http://www.lgf.org.uk/news/outnorthwest/features/queer-as-folk-is-10/craig-kelly-and-antony-cotton/

Craig Kelly and Antony Cotton - Full Unedited Interview



Let’s be honest, we all loved Vince, and we all wanted a friend like Alexander. Ten years after they parted ways Craig Kelly and Antony Cotton find themselves working together again on Coronation Street - and their off-screen friendship is as strong as it ever was.

The scene: a hospitality room at Granada TV in Manchester. Antony Cotton is glancing at the Queer As Folk soundtrack CD and noting how different he looks and how much Craig Kelly has hardly changed at all.

This is the first time the guys have spoken together about Queer As Folk in ten years. Craig Kelly is especially reticent about dwelling on the past and has given precious few interviews on the subject, but with the encouragement of his friend and co-star Antony Cotton, it’s not long before the ice is broken and fond memories of their time on Queer As Folk are being shared with outnorthwest...

Craig Kelly (CK): I can’t believe it’s ten years ago

outnorthwest (ONW): You haven’t changed.

Antony Cotton (AC): You’ve aged really well!

CK: Thanks love, that’s fantastic. I’m grateful to God! I don’t deserve it.

ONW: It’s all that good living.

CK: Yes I’m very healthy!

AC: I don’t think he has changed a lot. Because you’re quite short you see…

CK: But what happens when you hit 40?

ONW: Make the most of it, that’s when it all starts to fall apart…

CK: I’m 38.The next ten years is going to be weird.

AC: In another ten years you’ll be 48!

CK: How old are you going to be?

AC: Always younger than you. 32 I am.

CK: Not in gay terms

AC: In gay years we’ll be dead.

ONW: On behalf of our Editor who is really sorry he couldn’t be here today, he wanted me to tell you that he loves you as Travis in the Blake’s 7 audio series.

CK: Oh brilliant, fantastic! Tell him thank you very much. My work is coming to fruition. Everyone will soon know my name!

ONW: Do you find once you have fans that people follow what you do, all the time?

CK: Yes they do.

ONW: Is it weird to be working together again here on Coronation Street after ten years?

CK: In a way it’s not weird, it just feels like it’s sort of meant to be. When it all happened and I was going for it, I phoned him up…

AC: We’ve always spoken over the last ten years, even after we wrapped on Queer as Folk, and when he was going for the job on Coronation Street we talked about it at every stage. He’d phone up and ask how things worked here.

CK: He was brilliant.

AC: I don’t think it felt strange for Craig, but for me it did because all of a sudden Vince was in the Rovers, and I’m Alexander again!

CK: And he said that to me just as I’m trying to be in character and he was like, ‘Oh look it’s Vince!’ And I was like, ‘Ex-squeeze me… I’m playing this entirely different from Vince.’ Vince was lovely. We love Vince, I think there are a few differences.

AC: He still looks like Craig from ten years ago, but in the Rovers.

ONW: Compared to Tony Gordon, you’re Mr. Nice Guy at the moment aren’t you Craig? Do you think that’s the way it’s going to go?

CK: That’s the thing about soaps isn’t it? You can start off one way and then you can end up a psychopath. All I know at the moment is that he’s a decent bloke, a nice guy whose got an edge. Just like life, even if you’re a nice bloke and charming, if someone does something that’s bang out of order, you can turn can’t you? If he’s anything like me he can stand up for himself. That’s how I think it will be. Through me he’ll sort of emerge.

AC: In soap no matter what your intention, you always end up playing an extension of yourself. Because it’s day to day life, it’s five shows a week ,it’s six days a week filming. Even if you start as a very different character, you end up morphing into yourself anyway.

ONW: Antony, do you think that you have more say then when you came into the show five years ago?

AC: When I started it was different to Craig. Craig had a piece of paper that had a character breakdown, about what his storyline was going to be initially, so he had something to create from the page. Mine was different. I made mine up. I famously wrote the letter to say ‘giz a job!’, and they said yes!These are your lines, make of it, what you will. So I kind of made Sean up with the writers, so I think mine was a bit more unusual. That’s why for Craig the first few months, you say the lines, you do it as it’s written and after a bit you just run with it. But you’ve bedded in very quickly haven’t you?

ONW: He hasn’t taken his coat off yet though has he?

CK: Sorry?

AC: Can I just say those kind of things are brilliant. You know you’re thinking about how you’re going to speak and how you’re going to sound? Audiences just think - well he hasn’t taken his coat off!

CK: Well lets get this in print right? That is a very thin coat and that was the very first thing I chose as the character. What the audience sometimes don’t get is that as an actor you want to feel different to yourself, and as soon as I put that jacket on, I can’t explain it I just feel more like Luke and that’s part of it. They always say to me, ‘you’re in the factory now, do you want to take your coat off?’ And I’m like ‘no, it’s a really thin coat!’

