Brookside star Dean Sullivan’s on-screen son and the Liverpool City Council are among those who have remembered him as a “soap icon”.
The Liverpudlian actor and director, who was best known for playing Jimmy Corkhill in the Mersey TV soap, died at the age of 68 on Wednesday following a “short illness”, his family said.
Sullivan starred for 17 years in the Channel 4 programme, which at its peak regularly drew in audiences of eight million.
Friends and famous faces have paid tribute to Sullivan including actor George Christopher who played Jimmy Corkhill’s son in the soap opera.
He said: “My role as Jimmy’s troubled son was very demanding, I learnt so much from him in every scene.
“He was a natural actor who excelled just at the right times in Brookside.
“Brookside wouldn’t have been Brookside without Jimmy, it’s as simple as that. Sincere condolences. Salut Deano.”
Heartbeat star Tricia Penrose said was “heartbroken” following the death of her “gorgeous friend Dean”.
The actress recently filmed Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip with Sullivan, which is due to air on BBC Two next week.
Liverpool City Council described the news of Sullivan’s death as “very sad”, adding: “A passionate scouser & champion of our cultural scene, he’ll be greatly missed. Our sympathies to his family & friends.”
Screenwriter Jonathan Harvey hailed the actor’s Brookside character as “iconic”.
Harvey, who is a writer for Coronation Street, tweeted: “I do love a soap icon, and they didn’t come more iconic than Jimmy Corkhill.
“What terribly sad news. Beloved actor Dean Sullivan has passed away. My thoughts are with his many friends and family xx”
Actress Crissy Rock recalled the “happy time” she had performing alongside Sullivan in a Jack And The Beanstock pantomime as she paid tribute.
Alongside a photo of the pair, she wrote: “I can’t believe the lovely Dean Sullivan has passed away. We had such a happy time in panto, he was a true gentleman and will be greatly missed x”
Sullivan had been diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2018 and spoke in 2019 about his treatment and diagnosis to the Mirror.
He was later given the all-clear and told the Liverpool Echo in an interview this year about going to the doctor for the first time because the “strength of my flow when I used to go to the loo to have a pee was reduced”.
He added: “The first time I went to the doctor’s surgery he said we’ll just keep an eye on it and see how you go on. It was a few weeks later, I just knew that wasn’t right.
“When I went back I saw a doctor who specialised in prostate treatment. He gave me a quick examination and within two weeks I was at the hospital speaking to the consultant.
“If I’d have listened to the first doctor, it might have been a different story, so always trust your gut. 11 times out of 10, you’re right. We’ve still got that fight or flight instinct.”
A statement from Hamilton Management and Sullivan’s family shared on Thursday said: “It is with deep sadness we must tell you that actor Dean Sullivan passed away on 29th November 2023 peacefully following a short illness.
“Dean is best remembered as the longest serving cast member of Channel 4’s groundbreaking ‘Brookside’ playing the role of ‘Jimmy Corkhill’, making Dean a British Soap icon.
“To millions he was and very much still is remembered as ‘Jimmy’, to family and friends he was ‘Dino’.”
Brookside, the brainchild of Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond, launched in November 1982, with its houses situated in a real cul-de-sac – part of a housing estate in West Derby, Liverpool.
Sullivan later joined in 1986 and soon became a series regular due to the popularity of his character.
The show also launched the careers of dozens of high-profile actors, including Amanda Burton, Claire Sweeney and Anna Friel.
The last episode was filmed in September 2003 and aired in November of the same year – and it was Jimmy Corkhill’s face that last filled the screen.
Sullivan said at the time: “I will miss it but I won’t miss my life being completely controlled by my answer machine. It’s rather like being released from prison.
“Last week I started growing my sideburns and I’ve never been able to do that before.”
One of the high-profile storylines his character was involved in included his character and Eddie Banks discovering the body under the patio, which remains one of the soap’s most famous storylines.
Sullivan was a two-time British Soap Awards winner and had roles in other TV dramas, including BBC’s Doctors and ITV’s The Royal.
He also directed the 2004 short film Reuben Don’t Take Your Love to Town and recently appeared in a detective film Wings.
Over the years he also presented a number of TV series for ITV Granada and hosted his own daily talk show on Radio City Talk, which broadcast from Liverpool.
He graduated from Lancaster University and was a primary school teacher before becoming an actor.