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Brookside legend Simon O’ Brien reveals he’s been cast in new ITV drama… as a ‘thank you’ from Stephen Graham

Former Brookside star Simon O' Brien
New role: Simon O' Brien is to star in new ITV drama, Alder. (Image credit: C4)

Brookside legend Simon O’ Brien is to star in new ITV drama Alder, after a personal request from the show’s leading man, Stephen Graham.

O’ Brien, who famously played Damon Grant in the Channel 4 soap, will play Stephen Graham’s on-screen brother. It is not yet known who Stephen Graham will play.

Alder is based on the tragic real life story of Christopher Alder, a black man who was choked to death at the feet of a group of police officers in a cell in 1998. 

Five men were charged with manslaughter and misconduct, but later acquitted. However, a report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission found that ‘unwitting racism’ played a major part in Alder’s death.

O’ Brien has revealed that he was personally contacted by Stephen Graham, who offered him the role as a ‘thank you’ for inspiring him to become an actor. 

Actor Stephen Graham

Grateful: Stephen Graham (above) credits O' Brien with inspiring him to become an actor. (Image credit: Getty)

He explains,”[Former Brookside co-star] Ricky Tomlinson rang me last year and said ‘Do you mind if I give your number to Stephen Graham?’ I said ,’Go on then!’ 

“Five minutes later, Stephen Graham rang me and said he was doing a new series for ITV called Alder, and said ‘I would be honoured if you would play my brother.’ 

"I said ‘Yeah, that’s lovely… but why me?’ So he went on to explain…

“I did a film called Dancin’ Thru The Dark (in 1990), which was the film adaptation of the Willy Russell play, Stags and Hens. I played a character called Kav, and in one of the scenes, we’re standing at the bus stop, waiting to get the bus into town for a stag do, and there’s a naughty boy who’s passing, so we chase him. 

"Well, it turns out that boy was Stephen Graham! 

“He said I made him feel so welcome on his first ever day’s filming that that was the moment he decided to be an actor. So there you go. How about that! 

“He said ‘There’s a part, it’s just a couple of days, but I’d like to thank you for starting me off.’” 

The transmission date for Alder is yet to be announced.

Coronation Street Simon O' Brien Frank Bardsley

Coming to Corrie: Simon O' Brien will be on screens soon as Weatherfield's Frank Bardsley. (Image credit: ITV)

In the meantime, O’ Brien will soon be on screens in Coronation Street, having landed the guest role of Frank Bardsley, the new love interest of cobbles knicker-stitcher and pint puller, Sean Tully. 

The 56 year old star will make his debut on the ITV soap on May 27. 

Reveals O’ Brien, “Frank has been trying to use dating apps and is very inept, so he has got a date in The Rover’s with someone completely inappropriate.

"He likes to think he’s quite witty, and Sean finds him funny and they hit it off. 

"Frank is a scouser and went to school with George the undertaker. They have a past, basically."

O’ Brien, who is probably now best known for presenting shows like Find It, Fix It, Flog It and The Great House Giveaway, says he hopes to do more acting in the future.

“I would so love this to be a springboard to get the acting going again, because I thoroughly enjoy it,” he adds. 

“It’s a completely different pressure to presenting. Presenting is easier in some ways because you don’t have to rehearse, but it’s all on you. 

"On a day’s presenting, I’ll start at 8am and won’t stop until 5pm, and I'll be on camera the whole time, whereas when you’re acting, you have to learn your lines and think about your character, but when you’re on set, it’s about hurrying up to wait. 

“You get on, do a scene, throw everything into it, and then sit back and relax until the next one comes along. It’s a different pressure. 

“Acting was always my first love, and the presenting was an accidental thing that came off the back of it.”

Alison Slade
Alison Slade

Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine. 

She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way.

There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.