Coronation Street star Alan Halsall reflects on twenty years on the Cobbles (Image: Nottingham Post)
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Alan Halsall was just 16 and a typical excitable teenager when he joined the cast of Coronation Street.
In his 22 years as lovable mechanic Tyrone Dobbs, the nation has seen him grow from boy to middle-aged man on screen.
And over the course of more than two decades, the long-running TV soap has taken over most of his life.
“Personally, everything in my life revolves around the show,” Alan says.
“I’ve been there more than half of my life, some of my best friends are there, I met my ex-wife there who I have a beautiful daughter with, then I met my girlfriend Tisha at Coronation Street. Every aspect of my life involves Corrie in some way.”
But Alan, who is now 38 and has daughter Sienna, seven, with his ex-wife and former co-star Lucy-Jo Hudson, confesses that he still has a lot to learn from the soap.
Alan Halsall and his ex-wife and former co-star Lucy Jo Hudson
(Image: Manchester Evening News)
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Despite playing a mechanic for so long, he still doesn’t know how to change a tyre.
“You’d think after so many years that even if you weren’t into cars, you’d pick up some little piece of knowledge. I’ve not picked up one bit, nothing!” he laughs.
“I get it in the pub. A guy came up to me, grabbed my hand and said, ‘Never seen a day’s work in their life, them. I’m a mechanic’.
I tell them I’m just pretending!
Alan is now loved with his former co-star Tisha Merry
“Apart from lifting the bonnet up, I haven’t got a clue. I’ve never changed a tyre. I wouldn’t like to do it. I’d just ring my brother, who works with cars.”
Alan, now in a relationship with ex-Corrie actress Tisha Merry, 27, joined the soap in November 1998 and was introduced as the tearaway son of Deirdre Rachid’s cellmate during the Free The Weatherfield One storyline.
Dierdre Rachid's cellmate Jackie Dobbs (Margi Clarke) was Tyrone's mum
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Thrown in at the deep end, he was immediately working with the show’s biggest stars such as Anne Kirkbride as Deirdre plus Bill Tarmey and Liz Dawn as Jack and Vera Duckworth, who would become like family to Alan.
“I remember vividly of my first day at Coronation Street,” he recalls.
“I remember opening the door to the green room and seeing all these people that I grew up watching. It was Ken and Deirdre, Mike Baldwin, Jack and Vera… all the legends.
“Growing up, Jack and Vera were Mr and Mrs Corrie so it was a dream come true working with them.”
Young Tyrone was soon welcomed into the Duckworth household on screen. But what went on behind the scenes was even more heartwarming as Bill and Liz took the youngster under their wing and gave him constant good advice. Alan says he owes his whole career to them.
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“I don’t think I’d be at Coronation Street now if it wasn’t for Bill and Liz,” he says. “As a 16-year-old kid joining Corrie, everyone recognises you, you’re earning money. There’s a couple of directions you could go with that.
“I was very lucky that I had the guidance of two very grounded people, two absolute professionals. I had their guidance at work but also at home, like how to deal with being on telly and being recognised. I never took that for granted. They taught me everything.”
Alan says the pair took different approaches in showing him the ropes.
“Liz would sit me down and go, ‘How are things at home, love?’ Bill would just clip me round the ear and go, ‘You need to do this’.
“Bill did a lot of stuff with the actors’ union Equity and knew about pensions. I’m a 16-year-old kid and he’s going ‘Have you sorted your pension out?’
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“He’d ask me one week, then the next and if I hadn’t done it, it’d be a clip round the ear. We’d sit having a coffee and he’d say, ‘Don’t forget this’ and now I think back and know he was absolutely spot-on.”
When Bill died in 2012, followed by Liz in 2017, Alan was devastated – but they both left him something to remember them by.
Alan says: “When Bill left Corrie he was given a watch and it was engraved with ‘From all your friends in Weatherfield’. When Bill passed, his wife gave it to me. And Liz had an unbelievable painting of Eric Cantona and the Man Utd kids which she gave to me.”
Life on Corrie has a been a roller-coaster for Tyrone. He has loved and lost a succession of women, from wife Molly (Vicky Binns), who had an affair then a baby with his business partner Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell), to his doomed relationship with Maria (Samia Longchambon).
Tyrone had a doomed relationship with Maria, played by Samia Longchambon
(Image: Granada Television)
But it was his marriage to Kirsty (Natalie Gumede) which Corrie fans recall most of all, because it put Tyrone at the centre of a domestic abuse storyline – with him as the victim.
“The domestic violence storyline was a career highlight,” Alan says. “To hear about how much it goes on was shocking. Men don’t talk about it. It was like opening a can of worms for me.
“Even if it helped one person, it did its job. Charities reported huge increases in the number of men getting in touch and talking about it, which is fantastic.
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“Tyrone clearly loved a few women in his time. My favourite thing I was once told was that he was the doormat of Weatherfield, because everyone walks over him. He’s a bit unlucky in love, a bit easily led.”
But his character eventually settled down with Fizz (Jennie McAlpine) – a development that Alan welcomed. “After having that relationship once with Fizz and there being something there bubbling in the background, it was nice they finally got it together,” he says.
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As the soap celebrates its 60th anniversary next month, Alan says there is nowhere he’d rather be. “I’m a Salford kid, born and bred.
My family’s dream and also mine was to be in Corrie and here I am all these years later.
“Do I want to do anything else? No. I like being part of the big stories but also love having a brew in the garage with Kevin, or a pint in the Rovers. I don’t see myself getting a job that I love as much as this.”
So could he go on to match the world record held by Corrie stalwart Bill Roache who, as Ken Barlow is the longest-serving soap star in the world, having been in the show since day one?
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“I’d like to get somewhere near Bill but I’m happy for him to keep the record,” says Alan. “It’s an amazing achievement. He’s still great on the show – and he’s still got a better head of hair than I have, which is really annoying!
“Let’s hope for another 60 more. I might have to get a few more transplants to catch Bill up!”