We have learned a lot about Roy Cropper since he joined Coronation Street in 1995.
The Café owner has been at the forefront of many major storylines including being the first soap character to marry a transgender character. While more recently Roy has been hailed a hero, after he saved Abi Franklin's life using his trusty anorak to pull her out of the skinhole she'd fell into during dramatic scenes with Corey Brent.
While we know a lot about Roy, less is spoken about David Neilson – the actor who plays the Coronation Street favourite.
Originally David, 72, was only contracted for six episodes as Roy, but his wife of 47 years Jane Neilson helped him to give the character more longevity.
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“Roy was a psychopath. He was stalking Deirdre and was a bit scary. It’s nice to play psychos but they don’t stay around too long.
“My wife is a special needs teacher and she worked with people with autism. She said Roy could have Asperger’s syndrome, making him socially inept, rather than menacing. Nobody really knew what Asperger’s was back in 1995, so it’s my wife I owe it to," he explained.
“It’s never mentioned in the story though and it shouldn’t be – Roy is a human being, and a label doesn’t help him. But I think he’s got it. It gives him reasons for his behaviour and gives me something to play. I enjoy idiosyncrasies in people and Roy is full of them.”
David, who grew up in Loughborough, also brought his own mother Phyllis into the part. She passed away just before he started on the cobbles, but got to be a part of his character due to one special prop – her shopping bag.
"That bag went round Loughborough market for many years! It will be 30 years old now. My mother died just before I joined the show so I was chucking stuff out and thought it would be good for Roy. He was always knocking on Deirdre’s door, asking if she needed a bit of shopping and initially they gave me a carrier bag.
"But you see guys standing at bus stops with bags like that and I thought I’d introduce it. It’s also very handy to carry my scripts round in!
“Roy’s key on the piece of knicker elastic attached to the bag was also my mother’s. We fastened it on to the bag for her, because she kept locking herself out.
“She was forever calling out the police or the glazier to get her back in and they’d have to break the window."
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Prior to getting the job on Coronation Street in his mid-40s, David had many jobs including Ice Cream Salesman, Barman and Gas Fitter. All while funding his dream of being an actor, and studying at the Central School of Speech and Drama in London.
"I didn’t want to be a gas fitter and I didn’t want to stay in Loughborough," he recalls.
He appeared on a few TV shows before his big break as Roy, including as Mr Webster – a property buyer interested in Nick Cotton's house on rival soap EastEnders.
Fame-shy David moved to Barcelona in 2002 after his son Daniel, now 38, for university. The couple swapped their family home in Bristol for the sunnier climate, and David even completed an Open University degree in Spanish.
“I need to get away from Roy and be myself and they don’t know Roy in Barcelona,” he explained in 2009.
“If I’m in Spain for a few days I forget what I do for a living, which is the important thing.
“It means when I come back and someone shouts ‘Roy’, for a moment I forget they’re actually talking to me. And it’s only a couple of hours on the plane so I can commute to Manchester easily enough."
David is now a grandad to two young girls, and it is unknown whether he has stayed in Spain or returned to the UK.
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