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Corrie star William Roache turns 90 but ‘has no intention of retiring’

William Roache attending the British Soap Awards 2017 at The Lowry, Salford (PA)
William Roache attending the British Soap Awards 2017 at The Lowry, Salford (PA)

Coronation Street actor William Roache has said he has “no intention of retiring” as he prepares to celebrate his 90th birthday.

The actor, who will turn 90 on April 25, has starred as Ken Barlow in the ITV soap for more than 60 years and holds a Guinness World Record for the longest-running TV soap star.

The documentary, Happy Birthday Bill, commissioned by ITV to celebrate his life and career as he reaches the milestone birthday, will air on Tuesday at 8pm.

Queen Elizabeth II visits Manchester
Queen Elizabeth II meets actors (left to right) William Roache, Barbara Knox, Sue Nicholls and Helen Worth during a visit to the set of Coronation Street at the ITV Studios in Media City UK (PA)

The actor said: “People will say when are you retiring? Are you going to take a break? But then what happens?

“Whilst I can do it, and whilst they will have me, I have no intention of retiring. I am so fortunate to work for an organisation that is happy to have me.”

In December last year, it was announced that the actor had been made an OBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours list for his services to drama and charity.

Happy Birthday Bill will also offer a glimpse of Roache’s life off screen with his family and will explore his life before the cobbles, with him returning to the army barracks where he did his basic training as part of the programme.

Despite having a reputation for being a bore, Roache’s character has been involved in a number of explosive storylines since his debut in the first episode of the ITV soap in 1960.

Having spent more than six decades on the cobbles, Ken has had a myriad of relationships on the show, including marriages to Valerie Tatlock, Janet Reid and Deirdre Langton.

Ken Barlow leaves Corrie
William Roache has starred as Ken Barlow (right), for 60 years (ITV/PA)

His on-screen wife of 42 years, Deirdre, was played by Anne Kirkbride who died in January 2015 aged 60, having been diagnosed with breast cancer and having also suffered a stroke.

In the show, Ken was planning a 60th birthday for her when he was left reeling from the news of her death.

In 2016, Ken was about to leave on holiday when he had a fight with his son Peter, played by Chris Gascoyne, collapsed and suffered a stroke.

Happy Birthday Bill also reunites him with actress Anne Reid, who played Ken’s first wife Valerie, who in the soap died after being electrocuted by her hairdryer.

He said: “She played my wife in Coronation Street for eight years and I was very sad when she chose to leave.

“When Valerie died she was due to meet Ken at the Rovers so when she walked through the doors finally 52 years later it was a lovely moment, we both just started laughing.

“It was beautiful to see her again, to me she looks no different.

Asked about the secret to his success and still working at 90, he said: “I suppose I always feel like I’m learning.

“You know, people ask me if the younger ones ask me for advice and I say no, they’re all so good and confident that I feel I should ask them.

“I always feel I’m still growing up. I never feel grown up in life anyway. And then I’ve always got things to learn.

“Working with people like Chris Gascoyne and so many other members of the cast is so good. It’s such a privilege.”

Coronation Street
Peter Barlow, played by Chris Gascoyne, at the bedside of Ken, played by William Roache (ITV/PA)

The voiceover for the documentary has been done by Sir Ian McKellen, with the The Lord Of The Rings actor having starred in the soap as the author of a steamy bodice ripper, Hard Grinding, for 10 episodes in 2005.

Roache said the ageing process is “just experiencing things as you go along. Doesn’t necessarily mean deterioration. That’s the sad thing, the collective consciousness of humanity says you live to 70 and start to deteriorate towards the end”.

He added: “If you genuinely believe that you’re deteriorating then you will deteriorate. But you don’t have to buy into that belief. People say ‘Oh, I’m a bit old for that’.

“Nonsense if you want to do something, it shouldn’t matter what age you are. Value your time as you get older. Enjoyment is the key. If you enjoy doing something, keep doing it.”

Happy Birthday Bill airs on ITV and ITV Hub on April 19 at 8pm, with Coronation Street airing in the same time slot on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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