The man behind Ken Barlow has been reflecting as the show heads towards its sixtieth anniversary in 2020.
William Roache has played popular Corrie character Ken Barlow for nearly sixty years.
“I’m so lucky to be in Coronation Street, I love it. I love going to work. 60 years have gone like that [clicks his fingers], I can’t believe it.” – William Roache
At 87 years of age, national treasure and soap icon Bill Roache, has spent 59 years playing Ken Barlow on ITV Granada’s Coronation Street and is the only original actor still working on the series. Earlier today (November 8th) he joined hosts Eamonn Holmes OBE and Ruth Langsford on This Morning to discuss how he initially didn’t want to take the Corrie role.
He also discussed his new memoir ‘Life and Soul‘ and revealed his secrets to looking young for his age, staying fit and healthy plus his take on meditation.
On looking back and thinking he could’ve taken a different career path, Bill confessed: “Yes, because when it [Coronation Street] was first offered, I didn’t want to do it. I’d just got the lead in a play in 1959, it was the play of the week, the highlight of the week, and I had the lead as a young soldier in Germany. So that was coming out and then my agent rang and said, ‘Granada want you, I think it’s for a little comedy…’ And I said, ‘I don’t want to do it.’ And he said, ‘You might as well do the pilot, you’ve got nothing else to do.’ And then he said ‘They want you.'”
Ken was first seen as part of the Barlow family in the first episode that aired in December 1960 live from Granada Television’s former Quay Street Studios in Manchester. The character has gone on to marry several times, although his most fondly remembered union is that with the late Anne Kirkbridge as Deirdre Barlow. Ken has worked in a number of jobs over the years from school teacher to the editor of the Weatherfield Recorder free newspaper, a long-term rival to the bigger Weatherfield Gazette local tabloid, and even serving up lunches in Roy’s Rolls.
Ken has featured in numerous dramatic storylines in the Weatherfield set saga since 1960.
William is the only original actor from the first episode left treading the cobbles.
Eamonn congratulated Bill for looking so good for his age, to which Bill responded: “Well, it’s the genes, to begin with, and then it’s what you do with them, isn’t it? You can dissipate yourself with how you live and what you eat. The main thing is ageing is a belief system. If you think as I get older I’m going to get slower, ‘Oh I’m 50, I can’t do this now’ you will slow down. Your cells renew themselves all the time and if you slow down, your cell renewal process will slow down.”
One of the ways Bill stays young is by taking a regular fun fitness class, he revealed:
“We do a bit of boxing, a bit of basketball, it’s all very competitive… Young children and me, the full spectrum of people. By the end of it you’re absolutely knackered.”
And Bill is a huge fan of meditation, he said “I would call it a tea break from life. And what you need is a place in your home and a chair, and when you go to that chair, and if you can go to the same place every time it helps. As you walk towards that chair you leave everything, all of your worries, all of your cares, leave them at the door, you will pick them up later. Sit in that chair and have a tea break from life. Doing that for five minutes, that’s a start.”
“You can’t not think and you can’t stop thoughts, but let them come through. You need something to think about, so what I think about is you balance your breathing and you think of the waves coming in on the seashore… Balance and enjoyment are key.”
Coronation Street airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday on ITV, STV and UTV. This Morning airs weekdays from 10.30am on ITV, STV and UTV.
Ken went from student to lothario to husband and several jobs between.