The 40-year-old is best known for playing sonographer Marcus Dent, who has had a turbulent relationship with Coronation Street’s other main gay character, Sean Tully, played by Antony Cotton. After a three year absence, Charlie’s character was made more prominent following his return to Coronation Street in March 2011. Although he is leaving the show for a second time, Charlie says he initially only planned to return on a three-month contract.
The current decision to place his character in a heterosexual relationship with Maria Connor has been the subject of much controversy. Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk from a sedate coffee shop close to his home in Islington, north London, with his two-year-old son, Hal, quietly napping in a pram, Charlie is keen to defend the storyline and says: “When they came to me with that storyline, the producer who was gay said ‘we’ve had this idea. We want to look at what happens when a gay man who is completely comfortable with his sexuality, knows who he is, falls in love with a woman, and he will continue to identify as gay; he will be a gay man, he will be very clear about that, but he’s fallen in love with a woman’.”
Charlie goes on to say: “And I know that the producer was good friends with Russell T Davis, and they had a friend who was a gay man who had done that and they had made the series Bob and Rose, based on the guy. I am aware that it does happen and I was interested. I have said this before, but if Coronation Street had come to me with that storyline ten years ago, I don’t think I would have been comfortable doing it because I don’t think it would have been giving the right message if you like, if that’s our job in soaps.
“But I really do think we have moved on from that and I don’t think people are stupid anymore and I don’t think that they would see Marcus falling for Maria and think ‘he just needed the love of a good woman’, that’s not what we were saying in the storyline at all. We just wanted to explore it. In terms from a dramatic point of view it’s certainly not been done before. Marcus has also said that he doesn’t even consider himself bisexual, if he wasn’t with Maria he would be with a man, he’s very clear about that, and of course it’s soap, it’s never going to end well.”
According to Radio Times, show executives have promised that Marcus’s involvement with Todd Grimshaw will “divide the residents of Coronation Street”. With a large hint that Marcus’s relationship with Maria is heading for the cliff, Charlie tells PinkNews.co.uk: “Of course at some point he was going to end up with a man again of course he was. So I was interested in looking at what happens and how to play that out. I’ve been quite behind the storyline, I know a lot of the gay community doesn’t feel the same way because Marcus was considered a positive role model, I totally get that, but I don’t know, sometimes I think people’s sexuality can be complicated and the storyline is may be just a sense of that.”
When asked by PinkNews.co.uk if he would have considered staying in Coronation Street if his character had been given greater prominence, Charlie replies: “Possibly yeah, I mean you never know. It’s definitely true to say I’ve had a quiet year there and perhaps if I hadn’t, if I had been really busy I would have felt differently, but that’s the way it goes in soaps. Characters go through ups and downs, sometimes they focus on one set of characters for a period of time and then they move off and focus on others. It’s like that for everyone there but for me I was just getting a bit frustrated and it wasn’t worth being away from the kids just to be ordering a pint in The Rovers every now and again.”
Once he leaves Coronation Street this summer, Charlie says being able to spend more time with his family in London is one of the things he is most looking forward too. The regular periods away in Manchester have been particularly hard on his 4-year-old daughter, Georgia. His children mean the world to him, and from a young age, the actor reveals he always wanted to be a father. “Definitely. I had always wanted to be a dad since I was probably about 13. I suppose it is quite rare for gay people in the public eye, although it’s becoming more commonplace with people like Elton John and David Furnish obviously, Ricky Martin, Neil Patrick Harris, people like that are doing it now,” Charlie jokes to PinkNews.co.uk, “I like to think they all copied me.”
The actor previously wrote a column for The Guardian about his experiences of being a gay parent with the aim of raising awareness. “I think that was part of the reason I decided to be quite vocal about it,” he says. “The reason I asked The Guardian for the column was because when I was growing up there weren’t any gay people that I knew that had kids and it was something that I struggled with.
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Article: 6th January 2014 www.pinknews.co.uk