Coronation Street star Mikey North explains how he’s put his heart into Gary Windass’s heartbreaking storyline…

Did you do any research about the storyline when Gary first joins up?

“Funnily enough when the storyline about Gary joining the army first started, Gary was slagging off the poppy appeal. I was walking down the street and this man, Jim Baker, started pointing at his poppy and laughing, so I went over and spoke to him. We became good mates and he took me under his wing and gave me all the advice I needed. The British Legion offices are next door to Granada studios, so I’d pop over for a coffee in the afternoon if I had a few hours off, and speak to him about the scripts.”

What did you find out?

“Jim’s in his 60s and served in Northern Ireland, and he told me stories you wouldn’t believe. There was one guy, he’d been back from the war a long time and a tyre burst on the street one day and he hid behind a wall. That instant, he thought he was back there.”

So you were determined to do the storyline justice?

“It’s such a current issue and you’ve got to get it right, and I’ve tried so hard to get it right. The biggest compliment is when you get real guys from the army telling you you’re doing a good job.”

Your character has certainly come a long way then?

“Yes at the beginning he was a little sod!”

How has life changed for you off screen?

“It is a case of your life changing overnight. You do get used to it, but there are times when I wish, for a few days, to go back to before, when no one knows who you are. When I go home to Scarborough, people assume I’ve changed, and it’s so upsetting and frustrating. I go home very rarely now, and when I do it’s see my mum and dad. Anywhere I go in the country, everyone is so welcoming and nice; the only place I get grief is in my hometown.”

Would you like to have been a soldier?

“No I have not got the bottle. I have utter admiration for those guys that do it; they’re far braver than I could ever be.”