Belfast Telegraph

Corrie’s bad guy Paddy Wallace: My Belfast dad, life at QUB and family ties to crusading priest

Paddy Wallace on his love for the city and how he was only supposed to be in the soap for four episodes

By Ivan Little

A Coronation Street star who plays one of the soap's biggest conmen has talked of his love for his second home of Belfast where his father was born, where he studied at university, where he started his acting career and where was also an Irish League footballer.

And 34-year-old Paddy Wallace has also revealed that he has just discovered that he was related to the late Fr Matt Wallace, who was called the 'people's priest' in west Belfast and who tried to tackle the scourges of drug-taking and joy-riding among young people in the area.

"Belfast will always have a special place in my heart. I have very happy memories of my time there," says Paddy, who has recently been reunited on Corrie with a former acting colleague from Northern Ireland Kerri Quinn, one of the newest recruits to Weatherfield.

"It was great to meet up with Kerri again. We were in a couple of plays together in Belfast. And I hope I was able to make her feel at home on the Street. I showed her around and gave her some practical tips about hotels and so on."

Paddy's character is currently in meltdown after being exposed as a fraud who lied to his wife Angie and his long lost mother Mary that he was a marine biologist and latterly a hero who saved the life of cafe owner Roy Cropper.

After more lies about him sitting paramedic exams were exposed Jude fled in shame taking his son with him though the child was later returned to his mum.

Viewers were left wondering if Jude had gone for good. But Paddy says he will be back, though he has confirmed that he IS leaving the series.

"People haven't seen the last of Jude. I've shot the final scenes but I can't talk about what happens in them," says Paddy, who admits that walking away from the cobbled streets for the last time hasn't been easy.

"It's a fantastic place to work. Corrie is like a well-oiled machine that works incredibly well. The cast and the crew are lovely. It's hard work especially if you are in the middle of a major storyline but that's not to say we don't have fun even with all the pressure. There's a great atmosphere but it is very much a working environment."

Producing six episodes a week obviously heightens the importance of getting things right and there's little time for rehearsals, says Paddy, who adds: "You need to learn your lines and be ready to be very flexible. You'll find that the director might have a different idea from the one that you've had."

Paddy wasn't expecting to spend two years in Corrie. His first audition for the show was for the role of either Nathan Curtis, the evil groomer of teenager Bethany Platt, or serial liar Jude Appleton.

He says: "I got the part of Jude but I was told it would be for only four episodes though there were hints that there might be longer contracts. And that's what happened as Jude became a full-time character on the Street."

For Paddy it was the biggest break in his acting career which started with some of Belfast's most innovative theatre groups after he graduated from Queen's University.

He was born in Chester but there's Irish blood coursing through his veins. Lots of it. His father Eric is from the Antrim Road area of Belfast which he left to study at teaching college in Liverpool where he met Paddy's mother Mary whose family were from Galway.

Paddy recently featured in a one-off TV show called Coronation Street's DNA Secrets in which producers investigated the family backgrounds of cast members.

Paddy was taken to the ancestral home of his mother's family on Inishturk island off the coast of the west of Ireland.

"The programme makers were able to establish that I'm 99% Irish. All four of my grandparents were from Ireland," says Paddy, who when he was growing up was a regular visitor to Belfast, where his aunt and uncle ran a delicatessen on the Cavehill Road before moving to Antrim where they still live.

Northern Ireland was to figure in Paddy's life again when he pondered his options for third level education. Queen's wasn't his first choice but he's glad it was his last.

"Loughborough College was at the top of my list because of its sporting opportunities. But when I came to Belfast with the idea of studying drama I was sold on the place and I went over in 2002."

He eventually graduated from Queen's and later got a scholarship to do an MA in Irish theatre and culture. Paddy says that during his time at Queen's drama department he was hugely influenced by David Grant and Rachel O Riordan, who's now artistic director of the Lyric Hammersmith in London.

His contemporaries at Queen's at the time included Lisa McGee, the writer of the hit show Derry Girls.

