Steven Arnold on performing in Liverpool and the famous Coronation Street co-star who taught him so much
2 months ago
It’s 13 years since Steven Arnold left the Coronation Street cobbles, but the actor still gets cries yelling out to Ashley across the road.
“It’s mellowed out a bit over the years, but it still happens now,” admits Warrington-born Steven, “it’s amazing I find myself forgetting I was ever in Coronation Street, but then someone shouts over and I think, oh yeah, bloody hell.
“Ashley Peacock was a fantastic character and I loved playing him so much; there were serious story lines – a lot of serious storylines – and a lot of comedy too.”
Steven said farewell amid a blaze of glory in the drama’s 50th anniversary tram crash episode when Ashley was buried beneath a pile of mangled metal and rubble.
“It was a fantastic way to go. I think they spent £1m on that episode and I couldn’t have asked for a better exit.
“I had a fantastic time working on Coronation Street. It was a lovely place to work but time was up for Ashley.”
Although it was tragedy which saw him leave – after everything from widowhood to a love affair – it was his comedy fans loved most.
After Stan and Hilda, and the likes of Jack and Vera, Steven was half of one of the Street’s best-loved double-acts – ‘I say, double acts’ – with the great John Savident as his uncle, butcher Fred Elliot.
“It was such a fantastic duo and John Savident taught me 90% of what I know today.
“He took me under his wing and he taught me comedy timing, how to break down scripts, and how to slow scenes down or speed them up and turn them on their heads. He was an absolute joy to work with and we ended up really close.
“He used to call me his second son and I called him my second dad. When we did scenes that were serious, it wasn’t hard to get emotionally involved because we both felt that love between us, and it came so naturally, we just bounced off each other.
“John was inspirational, he was my mentor; he was just fantastic.”
Since he left Corrie Steven has had more TV roles and worked as a producer, but it’s on the stage he’s found his main new home with more than ‘40-odd stage jobs’ – the latest of which will see him at The Hope Street Theatre from February 15-18 in the award-winning Terry Johnson play, Dead Funny.
“I had never been on stage until I left Coronation Street and it’s been brilliant going to do all these different things, and play different characters in different plays, and do something fresh every two or three months. It’s every actor’s dream and long may it continue.
“When I left I wanted to try anything I was ‘incapable’ of, that I didn’t think I could do, and I came away realising ‘I did to that’, and ‘I could do that’.
“When I first did Shakespeare, I did A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it’s one of the most enjoyable jobs I’ve done in my life. When you’re worried about something it makes you better, because you try to work it out more and think more, and work out what each and every word means.
“I will try anything that’s going to excite me and make me a little bit frightened of doing it. I like wondering ‘am I’m going to pull this off’? And when you do, the reward when the audience applauds makes it all worthwhile.”
Dead Funny is Steven’s third play for Northern Comedy Theatre: “Such a lovely company, creating really good stuff, nice stuff, that I enjoy doing,” he says.
Set in April 1992, Eleanor desperately wants to have a baby but her unwilling husband, Richard, is too busy running the Dead Funny Society to care.
In the week when British comedy heroes Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill both kick the bucket, members of the society gather for a fun evening of tribute and celebration. But as the drinks and innuendos flow, secrets are revealed, and skeletons are let out of the cupboard.
It’s one of those productions that guarantees laughs and tears in equal measure.
Steven, who plays Society member Nick, says: “It’s nostalgic. This goes back to people like Frankie Howerd and Benny Hill and remembering things you’d forgotten about, the way they laughed, the things they said.
“But it’s about more than that, it’s about these five people who have their own way of life but who are connected together by comedy, and it’s that common interest that makes it so special.”
Such is his talent, it’s hard to think an acting career came Steven’s way by chance when his drama teacher at Sir Thomas Boteler School in Warrington encouraged him to try for a National Film School production.
This Boy’s Story, about two brothers who travel to Liverpool to see George Best play football – and Steven starred in with brother Kevin – went on to win a BAFTA for best short film in 1991.
“I don’t think I would have been an actor without it,” says Steven. “I liked drama and had main parts in plays at school and stuff, but I think it was just right place, right time.
“We went for about 10 auditions and we were very fortunate to get it. It was a fantastic story, the film was a success… and then there were phone calls to the house.
“So, no, I don’t think I would have gone down that path but thank goodness I did because I’ve had 30-odd, fantastic years doing it.
“Now I just want to keep learning, doing loads of different roles, being excited by what I do – and getting the opportunity!”