AS DR Matt Ramsden in Coronation Street, the UK’s longest running TV soap opera, Stephen Beckett was at the centre of a lovechild scandal that rocked his neighbours in the iconic cobbled street, and the millions of viewers who tune in to the cherished show week after week.
After an eventful two years as the trusted local GP, he left the street in 2002 in a storm of controversy after impregnating Maxine Peacock, who with husband Alan were the street’s darling couple, after the family turned to him for infertility treatment.
“I would get some abuse when I was out in Manchester because of that storyline. People would shout things like ‘mucky medic’, or ‘dirty doctor’, but it was all good natured” says Stephen.
“Coronation Street was a mad little bubble to be in. It is a great show with an incredible history, and so many memorable characters over the years, and I am proud to have been part of that.”
Ten years on, and he remains a busy TV and theatre actor. He also has two young children with wife Anne Brecon, also an actress.
His latest theatre project is Deathtrap, which sees Stephen plays Sidney Bruhl, a washed-out, one-hit wonder playwright who receives a perfect script from upcoming writer, Clifford Anderson (played by Griff Stevens).
Seeing an opportunity to get his career back on track, Sidney devises a plan with reluctant wife Myra (Jo Castleton) to rip off the script, but things turn sinister when the young pretender visits his duplicitous mentor.
The production holds the record of being the longest-running comedy thriller in Broadway history and was also adapted for a 1982 Hollywood film, which starred Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve.
Stephen, now 46, was born and raised in south London, and learnt his craft at RADA.
With a series of theatre roles already to his name, his breakthrough TV part was as PC Mike Jarvis in long-running police drama series The Bill, something of an actor’s right of passage. Joining the show in 1993 in its peak years, Stephen said his time at Sun Hill Police station was ‘fantastic’.
“I was 25 when I joined, and there was a whole bunch of us around the same age having a lot of fun. I have a lot of good memories running around council estates in south London.”
Then came Corrie, but for the past 10 years since leaving the street, he has built up a strong body of stage work, with lead billings at the National Theatre and other major theatres in the West End and across the UK. He has also worked extensively with celebrated playwright Alan Ayckbourn and popped up on the small screen, with parts in Casualty Doctors, Heartbeat, and Robin Hood for the BBC.
Speaking about Deathtrap, revived by Brighton-based production company, Talking Scarlet, and currently earning rave reviews as it tours the UK, he said: “It is a fantastic premise. There are huge, gasp-inducing twists, and it is full of morbid humour. It is not performed so often any more, so this is a good chance to catch a classic.”
* Deathtrap comes to the Beck Theatre, Hayes, on July 8-10, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £16.50/£18.50. Call the box office on 020 8561 8371.