Corrie Roy stars life – rarely-seen wife, transformation and plumber side-job

It’s hard to believe that Coronation Street legend David Neilson first entered the ITV soap as Roy Cropper back in 1995 – 27 years ago.

The actor, who turns 73 today, has had plenty of iconic storylines over the years, most notably dealing with the tragic death of his wife Hayley after a lengthy marriage and cancer battle.

Now Roy is busy teaching Sam Blakeman to play chess after the untimely death of his mum – and has come under fire from critics for being too harsh on the little boy.

But what about David’s personal life away from the cameras? From his rarely-seen wife to an unrecognisable transformation, Daily Star has the low-down.

Rarely-seen wife

David has been married to his wife Jane Neilson even longer than he’s been on Corrie – for an impressive 47 years.

The pair share a son, Daniel, who is currently 38 years old – and a massive Leicester City football fan just like his dad. David is also a grandfather to Daniel’s two children.

And it was David’s wife Jane who helped him stay on as long as he has in the soap, after only being contracted for six episodes as Roy – who was initially a “psychopath” stalking Deirdre.

Opening up in an interview, David explained: “Roy was a psychopath. He was stalking Deirdre and was a bit scary. It’s nice to play psychos but they don’t stay around too long.

“My wife is a special needs teacher and she worked with people with autism. She said Roy could have Asperger’s syndrome, making him socially inept, rather than menacing. Nobody really knew what Asperger’s was back in 1995, so it’s my wife I owe it to.”

But he added that his diagnosis isn’t mentioned in the soap and “shouldn’t be”, as Roy is a “human being, and a label wouldn’t help him”.

David said: “But I think he’s got it. It gives him reasons for his behaviour and gives me something to play. I enjoy idiosyncrasies in people and Roy is full of them.”

EastEnders stint

Coronation Street is far from David’s only soap role, as he first appeared in BBC rival EastEnders way back in 1991.

The star made his Walford debut in August, playing the role of Mr Webster – who turns up at Nick Cotton’s house intending to buy it.

However, David’s character soon became suspicious of Nasty Nick’s appearance and manner as soon as he opened the door.

With a Cockney accent and his dark hair slicked back with gel, David was completely different to his Corrie character while appearing in Albert Square.

He has also starred in Casualty and Heartbeat.

Unrecognisable transformation

In 2003, David underwent a dramatic transformation which saw him debut his musical skills on national TV.

The star transformed into a very different Roy to his usual persona – American singer songwriter Roy Orbison – for a celebrity version of Stars in Their Eyes.

Donning a black wig and shades, along with a dark shirt and blazer, David looked at ease as he strummed an electric guitar on stage while crooning along to a famous track.

Ahead of his performance, he sheepishly admitted: “It'll be him on a bad day because Roy was a genius, and I ain't."

Bizarre jobs

David wasn’t always an actor – though he left school aged just 15 to enrol in the Central School of Speech and Drama.

But he had to help fund his education at the prestigious university, and held down some pretty strange jobs over the years.

David worked as a gas fitter and plumber in his early days to make cash on the side – before going on to pull pints behind a bar. Though we can’t quite imagine Roy swapping his Rolls to work in the Rovers, it’s clear David was dedicated to pursuing his acting dream.

The star even worked as an ice cream salesman in his early years.

During a 1996 interview with Mike Plowman, David admitted: “I have worked as a gas fitter, plumber, ice cream salesman and barman.

“Since becoming an actor I have also had stints as a theatre director, (running the Little Theatre Company in Bristol and directing the premiere of Raymond Briggs' when the Wind Blows at the Whitehall Theatre, London), taught drama at RADAR Central and Rose Bruford and written plays: Robin Hood The Truth Behind The Green – Tights currently playing in Estonia, is published by Samuel French, pre-dates and is funnier than Mel Brooks's version which has a similar title!"

Tragic loss

David has a rather big secret he carries close to him during filming – and it’s stored in his iconic bag.

Roy is known for toting a large brown bag worn over one arm with plenty of zip pockets, perfect for when he arrived at hospital to bring niece Nina her things or for days out to Blackpool with wife Hayley.

But there is also a personal reason for David having the bag with him on-set.

It actually belonged to his mum, who passed away shortly before he took on the role back in the nineties.

He explained to press last year: “That bag went around Loughborough market for many years! It will be 30 years old now. My My mother died just before I joined the show so I was chucking stuff out and thought it would be good for Roy.

“He was always knocking on Deirdre’s door, asking if she needed a bit of shopping and initially they gave me a carrier bag.

"But you see guys standing at bus stops with bags like that and I thought I’d introduce it. It’s also very handy to carry my scripts round in!”

David went on: “Roy’s key on the piece of knicker elastic attached to the bag was also my mother’s. We fastened it on to the bag for her, because she kept locking herself out.

“She was forever calling out the police or the glazier to get her back in and they’d have to break the window."

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