Roy Cropper lives by a moral code but he has ‘dangerous side’ says Corrie actor

Corrie scriptwriters struck gold when they created Roy Cropper… and the soap legend is still rewarding them 25 years later.

The anorak and cardigan-wearing trainspotter is back at the heart of a gripping plot that has left soap fans shaken.

And it is actor David Neilson who has, once again, moved viewers to tears with his heart-rending monologue at the bedside of screen niece Nina.

David, 72, has portrayed cafe boss Roy through his many guises down the years – from a nerdy loner and stalker, to a community champion and confidant.

Talking about his quarter of a century on the Cobbles, David modestly puts his success down to “luck”.

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David Neilson as character Roy Cropper with co-star Mollie Gallagher (Nina) in a scene from Coronation Street
David as Roy Cropper on set alongside co-star Mollie Gallagher who plays Nina

He also addresses Roy’s state of mind as he is faced with the prospect of losing goth Nina – battered senseless, with boyfriend Seb, in a hate crime ­attack.

Nina is seriously hurt… while poor Seb died in Friday’s moving episode. David says Roy has a “dangerous side” if provoked.

He explains: “Like all of us, ­really, if something happens to me and mine, I think he is capable of anything. I think he could be quite dangerous.

“I remember him attacking Gary Mallett with a cricket bat. Roy tends to operate out of a moral code which if he didn’t have that he’d just fall apart or go mad. He’d be the dangerous person on the street.

Character Nina Lucas ends up hospital following a brutal attack in a Corrie storyline
Nina Lucas ended up hospital following a brutal attack in a recent Corrie storyline

“He doesn’t always want to do what he does but he’s shunted into this situation whereby he inherits Nina and initially they don’t get on, but he took her in.

“So, over this period – and brought into sharp focus by this attack and him sitting by the bed thinking about life and the possibility of her not being there – he feels a tremendous sense of loss and he is sort of dreading what could occur.

“If something happened to your child you don’t even want to think about it, it is just horrible, and you don’t want to go there.”

Sophie Lancaster was beaten and kicked to death in a park in 2007
Sophie Lancaster was beaten and kicked to death in a park in 2007

The storyline echoes the tragic case of Sophie Lancaster, 20, who died in an unprovoked attack near Rochdale in 2007.

Soap bosses worked with Sophie’s mum Dr Sylvia Lancaster to help raise awareness of hate crimes.

David says it has been one of the toughest plots, explaining: “It’s not an enjoyable story, I have to say. When it is work, this is happening to us emotionally, so it can be gruelling.”

Roy has been involved in many ­harrowing encounters – not least losing his wife Hayley (actress Julie Hesmondhalgh) to cancer in 2014.

But he has been involved in some classic lighter moments down the years too.

Coronation Street's Roy Cropper lays in bed next to wife Hayley, who has just taken her own life
Roy has been involved in many ­harrowing encounters including losing his wife Hayley to cancer in 2014

And David says he loves how Roy has transitioned.

He chuckles: “People come into the cafe and he gives them all this wisdom! It’s changed because he was this strange guy stalking Deirdre, a real loner and oddball.

“One of the ‘character’ notes was that he ‘just doesn’t get it, he stands too close’.

“Nowadays he’s become this font of all wisdom. He’s turned into Rita.

“But somehow or other he has survived and adapted.

“The time has flown, it has been extraordinary. I have worked with some ­really good people.”

Portrait of the popular actor David Neilson who plays Roy Cropper in Coronation Street.
David says he loves how Roy has transitioned

And David vows to wear the beige anorak for as long as Coronation Street bosses allow.

He adds: “Why am I still here? Well, I’m 72! Probably a lot of it is luck. I enjoy grappling with it – playing a completely different character, with the name Roy Cropper. It’s a very comfortable pair of slippers, I tell you.

“Actor mates have had a really tough time [through the pandemic] and I’ve always felt fortunate.

“I feel doubly fortunate now and desperate for theatres to start working. But it’s been very kind for me. Writers write for me and I’ve got away with it so far.”

Coronation Street character Seb Franklin (played by Harry Visinoni) in hospital following hate crime attack
Seb Franklin is battered senseless, with girlfriend Nina in Corrie’s recent hate crime ­attack storyline

David and wife Jane have son Daniel and enjoy being grandparents.

He doesn’t court attention and recalls how Corrie legend Willliam Roache, 89, gave him advice on handling fame.

But he accepts there is a level of ­responsibility – almost a duty of care towards viewers.

He continues: “I found out very early how much people relate to characters.

Sylvia Lancaster, mother of Sophie Lancaster, murdered in 2007 with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, because of their "Goth" appearance
Sylvia Lancaster, mother of Sophie Lancaster, who the recent Corries storyline is said to be inspired by

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“At the weekend we were in the supermarket and somebody was talking and heard something was going to happen to Nina on the show.

“They approached me and it meant something and being an actor in something like this is different to just being an actor.

“There is a public responsibility. When I was first in the show my brother was in hospital and I went to visit him in Leicester.

“Lots of people were in the foyer and this lady approached and said, ‘My husband’s just died’.

Corrie stars David Neilson (Roy Cropper), William Roache (Ken), Stephanie Cole (Sylvia) and Philip Lowry (Dennis) on set
David onset with Corrie co-stars William Roache (Ken), Stephanie Cole (Sylvia) and Philip Lowry (Dennis)

“I asked if I could ring somebody for her and she said she was going to go to her daughter’s.

“I gave her my number to say, ‘Ring to say you’re all right’. Eventually her daughter rang to let me know she was okay.

“And I was, like, I’ve just gone to see my brother and suddenly you’re involved in this thing and you’re a face on the telly and something devastating had happened to this person and, obviously, as an actor we feed off that, that is what it is like to lose somebody.

“So, in a way a huge privilege, but also a terrible responsibility.”

Coronation Street's Deidre (Anne Kirkbride) Mike Baldwin (Johnny Briggs) and Roy Cropper (David Neilson) on set
David pictured on set with Anne Kirkbride (Deidre) and Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) says he has worked with ‘some ­really good people’ on Corrie

Off set, David enjoys a laugh. And in his own times of need he turns to playwright Samuel Beckett for inspiration.

He adds: “I’m a big fan of Sam Beckett, who says I can’t carry on what shall I do? Carry on. You carry on, that’s what you do.”

Or should that be Corrie on? Here’s to the next 25 years, David…

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