Els is one of the principal performers in this year’s Christmas Day episode.
Those tuning in will see Derek Milligan (Els) going loco with a shotgun as his feud with Gary Windass – actor Mikey North – comes to a head. Derek snaps after he misses a flight to the US with his family thanks to Gary locking him in the furniture shop overnight.
Derek will be doing a bit of gun-toting in the Rovers and in the nearby Winter Wonderland attraction and it’s been rumoured that innocents may get caught in the crossfire…
Below, Els talks about his role in this year’s Christmas storyline.
When you first got the role did you know what Derek was going to be capable of?
I had been seen for another role, I sent a self tape in for it. I wasn’t right for that and they said they would keep me in mind, I didn’t think much of it but then they called me the next week and asked me to come in for ten episodes as this alcoholic ex business colleague of Gary and that was all I knew.
How did you feel when you first started filming?
I turned up as nervous and excited as anyone who has not been on the cobbles before and met the brilliant Mikey North, he has been a godsend, I have really touched lucky having the bulk of my work with him as not only is he a great actor but he is a great human as well. He has been really supportive and encouraging and it would have been a very different experience without him for sure.
What did you think when you found out you were going to be at the centre of the Christmas episodes?
Mikey kept dropping hints that I was going to be around for a while then I kept getting asked to do a few more episodes and a few more and then it became clear that I was going to be in the Christmas episodes. I can’t believe my luck because I was thrilled to get the job on Corrie, to then find out you are going to be part of the Christmas special is just the icing on the cake!
Had Gary underestimated Derek, thinking he could just tell him what to do?
Yes Derek is a bright man, with a wife and children, Gary wanted him to lie about the mansion with the pool but that is actually where Derek does come from before he lost it all. He is a broken man, he is fragile, he is always on the edge and Gary does that thing where he pushes all the wrong buttons and in the lead up to Christmas Day he is very cruel and because of the booze and his problems it pushes Derek to breaking point.
What is it that tips Derek over the edge?
It is because it is to do with Derek’s kids and the fact that Derek thinks he’s going to get a second chance at life, he says to Gary at one point that he is making inroads with his wife and she might take him back, but that he has had to pull out the big guns and promise Disneyland for Christmas. Everything hinges on that, up until that point he was a man who had nothing to lose, he thought he had lost his family so he was just happy to go along with Gary’s schemes. When Gary sent him packing and told him not to come back to the street he has gone back and managed to some degree to build back what he had before with his family.
Why has he come back to see Gary?
He comes back needing the extra money for Disneyland to try and salvage his life and really start again, that is what everything hinges on and when Gary takes that away from him completely, doesn’t give him the money and makes him miss the flight, he is just broken. Gary has created a very dangerous beast, when someone has nothing to lose they will do extreme things and he wants revenge. He gets a text from his wife saying he will never see his kids again, his world has fallen apart and he has nothing to lose. Add the drink to that and the discovery of the gun anything could happen.
What is his plan, does he have one?
He just wants to scare Gary, he wants to see Gary as scared as Gary has made him feel and for once have the upper hand. What he doesn’t anticipate is how far it could go and that’s the tragic twist. It isn’t a plot by him to go on the rampage on the street and kill anyone, he is not an evil man. He was once a powerful man and he has had all that power taken away from him by the one man who has now taken the most precious thing away from him. He has been pushed, he is broken and wild, but he is not evil, there is no malicious intent there is no premeditation he is not Pat Phelan or Richard Hillman, he is an accidental gunman, an accidental villain. Things snowball out of his control and he is devastated by what he ends up doing.
What was it like filming those scenes?
It was brilliant, it was mostly shot on the Winter Wonderland set during night shoots, it was fantastic, there was a stunt team and I was on the top of helter skelter in a harness. It was like a schoolboy’s dream really to be part of these high action scenes. I could never have imagined when I first started on day one, as hapless Derek who was working for Gary, arriving on the cobbles that it would fast forward 7 months and I would be in these scenes having a stunt team showing me how to work in a harness, up a fairground ride waving a gun around and fighting with Gary Windass on Christmas Day! That wasn’t lost on me whilst I was doing it, I have had so many pinch me moments whether it has been on set or even just sat in the green room and WIlliam Roache coming over to introduce himself.
What does your family think?
I have watched it for so many years, particularly with my nan Barbara, who is the biggest Corrie fan. We never miss it, if I call by mistake when it is on she will literally not want to speak to me. The day I told her I had got a part in it Christmas came early for my nan. I will watch it with her on Christmas Day and I can’t wait to see her face when she sees what Derek gets up to. I have kept it all from her so it doesn’t spoil it for her. She knows that he has the potential to be a bad character so she is looking forward to it.
Coronation Street, Christmas Day at 8pm on ITV, STV and UTV