Andy Whyment says Coronation Street is rewriting scripts to include coronavirus as The Rovers Return gets shutdown

Andy Whyment says Coronation Street is rewriting scripts to include coronavirus as The Rovers Return gets shutdown


Ever since the global pandemic saw production of Coronation Street grind to a halt back in March, the nation has had to cope with just half the number of weekly visits to Weatherfield. And no one is more desperate for the beloved soap to get back in business than one of its longer serving cast members, Andy Whyment, who celebrates 20 years playing the gormless but loveable Kirk Sutherland in December.

“I’m really missing work and the banter we have there,” Andy, 39, tells OK! when we catch up with him and wife Nichola on the phone during lockdown.

“I can’t believe we’ve not been filming for nearly two months, so I really hope we can get back sooner rather than later.”

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Still, as anyone who watched Andy finish in second place on the last series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! can attest, the happy-go-lucky family man (he is dad to Thomas, 11, and Hollie, nine) isn’t someone who sits around moaning.

In fact, it’s testament to his no-frills nature that one of his biggest frustrations during quarantine wasn’t having to cancel a Caribbean cruise, but missing out on regular trips to his favourite curry house.

As he and Nichola, 35, fill us in on how the family are getting on, Andy reveals why lockdown is nothing compared to his stint in the Australian bush. He also says Corrie will look very different when filming resumes and shares why he’s relieved the pandemic happened now and not next year…

Hi guys, how is life treating you while you’re all stuck at home together?

Andy: It’s not too bad, actually. With my job, I spend a lot of time at home anyway because if you don’t have a big storyline, you get quite a bit of time off. So it’s not that much different from normal life, except you can’t go out. The first three weeks were actually the hardest because all my favourite takeaways were shut, but now they’ve reopened.

Nichola: We do love eating out, so we have missed that. Normally when Andy isn’t working and the kids are at school, we’ll go out for lunch and have a little day date but there’s been none of that with the kids at home!

Andy: Yes, the first thing we’re going to do when lockdown is over is go to my favourite curry house, Akbar’s, in Manchester.

How does lockdown compare to being in the jungle, Andy?

Well, two and a half weeks in the jungle feels a bit like a lockdown anyway, although lockdown is easier because I am with my wife and kids. I can also have proper food and a cup of tea or coffee whenever I want, so it’s much better being in lockdown than in there!

Have you been in touch with your fellow campmates much during this time?

Andy: We still have a WhatsApp group, but it’s one of those situations where you say you’ll keep in touch and then everyone gets on with their own lives. I do speak to Myles [Stephenson], Cliff [Parisi], Ian [Wright] and Nadine [Coyle] regularly, but it’s hard because they’re all in London and I’m the only one up north, so even if we weren’t in lockdown, I wouldn’t see that much of them anyway.

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Have you spoken to Kate Garraway since her husband Derek became ill with coronavirus?

Andy: No. I got on really well with Kate in there and she’s lovely, but she’s really into politics and stuff, so we don’t speak that much in the outside world. We’ve all messaged her on the WhatsApp feed about Derek but she hasn’t messaged back yet. Obviously she has enough on her plate right now. It’s just an awful situation to be in.

How have you all been passing the time at home as a family?

Andy: Me and Nic have been getting into posting videos on TikTok! And when the weather was amazing during the kids’ Easter holidays, we spent a lot of time in the garden. We were actually meant to be on a Caribbean cruise, which we had to cancel, so we just made the most of being out the back. It’s not quite the same as staring out at the ocean but what can you do? We also do a weekly quiz on Zoom with our friends in Dubai.

Nichola: When it’s our turn to ask the questions, we make ours really easy and everyone else makes theirs hard, so we always end up coming last or second to last!

Is it stressful homeschooling the kids?

Andy: I don’t play teacher, Nic does!

Nichola: I don’t really think Andy has got the patience. He did take the class the other day when I went to Asda, but Hollie wasn’t very impressed. She told me that he just kept saying, “Leave it if you can’t answer it!”

Andy: I definitely couldn’t be a teacher, put it that way. Just doing that hour when Nic nipped to Asda was enough for me!

Have the kids been worried about what’s happening?

Nichola: At the beginning they were. There was a bit of uncertainty because my nephews were supposed to be coming to stay before the lockdown, but then we found out they had possibly come into contact with the virus through someone at school. Our two started crying, bless them, saying they didn’t want to get it. In the end, my nephews didn’t end up coming because we went into lockdown, and luckily they didn’t have the virus either.

Are you missing being at work on Corrie , Andy?

I’m really missing work and the banter we have there. I can’t quite believe we’ve not been filming for nearly two months, so I really hope we can get back sooner rather than later. I’m best mates with Alan Halsall, who plays Tyrone, and Sam Aston, who plays Chesney, so we FaceTime quite a bit.

When do you think you will go back on set?

I think we are hoping to get back mid June, that’s what we’re working towards. We have enough episodes in the can until early July, so hopefully we won’t have to go off air.

Do you know if the pandemic will be referenced in future storylines?

I think it will. They’ve been rewriting all the scripts and it’s been such a massive part of everyone’s lives, so the show will probably reflect that. We won’t be able to do big
group scenes, like where everyone is in the Rovers, and if pubs haven’t reopened by
then, we won’t be able to do any scenes in the Rovers at all.

The show celebrates its 60th anniversary in December. Can you tease anything that’s planned for that?

As a cast, we’re still in the dark about that but I’m sure it will be big. We’re not doing a live episode for this anniversary, but I’m glad about that. You can’t win! People watch it for mistakes and if you don’t make any mistakes, people accuse us of not really filming live. I’ve done two live episodes now, I don’t want to do another one.

December also marks your 20-year anniversary on the cobbles. Can you believe it?

No, I only signed up for seven episodes at the beginning, so it’s mad. I still get a buzz now when I drive up to the studio gates and they lift the barriers for me. I am still a massive fan of the show and it’s a privilege to have been there this long.

Would you like to equal William Roache’s (Ken Barlow) record of 60 years on the show?

I don’t think that’s ever going to happen, nobody can touch Bill, but I certainly have no desire to leave. When I came out of the jungle, people asked me if I wanted to do other things but I don’t. Coronation Street has always been my bread and butter and I’m very lucky that I enjoy what I do. You can’t ask for more than that. Also when I was in The Royle Family and filming in London, I couldn’t wait to get home and realised how much of a northern boy I am.

What’s been your highlight of the 20 years?

I think Kirk getting married to Beth (Lisa George) has been my favourite storyline because I never thought Kirk would get married. He has always been unlucky in love. People always compare Kirk and Beth to Jack and Vera Duckworth but, in my eyes, there will only ever be one Jack and Vera.

You also celebrate another milestone next year when you turn 40. Do you have plans?

Andy: Yeah, we’ve postponed the Caribbean cruise that we should have been going on when the lockdown happened to next April. So I should wake up on my 40th birthday in Miami, about to set sail, and hopefully it will be better than this last birthday. In a way, I’m just glad the lockdown happened this year because I would have been gutted if it had happened on my 40th.

Nichola: I’ve already decided what I’m buying him for his 40th. I’m going to book a nice excursion in Miami – that way we can all get something out of it [laughs].

How do you feel about reaching that milestone, Andy?

I’m not bothered. I don’t worry about getting another year older, because we are all born to get older. What can you do? You just have to get on with it. I don’t feel like I look like I’m 40 either, and everyone always says I don’t really age that much. I always look at my grandad. He is nearly 90 and he hasn’t changed for years, so I think I’ve inherited his genes!

Coronation Street Monday, Wednesday & Friday 7.30pm ITV

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