FANS of actor Bill Ward have got used to seeing him being bumped off in spectacular style.
As Charlie Stubbs in Coronation Street he met a sticky end at the hands of Tracy Barlow. Then, more recently in Emmerdale, his character James Barton died after one of the most spectacular car crashes ever seen on a British soap.
So it makes a complete change for him actually to be investigating a death as Detective Superintendent Roy Grace in a new stage adaptation of Peter James’ novel Not Dead Enough which comes to Manchester Opera House next week.
“Yes, that was quite a way to bow out,” said Bill of his Emmerdale exit. “It was a really brave of the writers and director to even attempt but it’s the sort of stuff you live for in the acting world.
“It was really high stakes drama and sort of thing you don’t get to do a lot of. They were genuinely crashing cars at 50mph which you just don’t see in soaps.
“It was the real deal and I was delighted to be part of it.”
In Not Dead Enough, Bill will be appearing with a fellow Corrie ‘bad boy’ Stephen Billington who played Greg Kelly, and like Bill was a winner of the Villain of the Year in the British Soap Awards.
“We’ve mostly been concentrating on getting the show up and running but we’ve have the odd word about that, we’ve shared a few stories,” he said.
For any actor, starring in a totally new production is a challenge but Bill has had the added challenge of joining the cast halfway through.
“Shane Ritchie did the first 12 weeks and I’m doing the final 10 of the run,” he said.
To be a latecomer might be a problem, but Bill said that the cast has made things remarkably easy.
“They have been so welcoming,” he said. “They have been really helpful to me in terms of learning the ropes. It’s been tricky for them as they’ve been doing shows in the evening while rehearsing with me during the day.”
Because Not Dead Enough is a new production Bill didn’t even have the luxury of a script to work from before he started rehearsals in earnest.
“The show was still in development,” he said, “and as with any new work it constantly changes.
“I didn’t have a script until the end of February so I read the book which was really useful,
“It fills you in on the back story and the character but it meant I could come to the production without any preconceptions as to how it should be done.”
Peter James is one of the world’s most popular crime writers with his Roy Grace novels regularly topping the best seller lists.
“Peter is very hands on in the process,” said Bill. “He co-produced the show and it’s great to have the writer on board. He cares what happens to his work and that’s really important.”
Because the novels have such a following, Bill admits it puts extra pressure on the cast to deliver.
“I’ve sat in the audience for the show three or four times before I took over from Shane,” he said, “and you can feel that there is an understanding of the work. It’s a great atmosphere.
“What you are trying to do is give the audience possibilities as it would be in a real life investigation.
“You are trying to work out the answer as you go along and you take the audience with you as you are trying to piece things together.”
Bill admits that he hadn’t been a fan of crime thrillers before working on the production.
“It’s not a genre that I knew at all,” he said, “but I read the novel virtually in one sitting and then I went back to the start of the series. It has opened up a whole new world for me.”
Bill will be with Not Dead Enough til it ends its UK tour in July and will have time for a family holiday before he sets out in the musical Legally Blonde.
“It’s nice and busy which is just how I like it,” he said.
Not Dead Enough, Manchester Opera House, Monday, May 22 to Saturday, May 27. Details from 0844 871 3018