IT’S a surprising career change that reads like a soap storyline – a Coronation Street legend trading the cobbles for curds and whey to become a cheesemaker.
Sean Wilson embarked on the unlikely job swap after quitting Weatherfield when he was told his character of 21 years, Martin Platt, was going to seduce an underage girl.
It was intended as a controversial Christmas storyline in 2005 that would have seen the family man nurse branded a paedophile.
Sean, now 57, says ITV producers were adamant his character should go on that journey, but it made him “deeply uncomfortable” and he made the decision to quit.
Reflecting on that time, he tells The Sun: “I didn’t want to do it and suggested they could bring in another actor, but the producer was insistent.
“It wasn’t for me, so I told them, 'No, I will not be doing that storyline and I suggest that maybe you go and have a rethink.'
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“They came back a couple of weeks later and said, ‘No, we do feel that this storyline is going to go ahead.'
"So I said, ‘Well that means I will be leaving the show’.
“Then they decided to unilaterally tell the country that I was sacked, which wasn’t the case, and it was frustrating.
“I think with the individuals involved at the time, it wasn’t surprising that it entered the playground.”
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Growing up in suburban Manchester, Sean says it was his grandparents who “very much pushed me in the direction of the arts”, and a drama teacher at school spurred him on further.
He says: “I remember him telling me, I think you need to speak to yourself in a cultural way because I think you’re going to be very good.”
Sean studied drama at a college in Oldham where he met future star Sarah Lancashire, who played Raquel Wolstenhulme in Corrie.
"It was a weird relationship with Sarah, she was very ambitious. She was a really good singer. We were two very different people though," he says.
There Sean was spotted by Corrie scouts, and while he worried about doing his role justice, he embraced the challenge.
TV romance blackout
Ahead of Martin and Gail Platt becoming an item, Sean says the set was on lockdown and the TV team did everything to avoid it being leaked to the public.
“Normally there was a stream playing in the studio where you could see what was being filmed,” he recalls.
“But when we arrived all of the TVs were switched off, they most definitely wanted to keep the storyline a secret.”
Sean praises Corrie bosses for making Martin a nurse and claims it “was such a big moment” that it led to a large uptick of men applying to the NHS.
He said: “A lot of male nurses have been in touch with me by post or email and said they were inspired by my storylines.”
Despite not leaving Corrie on the best of terms, Sean says “every day was great fun – but hard work”.
He recalls: “At times it felt like your feet didn’t touch the ground, like when you had 40 scenes in a week and 10 scripts at the same time.
“On those days, you would be out for 6.30am and working until 8.30pm. You were supposed to have one day off each week but often you would be learning lines instead. It was full-on.”
Sean did make a brief return to the soap in 2018, which was a surprise; he swore when he left that he would act again, "but never with Coronation Street".
“They were very rude to me when I left. I would rather walk down any other street even if I had a nail in my shoe," he said.
Now, when quizzed about his feelings towards the soap, Sean says: “I don’t think there will be a comeback.
“They sent my character to New Zealand, I think they were trying to tell me something.”
They sent my character to New Zealand, I think they were trying to tell me something
Times have changed since Sean’s heyday, when Corrie’s viewing figures peaked at 26.7million, compared to below five million now – leading some to declare soaps are on their last legs.
Sean admits he has "lots of thoughts" on how soaps could revitalise their format, but adds: "The powers that be have chosen the way the soap is going to go and whatever I say will have no effect on anybody.
“At the end of the day, I was an actor in it and it’s a bigger machine than me and this is the way they’ve decided to go.”
Sean has only made a few TV appearances since Corrie, including Dancing On Ice in 2006, and has had better luck in his new foodie career.
“I still want to act,” he says. “I just think for casting people the fact that I was in Coronation Street so long is a bit of a stumbling block.
“So, I've made this situation where I don't have to do it. I would still like to though – it’s one of my three loves in life: art, acting and cooking.”
Sean admits transitioning to the world of cooking was like “jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire” due to the long hours.
“I stepped into the Michelin environment and it was like 12 to 15 hour days but I was driven to learn more about food,” he says.
“I don’t think anyone from Corrie would be surprised that I became a chef because I was always hosting dinner parties and cooking."
Sean founded the Saddleworth Cheese Company in 2009, which has a range available in major supermarkets including Asda.
He threw himself into the project after splitting from his wife Gaynor in 2013 – though has since found love again with actress Susie Fenwick.
Sean says he became “interested in the science of the food” after he was introduced to a Lancashire cheesemaker.
He explains: “Suddenly it all made sense when I got into cheese, I came out with a direction.”
Sean insists people “aren’t surprised” when he tells them he’s a cheesemaker today.
“I can jump on the Tube and people will be taking photos or come over and have a chat, they always ask me when I’m going to be on TV again,” Sean said.
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“They are curious to know about the world of cheese and it’s definitely become a cooler place to be in than when I wandered in.
"It could be cooler – that’s what I’m working on.”
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