Exclusive interview with Connor McIntyre
by Karen Shaw
He’s Behind You!
I have religiously watched Coronation Street since the age of three, (I won’t divulge for how many years, oh, go on then, 44) and have watched with interest the multitude of characters weaved into shocking plots. But in the last four years the cobbles of Corrie have delivered such a captivating and heinous character which make previous baddies like, Richard Hillman, Jez Quigley and Alan Bradley seem angelic.
Builder Pat Phelan played by Connor McIntyre first appeared on Coronation Street in 2014 and in my opinion, he has been the very best baddie ever, he was so good at being bad, that his recent win as ‘Villain of the Year 2018’ at the British Soap Awards came as no surprise. But, unfortunately all good things must come to an end and unfortunately ‘our Pat’ had his comeuppance when he was stabbed to death by his onscreen nemesis Anna Windass played by actor Debbie Rush.
I loved Pat. I loved his cheeky, sinister smile. I loved how he would calmly make a cup of cha after committing multiple murders. He as as my mum would say, ‘a reet wrong un!’ So, after hanging up his multitude of check shirts and mucky jeans what’s next for Connor?
One person in the street shouted, ‘I hate you, but I don’t want to kill you just yet!
This lad from Liverpool has more strings to his bow than the Philharmonic. Not only is he one of the most heinous characters ever to appear on screen but he’s also nifty with a brush, no, he’s not a hairdresser, but an accomplished artist.
It’s rather windy in Manchester when I catch up with him, so it’s fortunate that he’s not wearing his signature trilby, this chap is a real snappy dresser, his style is reminiscent of a technicolour rat pack film.
“I’ve got a tailor that looks after me”, he grins, “and I’m an artist so I can wear what I like. I’m expressing myself!”
“There’s a line from a poem called the Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S Eliot that says: ‘I’m growing old, I’m growing old, I’m going to wear my trousers rolled, I will wear purple in my hair….’ there comes a point where I’ll do it the way I want to do it.”
Despite being a northern lad, Connor is only up north for a few days before he returns home to Plymouth. But, have no fear, he won’t be gone for long. However, the next time you see him, you may not recognise him. But when I show you a person resembling the love child of Barbara Cartland and Grayson Perry in a pink frock with lashes to die for, then that’ll be Connor… “Oh no it isn’t”, you’ll cry.
Oh yes, it is…
He may look different and in a weird way, even beautiful, for his new role as an ugly sister in Cinderella at Manchester Opera House, along-side pal Les Dennis. It was Les’ suggestion to bring them together again, saying, ‘It’s Michael’s chance to get revenge.’
A ‘panto virgin’, Connor is excited about his new venture describing it as “a welcome antidote to playing the villainous Pat for the last few years. Les has done 22 pantos so no doubt he’ll be able to offer advice.” To date they haven’t cast who’ll be playing Cinderella, so despite being on crutches I offer my services as a more mature Cinderella. Connor assures me if it was his decision to make he’d choose me. Mmmmm…
With a demanding schedule from playing Pat behind him and an equally challenging one ahead, it’s no surprise that for now he’s happy spending time in his art studio. “It takes a little while to recalibrate,” he admits. I love to paint some of my paintings are 6ft by 6ft and that’s great because you feel like you’re right in the middle of it all. It can be easy to lose yourself when working on large scale paintings, I’m quite good at it!
“After a stint as a lifeguard and later a job as a car salesman, it was later in life before he began acting and more recently he’s gone on to gain a First Class Honours Degree in Fine Art before embarking on an MA in Contemporary Art Practice in 2015. When he’s not acting you’ll find him at the Alamo Project, a large artist led studio space in Plymouth that he founded and is also the co-director of. Not bad going for a lad that rarely went to school.
“I was one of those kids, I can hear my Mum laughing, saying, ‘Always the wrong way around with you lad, we couldn’t get the police to get you to school. Now at 50 you decide to go to university!’
“If you’ve got a family, then to say, ‘I’m going to be an artist or an actor or a musician’, is slightly irresponsible. I feel very privileged whenever I’ve got any work, I’m the same as anyone else who is self-employed.
These are difficult times for people. Keep it in the day and embrace what you can. If you plug into the media it’s all kind of depressing, but we are in interesting times, we are on that crest of change.
“I heard a very interesting statistic recently, stating that when children start school now, around 60% of the jobs that they are going to go on and do, don’t even exist today. The truth is we have got no idea what it looks like.
as I sat in that dark space, I had an epiphany. I knew I wanted to be an actor
And embracing life is what Connor has down to a ‘fine art’ (see what I did there?). It was a visit to The Barbican Theatre in Plymouth that would prove to be life changing for Connor, “I literally walked in and asked, ‘What’s going on?’ they said they were rehearsing and I asked if I could watch, I was lucky, many others would have told me to ‘do one!’ I’d never been exposed to anything like that before, and as I sat in that dark space, I had an epiphany. I knew I wanted to be an actor.
“I’ve no impulse to write or direct, but the moment I see a decent script I wonder how I can make it as honest and as truthful as possible. The same applies for painting, I’ve made many
failures in painting, but I’ve not made many lies.”
I wondered if he’d lie to me when I ask him – if offered the opportunity to either act cool on Dancing on Ice or strut his stuff on Strictly, would he continue to embrace the challenge or scuttle off to his studio?
Chuckling, he answers, “I’m not sure what that would look like or if the nation would be ready, but I can turn a heel. I’ve learnt never to say never!”
Born just a mere nine days after Coronation Street first lit up our screens, Connor has incredible affection for the soap. “I don’t want to over romanticise but when I first went into Coronation Street and saw all the pictures of the past cast, like Albert Tatlock, it was like looking at family photos. We are from the north, so it’s part of our fabric, it’s part of who we are.”
He’s right. Connor laughs when I tell him that my daughter Martha would jump around the living room yelling, ‘oh I love Pat, he’s my favourite murderer!’ whenever he appeared on TV.
“Bless her,” he grins, “luckily for me I don’t get much abuse. However, I’ve had people shaking their fists at me and yelling. ’
“I think that’s where the writers of Coronation Street pulled that trick off quite neatly. You saw glimpses of his humanity, especially when he was with Eileen, there was a good man trying to get out. Pat was bonkers, he was nuts, wasn’t he?
Catch Connor in Cinderella at Manchester Opera House, from Saturday 8th Dec to Sunday 30th Dec