coronation Street have seen the rise and fall of many couples during their 60 years.
In recent months though, the spotlight has been on fan-favourites Tyrone and Fiz, whose solid relationship came crashing down when Tyrone fell in love with 20-something Alina Pop (Ruxandra Porojnicu).
“As soon as people switch on Coronation Street, and see Tyrone and Fiz, they’re recognised as a couple,” says Alan Halsall, who plays Tyrone.
“So, to break that up has been a big shock for a lot of people.
“It came as a shock to myself and Jennie (McAlpine, who plays Fiz), we didn’t see this coming in the storyline.”
To continue airing the usual six episodes a week during the pandemic, the cast and crew working on the ITV soap have been adhering to coronavirus restrictions for almost a year.
Clever camera work, editing and the use of some real-life couples have even enabled them to film a ‘socially-distanced kiss’ between Tyrone and Alina, which we saw on our screens in March.
When asked how the restrictions have impacted his work, Alan replied: “To tell the story of an affair from two metres has been challenging to say the least!
“Part of your job as an actor is to make people believe what you’re actually doing.”
“And it’s hard sometimes, just because physical contact, or just a touch or a look can often say so much more than the actual words,” he added.
“So, it feels like the pandemic has taken that away from us as actors.”
Recent episodes have shown heart-breaking interactions between the two characters, as Tyrone decided to tell Fiz his feelings and move out of the family home.
“They do love each other but they’re just not ‘in love’. It’s hard and there are kids involved and I think a lot of people can relate to the story.
“We can’t be doing stunts right now…and all that type of stuff, a lot of this has fallen down to just dialogue and just two characters talking, and I think that’s why a lot of people can relate to it.
He added: “I think a lot of people might have sat in their kitchens night after night just saying how they feel.
“I think we’ll see a bit more of that and a bit more heartache really.”
Discussing the audience reaction to the storyline, Alan said: “I’m sure people will obviously be on Fiz’s side, because let’s face it, she’s done nothing wrong, it’s very much Tyrone’s doing.
“I also think it wasn’t really malicious from Tyrone in any way shape or form. I think he found himself in a situation where he didn’t really know how to deal with it, and he had to make a decision.”
Alan believes that the current lockdown rules have perhaps saved him from encounters with angry fans, saying: “As of yet I haven’t received any backlash, but I imagine once we’re back properly in restaurants and bars I might get a bit!”
The storyline also heavily focuses on the effect of the split on the couple’s two young daughters, Hope (Isabella Flanagan) and Ruby (Macy Alabi).
Commending the young actors’ performances, Alan said: “They’re absolutely fantastic.
“Isabella, who plays Hope, she knows her lines, my lines, Jennie’s lines. She’s unreal.”
Born and raised in Walkden, Alan’s love for acting also began at an early age.
He attended St. Paul’s Primary School, Heathside, where his Headteachers encouraged his ambition.
“They were fantastic and they just kind of allowed us on a Friday, to rehearse something in the day and then perform it for the rest of the school in the afternoon, even at such a young age.
“Obviously, it all got a bit more serious in High School and then I auditioned for Children’s Ward in 1992-1993.”
From the age of 11 or 12, the roles kept on coming, with appearances on the likes of Heartbeat, Matt’s Million and Russell T Davies’ Queer as Folk.
By 1998, Alan had been asked to appear on Heartbeat on a more permanent basis, when, at the exact same time, Coronation Street offered him a three-month stint as lovable rogue Tyrone Dobbs.
Speaking of his dilemma, Alan said: “Obviously, you can tell which one won!
“I was born and raised in Salford. My Grandparents absolutely loved Corrie, as did my family, I grew up watching it.
“Coronation Street is not the kind of thing you can turn down.”
Twenty-three years later and Tyrone has firmly made his mark on the street. This being the latest in a long line of drama-filled storylines.
Despite the logistics and difficulties of the current story, Alan still maintains that 2013’s domestic violence storyline was his most challenging to date.
The storyline, which earned him a British Soap Award for Best Actor, saw Tyrone suffer at the hands of his violent partner Kirsty Soames (Natalie Gumede).
“It was an issue that had actually never been touched on on UK television, as in that way round – from the female towards the male.
“I had no real-life experience to kind of relate the feelings and thoughts and emotions to, like you often can when you get a script.
He added: “We worked closely with a charity and I met some victims of domestic violence which was terrible.
“You kind of want to get it right because it happens to so many more people than you actually realise.
“It raised a lot of awareness which was fantastic.”
During his early years on the street, Tyrone was taken care of by Corrie legends Jack and Vera Duckworth, in scenes which Alan says are his fondest memories.
Recalling his experiences with a warm smile, he added that the late Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn, who played the couple, were “a joy to work with every day”.
As for what is next for Alan, a trip to Australia is not completely out of the question.
He said: “I definitely don’t see myself doing Strictly or Dancing on Ice anytime soon. I think the only one out of the whole lot that I would do would be the Jungle.
Speaking further about the possibility of appearing on I’m a Celebrity: Get Me out of Here, he added: “I think it would be a tough one – I’ve been a vegetarian almost all of my life. So, I think it would be tricky in lots of ways but probably a challenge that I’d quite enjoy”.
In the meantime though, Alan is looking forward to being able to celebrate Coronation Street’s 60th birthday properly when restrictions allow.
The show, which is the world’s longest running soap, reached the milestone in December. However, celebrations and big moments in the programme had to be scaled back due to the pandemic.
He said: “For a show like Coronation Street to be on the telly for 60 years is phenomenal really.
“And also, to be at the top for 60 years – credit to Tony Warren who was obviously the creator of Coronation Street – a local lad as well.
“It’s amazing that so many people watch it week-in week-out and relate to Coronation Street,” Alan added.
“I think it’s definitely worth celebrating when we can.”
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays on ITV.