AC: I love that there’s a story behind it…

CK: It’s cold in the factory!

AC: Online forums say ‘I wish Sean would take that bloomin coat off’

ONW: It’s not as bad as Hayley’s though is it?

AC: No, but coats are important!

CK: They are, but I suppose we should get it in print that this is a thin coat, and it’s a character coat and people are just going to have to get used to it.

ONW: OK, we promise not to mention the coat again.

CK: I tell you what - that’s the least of my worries!

AC: Philip McGinley, who plays Tom Connor but he’s now called Tom Kerrigan, heard a brilliant comment. Two kids - one said to the other, ‘Who is it? I don’t know who it is.’ and the other one goes, ‘You know he’s in Corrie’, and the other one goes, ‘I don’t know which one he is, which one does he play?’ and the other kid goes, ‘You know the one that walks Maria’s dog!’.
That’s what the audience thinks. You think they’re getting you’re great characterisation, but more often than not they’re thinking – ‘when is he going to take his coat off?’

ONW: Craig, are you being built up as a new Street heart-throb?

CK: If you go down that road, you set yourself up for a fall. I genuinely think I’ve got something to offer, but I don’t think I’m a great big heart-throb. I’d like to think that I could be - through cheeky charm.

AC: You ARE a heart-throb!

CK: Obviously there’s worse things that could be said about you.

ONW: So no topless calendars?

AC: That’s brilliant! Let’s do a calendar!

ONW: Together, preferably.

AC: Sean and Luke.

ONW: Fabulous, you could do it for charity.

AC: No, sod the charity - we’re in a credit brunch!

CK: To be thought of in those terms is great, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last for.

AC: You’ve got about two years.

CK: Do you know what though, I’ve got a weird demographic. I was in the pub the other day and someone came up to me and said ‘Hey mate, really loving your debut in Corrie. My mum, whose 87 loves you and David Tennant.’ So there’s a bit of an old dears thing that’s going on.

ONW: Old dears and queers…

CK: Well that’s not a bad thing is it?

ONW: Well you’ve obviously had that attention from the Queer as Folk days, and a lot of people from the gay community will still think of you as Vince. How does that make you feel?

CK: Do you know what, and I can say this hand on heart, I’ve always had nothing but respect from the gay community. When I was going to do it, a mate of mine who was straight, said to me ‘Don’t do that, as the gays will come after you and they’ll give you loads of abuse’ and he meant in terms of flirting with me and it was really funny because I thought I don’t think that’s going to happen and it hasn’t, not once. And I guess that’s the kind of thing that you have to deal with. He was just a straight bloke, not that all straight blokes think like that, but I was quite surprised. I thought he was an educated man .

AC: If you’d have listened to him, you’d have never met me.

CK: How awful would that be? But no, nothing but cheers for doing it, no hassle, no ‘are you gay do you fancy a blah,blah,blah…’

ONW: Which is totally different to your experience isn’t it Antony?

AC: Yes, because I was the gay one.

CK: Did you get abuse? I didn‘t get any at all.

AC: I’ve had pints poured over my head.

CK: Why?

AC: Me and Brian Dowling were in a club and somebody poured a pint each over me and Brian.

CK: But that’s just jealousy isn’t it?

AC: But you’re cruel to your own aren’t you? I mean you’re not from that community. It’s the same as Russell I suppose - Russell got a lot of hassle out of it.

CK: Why did Russell get hassle? He created something incredible.

AC: The same reason as the people who pour the Fairy Liquid out of the bottle and they expected it to be green and for some reason it’s blue will go back to the shop and say, ‘this is blue and last week it was green!’ I think that goes across all communities not just the gay community. Also because I was from that community. When you finished Queer as Folk you walked away from it. You only really used to come to that community with me.

CK: I did as well, that’s when I first went into those bars. I went into those dens of inequity. I learned a lot!

AC: Where all the men are hurting each other, but they’re always smiling.

ONW: It is scary going back ten years?

CK: Very scary.

ONW: When you were making Queer As Folk you knew the storyline and you knew that nothing like that had been done before, but did you have any idea of what the public's reaction would be?

AC: We used to have conversations saying 'This will never go out'....

CK: But there was magic on that set.

AC: Absolutely.

CK: We thought it was amazing but that it would have a cult following.

AC: We thought they'd let the public get the feel of it, but put the scissors in here and here and here…

CK: We certainly didn't think it would go mainstream

AC: Originally it was going to be called Queer as Fuck.

CK: Or 'The Other End of the Ballroom‘. When I first got the script it was Queer as Fuck.

AC: I've still got those. Between the cast and crew we had a bet about the title. 'Dining in the Downstairs Restaurant' was one. I can still remember Nicola Shindler texting me from across the set. There was an amazing vibe and me and Craig went everywhere. On Queer As Folk 2, we went out all the time, there wasn't one night we didn't go out.

