Sean Wilson swapped cobbles for cheese
You recognisee him at once, of course. Sean Wilson played Coronation Street’s Martin Platt for twenty years, when the ITV soap was at its peak. “Even my own father called me Martin!” laughs Sean, 57, who swapped the cobbles for cookbooks and artisan cheese in the Noughties.
He had a good run as the long-suffering husband of Gail, a woman rarely separated from her own personal raincloud.
“Helen Worth is a lovely lady but I don’t know if the viewing public ever took to Gail,” Sean tells me with a broad grin. “I used to get asked ‘How have you lasted so long with her?’ So Helen did a great job.”
Martin was also the lover of Sally Webster, not to mention nurse Rebecca Hopkins and, controversially in 2005, teenager Katy Harris, played by Lucy-Jo Hudson.
That memory still hurts.
“She was sixteen, Martin was 37 and the producers said they wanted it to go further. I said, ‘I’m not happy with that. Why do it to me? I gave you my heart and my soul and this is what I get back?’
“I thought that was the time to get my coat and leave, so my future was in my hands.”
Gail (Helen Worth) and Martin
As a teenager in Ashton-under-Lyne, Sean was rarely at home.
“I was always up early in the morning, I was up and out,” he recalls. “I had a milk round and I worked in the local market, on a fruit and veg stall to start with.
“I was out playing football, I captained football teams, I was in swimming galas…”
He was more “out, out” than Micky Flanagan. Why?
“I was the eldest child and had a stepfather, so home life wasn’t as good as it should be. I spent a lot of my time away from the house.”
He shrugs and adds, “But that’s life. You’re not born into a fairy story.”
His comprehensive school opened doors for him.
“I had a great drama teacher, Brian Johnson, an ex-actor who knew how to coax urban kids into creative arts. In my O Level year, we did auditions using contemporary texts in the school theatre. I had to do Peter Nichols’s A Day In The Life Of Joe Egg and a Ben Jonson soliloquy from Edward Bond’s Bingo.
“I remember waiting for a reaction. There was none. I couldn’t see beyond the lights. Finally, the main lights came on, Mr Johnson walked up, put his arm around me and said ‘We need to talk, it’s a cultured life for you’…”
Mark Revell and Sean Wilson of Saddleworth Cheese Co
Wilson left school at 16 with O Level drama and a precociously early A Level art. He took a drama course at Oldham college along with Sarah “Raquel Watts” Lancashire and Tony Marshal (later of Life On Mars fame).
“They told me that Oldham Theatre workshop was the place to be, so I joined and did four to five shows, including a musical written by Gary Hargreaves, Sarah’s first husband.”
Unknown to him, Granada TV casting producers were taking a keen interest. Sean was cast in a 1984 edition of Crown Court and TV drama Travelling Man.
In 1985, he landed Coronation Street.
“I had no idea I was being checked out for Corrie, it was such a thrill. I loved it growing up.”
Falling for widow Gail was his first big storyline.
“The producer called me into office and gave me the script. It said, ‘Martin kisses Gail’ – that was how I found out about it, that was the beginning of our relationship. When we filmed it they switched all of the monitors and TV screens at Granada to stop the story from leaking to the press.”
Opening day of Food and Drink Festival in Stanley Park Liverpool
Fame came overnight although sometimes people forgot why they knew him.
“I’d be in a supermarket and people in front would look at you, and look disgusted – because you’re not speaking to them. They assume they know you from working at the same factory, which of course you didn’t, so why aren’t you speaking to them?
“It was such a boon because my home life was not the best. Now I could afford my own place.”
Filming the soap was hard work, so naturally, the cast let off steam.
“ITV moved us into rabbit hutch dressing rooms; a bunch of us were hanging around with nothing to do, and shenanigans ensued…”
Singer Paul Jones from Manfred Mann was due to present a live TV music show. “We tied him up just before he was due on air. It wasn’t my idea! It was Anne Kirkbride (Deidre Barlow) who got the rope…We tied him up and just left him in a room on his own.
“He was ever so cool about it. He couldn’t have got out himself, he wasn’t Houdini. Someone must have been sent looking for him…”
For the 1989 Royal Command Performance, Sean got to the hotel bar only to be pushed aside by the producer who said, “I think you’ll find I’m first.”
Sean recalls. “He tells me ‘I’m going to put all my drinks on your bill’, but I saw his key, room 303, so we decide we’d put all our drinks on his bill instead.
“Barbara Knox (Rita Tanner) was signing Mickey Mouse, Lynne Perrie (Ivy Tilsley) too, we all did it. He went mad!”
Sean and his new book
Sean quit the soap in September 2005, after taking “a moral stand” on the Katy Hudson story.
“I left and they decided David would go off the rails and Jack Shepherd is very good at playing off the rails…”
Sean, who returned to Weatherfield briefly in 2018, has been taking things cheesy ever since…
“I was a massive cook,” he explains. “I loved to relax by cooking and I knew a few chefs who encouraged me” – including Nigel Haworth, who ran Michelin-starred Northcote Manor in the Ribble Valley and invited him to work with his team.
There Wilson met Bob Kitching, whose dairy was the only one hand-producing Lancashire cheese. “He wanted to teach someone his skills, and with my passion for food and food science I fitted the bill.”
Sean Wilson tucks in
After 18 months of experimenting, and “mithering” Bob by phone, Sean created his first cheese and won gold in the World Cheese Awards.
He developed a selection of Lancashire cheeses that sound like they’d go down a storm in the Rover’s – blue-veined Smelly Ha’peth, How’s Your Father (a creamy), Muldoon’s Picnic (a crumbly) and Mouth Almighty (a tasty).
In 2011 Smelly Ha’peth also won gold, beating Gorgonzola. He’d swapped a good life for a gouda one. But it’s been hard cheese for the business recently.
“The price of milk has more than doubled, distribution costs have too, so I’ve laid off the white cheeses for a bit,” he admits.
“It’s tough. I was in Tesco and Asda but now they’re doing their own brands.”
Sean Wilson and Marika Humpherys after being voted off Dancing On Ice
In 2012, Sean published The Great Northern Cookbook, “the antidote to Mcdonald’s”, which spawned a 2013 Channel 5 TV series. He recently published the cheese-themed Cheddar Gorge and is fully committed to his company, Artisan Farm. He’s currently writing a second cookbook.
Sean, divorced with two grown-up children, lives on the “Leicestershire/Warwickshire borders” with his girlfriend Carol.
He lets off steam playing the guitar. “I’ve been working through the blues scales this morning. It’ll be jazz scales next. I’m looking to put a band together.”
His tastes range from the late Gary Moore and BB King to jazz singer Melody Gardot via Miles Davies and the Beatles.
“I’ve always loved music, food, my artwork and poetry…I’m very much a culture vulture”.
He does occasional TV shows, including Waterloo Road and Dancing On Ice, but prefers theatre work.
“I’m pigeonholed as an actor because of doing Corrie. I’ve done theatrical tours. But you can’t live on them. You end up spending all the money on digs and travel.”
He and Carol are also keen detectorists.
“On a weekend in Lincolnshire, I found a 276AD Roman coin, Emperor Antonius, then a hammered Elizabethan coin from the early 1600s. I don’t know how much it’s worth. I don’t want to sell it.”
He pauses. “I’ve had quite a weird time. But I’m comfortable, I’m happy. I have a very good, cultured life.”
*Cheddar Gorged by Sean Wilson (Great Northern Books, £19.99) is out now.