SINCE Sean Tully’s debut appearance in Coronation Street, the lovable character has provided much comic relief for viewers thanks to his-over-the-top, extrovert personality, while being the subject of a number of big storylines.

Antony Cotton, who has played the Street’s first gay character since 2003, has, without a doubt, injected a part of his personality into Sean, and comes across just as funny, feisty and to-the-point in person.

But, unlike his soap persona, who is still in love with his former flame Marcus, Antony is settled and happy in his personal life with Peter Eccleston — a nephew of former Dr Who Christopher Eccleston — and reportedly both exchanged rings to show each other’s commitment in 2010.

Antony, who was born in Edenfield, is a regular on the Manchester celebrity circuit, often seen out with co-stars Catherine Tyldesley, from Walkden, and Kym Marsh.

But, more recently, he travelled a little closer to home for his latest venture, launching the partnership between the Rank Group, which includes Mecca Bigno and Grosvenor Casinos, and charity Carers Trust, which supports carers around the UK. Antony, who looks nowhere near his 38 years, visited Bolton’s Mecca to mark the event by turning into his alter-ego Sean for the evening as a bingo caller.

Antony, a former student at Woodhey High School, Ramsbottom, said: “The thing that has always struck me about bingo is that people think of it as just old ladies playing, but there are loads of young people playing bingo — because, at the end of the day, you can win money.

“My character, Sean, was a bingo caller many years ago in Corrie so I did my rounds of bingo halls at the time and I must admit I do love a game of bingo. Even my friend who is a squaddie on leave found out I was calling the bingo and said, ‘I love bingo can I come and play?’”

Having splashied out on a luxury house on the outskirts of Rochdale with his partner of nine years, Antony is proud of his Northern roots.

He said: “I went to Woodhey High School and my parents are up in Holcombe, so I still visit. Bolton was where we always used to go shopping when we were kids. It was always seen as the posh place to go shopping. I don’t know whether that is still the case.”

Antony has come a long way since his TV debut in 1998 where he played a Brighton rent boy. He has starred in a number of hit TV shows such as Queer as Folk, Absolutely Fabulous and The Bill before gaining the part in the nation’s favourite soap which changed his life.

Along the way he has won a number of awards, including Funniest Character at the Inside Soap Awards in 2006 and Best Actor at the British Soap Awards in 2007. He even won Let’s Dance for Comic Relief in 2012 and went into the jungle on I’m a Celebrity in 2011.

But he is quick to remember his early days.

He said: “I used to be a member of the Bolton Octagon Youth Theatre when I was really little before I started at Oldham Theatre Workshop. But it all started at the Octagon where I developed my love of acting, and I haven’t looked back.”

n Catch Antony on Coronation Street on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on ITV1.