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Simon O’Brien: things you didn’t know about the Brookside and Coronation Street star

Simon O'Brien
Simon O'Brien has joined the Coronation Street cast. (Image credit: ITV)

Actor Simon O’Brien has joined Coronation Street as guest character Frank Bardsley, the next love interest of Sean Tully. 

Simon may be a new face in Coronation Street, but he’s already familiar to many soap fans for his role in Brookside, between 1982 and 1987. One of the original cast members, Simon played Damon Grant, the teenage son of Bobby and Sheila (played by future Royle Family stars Ricky Tomlinson and Sue Johnston). 

After leaving Brookie, the Liverpudlian star has continued acting and successfully made the sidestep into presenting for both radio and TV. The married dad-of-one is also a passionate environmentalist and green transport activist, who’s campaigned to increase cycling in his home city.

Here are a few other things you may not know about Simon…

Simon O’Brien found fame on Brookside

Having been born and bred in Liverpool, young actor Simon’s big break came at 17 when he won the role of Damon Grant, in the Channel 4 soap, Brookside. He was an original cast member and appeared in the pilot episode which aired on Channel 4’s launch night in November 1982. As part of the Grant family and youngest son of Bobby and Sheila, Damon was portrayed as a loveable scally, faced with all the typical trials of being an adolescent.

As audience figures increased, Simon became something of a teen heartthrob, and his on-screen romance with Debbie McGrath (played by future Emmerdale star Gillian Kearney) gained him a legion of adoring fans. After five years on Brookie, the actor decided to call it quits and Damon was killed off in a three-part special spin-off series entitled, Damon and Debbie. This ‘soap bubble’ earned Simon a place in British soap history as being one of the first characters to feature in a standalone episode. 

Simon O'Brien

Simon O'Brien (left) as Damon Grant, in the Channel 4 soap, Brookside. (Image credit: Getty Images)

He starred in Fraggle Rock

After saying so long to Soapland, Simon enjoyed a brief stint working in children’s television. Between 1989 and 1990 he portrayed BJ the Lighthouse Keeper in the British version of Jim Henderson’s musical puppet TV series, Fraggle Rock. Although good fun, Simon admitted in an interview with the BBC, the role didn’t come without its risks. Revealing big holes were created in the floor of the show’s set so the puppeteers could control the character’s dog, Sprocket, Simon joked “every time you went on stage you took your life in your hands”. 

He also presented the first three series of children’s quiz show, I Can Do That, which was broadcast on ITV. Then in 2003, he joined the cast of iconic school drama, Grange Hill, playing caretaker Wally Scott. Here’s a fun fact — Grange Hill was conceived by writer Phil Redmond, who was also responsible for creating Brookside and Hollyoaks.

He's Liverpool’s first cycling champion 

Following a regular role in American sitcom, Out All Night, Simon decided to take a break from the acting world and channel his energies into his love of cycling. In the 1990s, he and business partner Alan Bate, set up the Liverpool Cycle Centre, which consisted of a vegetarian café and bicycle shop, complete with places to park the two-wheeled vehicles. 

Then in 2019, Simon was honoured by Liverpool City Council and appointed its first ever cycling champion. Having swapped his car in favour of a bike almost 40 years previously, Simon was tasked with revolutionising cycle transport in Liverpool, linking up the city’s green spaces with new bike routes. Speaking at the time of his appointment, Simon said: “Liverpool is a cycling heaven waiting to happen. Now with the full support of the Council, it’s time to make the vision a reality.”

He's an avid Everton FC fan

As Simon’s Twitter bio states, he’s all about ‘bikes, blues and booze’. The TV star has been a lifelong supporter of Liverpool based football team, Everton, and has acted as the club’s public address announcer. Simon’s love of the beautiful game led him to land the gig of presenting Inside Football, a series of eight episodes that aired on Channel 5 in 1999.

Simon’s sporting passions also extend beyond footy, on his website (opens in new tab) he lists his areas of expertise including snowboarding, horse riding, scuba diving and, of course, the entire subject of bicycles. But push bikes aren’t his only love — he also holds a full motorbike licence. 

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He chaired the Liverpool Green Strategy Group

Having spent many years championing the increase of green spaces in his home city, Simon was appointed the Chair of the Liverpool Green Strategy Group in 2014. Describing it as an amazing chance to influence from an ecological point of view, the proud Scouser said: “I want Liverpool to be mentioned in the same breath as Copenhagen, Curitiba and Vancouver when it comes to sustainable development.”

His eyes are different colours

Handsome Simon’s got a distinguishing feature that would make him stand out from the crowd — his eyes are different colours, one green and the other blue. The presenter sustained an eye injury, which required an operation and led to him occasionally wearing an eye patch, although he’s rarely spoken about the incident publicly. 

He's turned his hand to property developing 

In more recent years, Simon has been our screens presenting a variety of property-themed programmes. After hosting the second series of To Build or Not to Build, he went on to front reality show, My Dream Derelict Home, then Channel 4’s Find It, Fix It, Flog It alongside Henry Cole. Since 2020, he has presented Bafta award-winning The Great House Giveaway with Tayo Oguntonade. 

The premise of the show is that two strangers, who are hoping to get on the property ladder, are given six months to renovate a house purchased at auction, which they must sell it on with a budget set by Simon. If they achieve the goal of making a profit, they can split the proceeds and use the cash to purchase their own home. 

As an experienced property developer who’s renovated properties all over Europe, Simon is the ideal host for the series, but admits it’s a challenging process. Speaking to Herald Magazine, he shared: “There are easier ways to make money. I've been doing it for, what, 10 or 15 years now, maybe longer, and I still end up halfway through renovating a derelict property, sitting there with my head in my hands."

How old is Simon O’Brien?

Simon O’Brien is 56, he was born on 19th June 1965.

Is Simon O’Brien married?

Yes, he is married to wife Elizabeth, who is a teacher.

Does Simon O’Brien have any children?

Simon and his wife Liz have one daughter, Rosa.

How tall is Simon O’Brien?

Simon is five foot nine.

Twitter: @simonobtv1

We work hard to ensure that all information is correct. Facts that change over time, such as age, will be correct, to the best of our knowledge, at the time of the last article update.

Laura Morgan
Laura Morgan

Laura has been a journalist for over a decade, writing about soaps, TV entertainment, fashion, beauty, and food. After graduating from university, she started her career working at a national soap and TV magazine. During her seven-year stint there she joined the cast of Emmerdale for a tour around the famous village, partied with soap stars at awards bashes, interviewed her acting idol David Suchet, and sat in the front row of Strictly Come Dancing

Her heart lies with the soaps, and her all-time favourite character has to be EastEnders' Pat Butcher - no one rocked a big earring quite like her. She's also a huge fan of detective crime dramas, particularly old school Inspector Morse, Endeavour, and adaptations of Agatha Christie's Marple and Poirot. When she's not writing, she loves a spot of second-hand shopping and going on adventures with her young son.