CK: Yeah but you could do that in those days. When you’re 28.

ONW: Tell us about the filming on Canal Street.

AC: Nobody knew who any of us were so we were left alone really

CK: I think we were all just chuffed to be in work really.

AC: And we were shooting on film. Those scenes where we used to walk down the street were just amazing, ‘cos we were friends. Me and Craig and Charlie (Nathan), we used to sit in the Palace Hotel bar and laugh our heads off.

We’d go and film until 2am then we'd go back to the hotel and have a drink and we'd sleep in and then we'd come back to work and laugh about the night before. Because there were 3 or 4 weeks of just solid night shoots we became social friends and that's why we got on so well. I remember being upset when we finished the first series and everyone went back to their lives and there was a big hole in my heart that we might not see each other again.

ONW: What about the plan to develop a twice weekly show from the series?

AC: Russell didn't want to do anymore but he wanted to write about it again so it was scripted, they had a crew...

CK: I was going to do the first three episodes...

AC: They'd signed me and Denise to do 26 episodes. Originally it was going to be called 'Hazel's House' and then 'The Misfits'. So the plan was for 26 episodes of the first series then another 26 for the second..

CK: So why didn't that happen?

AC: Because a new commissioning editor for drama came in. They chose a second series of Teachers instead. He didn't want to inherit someone else’s work, so just threw out the greatest drama that Channel 4 had made in ten years. I was gutted. Nicola phoned me on Christmas Eve and said they'd cancelled The Misfits. Denise had already sent me a diary in the Christmas post and wrote in it 'It looks like we're both going to need these, can’t wait to work with you again.'

CK: I remember reading the scripts.

AC: They were amazing scripts. Russell said to me that it was the best thing he'd ever written.

ONW: And he's asked constantly if there will be a follow up isn’t he? But do you feel that only having two series helped create that cult status?

AC: Yes, like Fawlty Towers

ONW: So where do you think your characters would be now?

AC: Well Alexander is alive and well and living in Weatherfield and is now called Sean. Without Queer as Folk's Alexander a character like Sean in Coronation Street wouldn't exist. The two go absolutely hand in hand.

ONW: Do you feel that the younger generation of LGB people need something like Queer as Folk now?

CK: I think they do need it. But I don't think you could make something as good and important as the spirit of that show. It’s not dated.

AC: But the spirit lives on in shows like Skins. They have really good fleshed out gay charecters. But in terms of a new Queer As Folk, I think absolutely, go and write your own version of the world - in fact it's probably something that Russell is conjuring up as we speak.

CK: If your 6ft 5, Welsh and gay, get writing.

AC: He's the kindest, cleverest man. I wrote a sitcom for BBC 2 called Having it Off, which Craig was in but he seems to forget that…

CK: I don't ever forget that my love... I shall repay you one of these days.

AC: Russell very kindly came in and was an uncredited Script Editor and everything he said, the same with Nicola as well, you could never disagree with him. As far as this business we call show, everything from writing, script, words, performance, everything that encompasses television making, I dare anybody to disagree with Russell T Davies - or Nicola Shindler for that matter - because they just know televisually what works.

CK: Are they still together as a team?

AC: They're still wed as one in holy mattress money.

ONW: We are doing our own celebration of Queer As Folk, but do you know of any other plans to mark the 10th anniversary?

AC: Fruit TV are doing a retrospective to give it to a digital generation. You have to remember that ten years ago not everybody had the internet.

CK: Didn't we?

AC: I can remember you getting your first e-mail address and that was after we'd finished Queer As Folk. Actually if you remember in the programme Stuart went on to bigcockcity.com and that was a symbol of how rich and successful he was.

ONW: So ten years on, you're both in Coronation Street, it couldn't be more mainstream could it?

AC: It does change your life, people shout 'Coronation Street!' at you in the street. They don't know what else to say.

CK: I was on a train and suddenly felt a commotion and this guy shouted. 'Hey Knicker boss!' and I'm like ‘they're shouting!’ I want to say ‘hello how are you my names Craig Kelly‘. But no, I’m the 'knicker boss'.

AC: You want to go to a football match with me when they all shout 'Sean, show us your arse!'

CK: Nice.

AC: But the most common phrase is 'Coronation Street'. I mean what do you say to that? It’s not a question. And then when you don't answer they go "What's wrong with you?" I don't know what you want me to say do you want me to go 'Yeaaaaaaaaahhhh!'?

CK: Has Coronation Street got a gay following?

AC: Yes because it's a female led show, it’s very matriarchal.

ONW: And it pays homage to it's past too.

AC: Yes. I've got one foot in Ena Sharples, one in Elsie Tanner and Norris Cole in-between.



Fun Read!

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