Truth about Soap's Most Hated Man; EXCLUSIVE How Chris Coghill Went from Middle-Class Manc Heart-Throb to EastEnders Sex Beast

The Mirror (London, England), September 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Truth about Soap's Most Hated Man; EXCLUSIVE How Chris Coghill Went from Middle-Class Manc Heart-Throb to EastEnders Sex Beast


Byline: BY BETH NEIL

HE'S embroiled in one of the darkest and most disturbing storylines EastEnders has ever attempted - and Chris Coghill knows it will turn him into public enemy number one.

He's barely been in Walford five minutes and already his character, evil paedophile Tony King, has become the most hated figure in soap.

In sinister but gripping scenes, ex-jailbird Tony has been grooming 15-year-old Whitney Dean, the stepdaughter of his partner Bianca.

Behind everyone's backs he has been secretly enticing naive Whitney into bed, fooling her into thinking it is a lasting, loving relationship.

The controversial pre-watershed storyline has already prompted scores of complaints. But although it has made him the most reviled character in soap, Chris shrugs off rumours that he might need police protection.

"Fans of EastEnders will hate Tony and that's what they're supposed to do," says Chris, 34.

"From time to time members of the public may confuse reality with the soap, but I'm an actor, not Tony.

"I'm a bit worried about that, but I'm a big boy - I'll get a big hat and a pair of sunglasses."

To prepare for his shocking role Chris has spent hours talking to child abuse experts. His character is young and good-looking, with a girlfriend who loves him and a happy family life.

Yet Chris believes it is because paedophiles like Tony seem so normal that their crimes often go undetected.

He says: "The problem with child abuse is that you can never really tell if someone is an abuser or paedophile.

"The only way they're ever going to get caught is if somebody tells. So if people recognise that something on EastEnders is happening in their lives and they pick up the phone to NSPCC or ChildLine, then it's worth doing."

It is Chris's highest profile role to date, yet those who know him say he is a far cry from the callous Northerner he plays in the hit soap. In fact, they reckon Bury-born Chris is just a big softie and a "plastic Manc".

He spent years as a jobbing actor, appearing in Cold Feet, Shameless and even Coronation Street. He also won a Best New Writer Bafta in 2003 for Clocking Off. But his big acting break came in 2002 playing Happy Mondays dancer Bez in the cult Madchester movie 24 Hour Party People.

An old friend says: "Party People turned everything around for Chris.

"He used to laugh about having a tiny part in Corrie as one of Spider's crusty mates. He joked he got pounds 20 for it - but he entered a different world when he did films and started hanging out with real-life Madchester characters.

"I remember seeing him in town once and him saying he'd just lent Shaun Ryder pounds 100. It was all a bit mad."

In fact, friends back in the North West say Chris only adopted his Manchester accent and hardman swagger after playing Bez.

One, who asked not to be named, says: "It makes us laugh. Although he's famous as this Mancunian character, he didn't used to speak like that at all. …

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