THIS year’s panto season brings a touch of Californian sunshine to the region as former Baywatch actor turned cult celebrity David Hasselhoff appears on stage.

Topping the bill in Manchester Opera House’s traditional pantomime Peter Pan, The Hoff returns to the role he’s been making his own in recent years.

The year will be his third consecutive outing in the UK as Captain Hook in the magical tale of the little boy who refused to grow up.

But David is far from tired of the role.

He said: “I’m looking forward to panto again and it should be even better this year — we’ve spiced it up with some new Hoffisms. It’s a great, great show.”

While perhaps best known as something of a figure of fun — he’s a big pop star in Germany — David has a background in serious musical theatre, with West End, Broadway and Las Vegas credits to his name.

He said: “Pantomime’s a piece of cake — one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.

“I’m used to speaking to people on the street and I grew up doing melodrama with that kind of audience, and playing the good or bad guy.

“It’s a whole lot easier than Broadway, which is intense. Iif you make a mistake there, you’ve got people coming down on you.

“It’s the most fun when you go off script in panto and the audience picks up on the fun of that.”

“Being on stage, two shows a day and getting paid for it — that’s what I want to do. If you’re doing something you love and want to be getting up for the day, then you’re blessed.”

Last month, the Los Angeles-based star called into Manchester for publicity photos for the show..

He’s spoken of his love for the city, after filming Britain’s Got Talent there last year, and he’s sure to get into the festive spirit if past panto spells are in Wimbledon and Bristol are anything to go by.

“My last two Christmasses have been surreal. When I was at the theatre in Wimbledon, I spent Christmas Eve in Hyde Park with my nephew wandering round and saying Merry Christmas to people and eating bratwurst,. We were exhausted by Christmas Day.

“Last year I did four hours of TV with chef Gordon Ramsay as he cooked Christmas dinner, eating it, then going back to the hotel and continuing the celebrations in the hotel overlooking the Thames.”

This year, 60-year-old David hopes to join his Welsh girlfriend Hayley Roberts’ family for the big day.

And with him spending increasing amounts of time in the UK, recent visits have included house hunting — with his LA mansion reportedly going on the market for $3.8million.

“I’ve got my eyes on a place in the Cotwolds,” he said. “I spend so much time in the UK and not so much time in LA that I think maybe I’ll downsize to a place closer to the beach in LA, and get a place to call home in the UK.”

  • Peter Pan, Manchester Opera House, December 8 to January 13. Tickets available from 0844 847 2277.