After finishing his Masters, Paddy made his stage entrance into the professional theatre in a touring Christmas show, Little Riding Hood with Roma Tomelty's Centre Stage company. He was also in one of the last productions at the 'old' Lyric Theatre in Belfast, Dan Gordon's production of Moliere's classic, The Hypochondriac.

Other plays included Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber for the Rawlife theatre company and a number of productions for Patrick J Reilly's Red Lemon team as well as shows for the Replay company and Bruiser.

"I did all sorts in Belfast. I stayed there for three or four years. Everything fell into place for me."

As well as his drama another passion for Paddy was his football.

He played for the QUB team in what was the 'B' Division of the Irish League and he received representative honours. But even though he was happy in Belfast, Paddy felt he needed to extend himself and he decided to go to a drama school across the water.

"I wanted more training especially for television so I applied to the Royal Welsh College of Drama and Music in Cardiff and went there for a year."

Paddy was signed up by a London agent and TV work quickly followed with a part in Waterloo Road. And he's also had roles in Emmerdale and even Game of Thrones.

But the Corrie job was the fame-changer. And no one was more pleased at his new job than his mother who's a massive fan. Paddy says: "I brought mum to the Corrie set and she was in her element."

Initially viewers took Jude to their hearts after he tracked down his mother Mary who had been sexually assaulted at the age of 14 and abandoned her baby at a hospital and put up for adoption.

After Jude brought his wife and son George to live with his mother in Weatherfield it emerged there was more to Paddy's character than met the eye and he was shown to be a more complex and darker individual than viewers were expecting.

"It was a fascinating part to play," says Paddy who, even though he was a regular on Corrie which is filmed in Media City in Salford near Manchester, didn't give up his home in London.

"I was only on six-month contracts so I travelled up when I was involved in filming and stayed in a hotel near the studios," says Paddy, who's had to cope with what was for him the previously unknown experience of people recognising him everywhere he goes.

"It comes with the territory," says Paddy. "You are in people's living rooms three times a week. And most folk you meet are generally very pleasant.

"And you have to remember that for some fans Coronation Street is part of their lives. Many of them gather outside the studios waiting for the actors to go in and out.

"I always tried to stop and chat and pose for a photo if that's what people want. They've spent a lot of time coming to see you so the least you can do is to give them a little bit of your time."

Paddy is more wary of social media however. "I've had a few nasty comments but I've seen other actors getting a lot worse treatment than me and that is completely out of order especially as the trolls can remain anonymous," says Paddy, who lives with girlfriend Rachel Atkins, an event manager.

"I'm all loved up," he laughs. "But seriously it's going well for us. And it's good that we aren't in the same business."

Working on Corrie has reduced Paddy's opportunities for returns to his second home of Belfast. But on one of his last visits, he found out that he was related through family ties to Wexford to the late west Belfast priest, Fr Matt Wallace, who tragically took his own life in 2013.

Fr Matt, as he was known throughout the city, spent 40 years in west Belfast working closely with young people who were involved in anti-social behaviour and who were at risk of suicide.

"I went to his church and met people there who remembered him with a lot of affection," says Paddy. "He was a legend."

On a happier note Paddy also went to see his friend Des Kennedy's acclaimed production of the Terri Hooley play Good Vibrations at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

"It was fantastic, a great show," he says.

Ironically Kerri Quinn had to drop out of the show to take her part in Corrie.

Paddy has also joined up with his former Queen's footballing friends as they celebrated winning their first ever major trophy, the Intermediate Cup by beating Dundela 4-1 at Windsor Park.

Working in Manchester has given Paddy the opportunity to see more of his favourite football team - Manchester United - in the flesh.

"I lapped up going to Old Trafford to the Champions League games in midweek. And bizarrely I've only ever seen United win in the last couple of years."

Now that Paddy has left Corrie, his thoughts are turning to the next big job. Soaps can work both ways for actors, with some casting agents wary of hiring well-known faces in the immediate aftermath of a long run.

But Suranne Jones, Katherine Kelly and Sarah Lancashire are just three actors who have gone on to bigger and better things.

Paddy adds: "Being in Coronation Street can only make you better as an actor in terms of what you are doing on a daily basis. I feel I'm a more experienced actor now, ready for the next adventure."

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