He's known best as the tough-talking actor behind Coronation Street legend Jim McDonald - but there's a lot more than meets the eye to Charlie Lawson.
And two years after a mini-stroke saw him collapse on stage in Edinburgh as he played Ian Rankin's surly detective Rebus, the star says he's a different man from the one he was back then.
"The extraordinary thing was that nothing like that had ever happened to me," recalls Charlie (61). "Emotionally I mean. Yes, I've been through some emotional things in my life, things that have been well documented at different points.
"But this was four or five months of continual breaking down for no apparent reason. It affects everybody in different ways, and that was the way it affected me, which was most peculiar because I had no control over it at all."
Charlie's mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA), happened in October 2018 at the beginning of a tour of Rebus - Long Shadows, which he starred in along with Cathy Tyson and John Stahl.
As the second half got underway, he felt unwell and according to reports, told the audience he thought he was going to faint.
Looking back, he recalls the sensation he felt in the moment it happened - and the emotional fallout he endured in the weeks and months that followed.
"We were in the middle of the second half and bang, I went deaf," says Charlie. "I remember about 30 seconds of it, how everything went blue and there were spots in my eyes. I was deaf and I hadn't got a clue where I was. The next thing I knew I was in the wings on the floor, and then 10 minutes later I was fine."
When he went to hospital, medics carried out tests before the star, who lives in Cheshire with his partner Debbie Stanley, was told he'd had a TIA.
"At that point I broke down," he remembers. "God knows why. It affected me emotionally for about six months, and to be honest, I couldn't work during 2019, or at least certainly until towards the end of it, because my emotions were shot to pieces.
"I went and saw somebody about that, and then I was able to get it under control, and by around autumn of 2019 I was back to Charlie. I was fine."
And while Charlie took a break last year, that came after just two nights away from the show following his TIA before returning to the stage as Rebus.
"I took two shows off and then I went back and did another 70 shows and finished the tour," he recalls.
"I was proud of myself because that took b**** of steel. I would be standing there in the wings and because I was emotionally destroyed, I just wanted to get in a taxi and go home.
"But once I got on stage and started working with John Stahl, who played Rankin's arch villain Cafferty, I became a different person and it was easy.
"Off stage though, I was not the same Charlie by any means. I was an emotional wreck. That's why I had to go and seek help, which is not me, but it certainly helped."
And the star says that once he reached out for support, it became clear quite quickly that the best thing for him to do was to accept what had happened.
"I saw someone on three occasions," he recalls. "It was obvious after the first session that the best thing to do was to accept it. I knew that eventually I would improve, and that my confidence would come back and I'd be Charlie again.
"As soon as I knew that I didn't have to go through any serious analysis about my life. I knew I had been exhausted."
I’m still a terrible advert for a healthy lifestyle
And while he spent months working through his emotions, the actor, originally from Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, says his TIA made a lasting impact.
"I'm a different human being in a very small way," he says. "Yes, I'm still a terrible advert for a healthy lifestyle. I enjoy food, I enjoy wine aplenty, but that's just me. That's what I do and I haven't stopped doing anything like that.
"But now I think more about life and how important it is. And I try to be kind to people. I've always tried, but now I try to be a slightly better person and I certainly appreciate life and how long I've got. I think about that a lot more than I ever did before."
And with plenty of time to think as pandemic restrictions continue to put paid to people's plans, Charlie has been open with thoughts on the government's handling of the crisis.
"We're very lucky in that we live in a small village in the middle of the countryside in Cheshire, about 20 miles from Manchester," he says.
"For the minute we're Tier 2 and we've had very, very few cases here. And everybody is sensible.
"We're just being sensible. I wouldn't dream of breaking the rules - and I believe first of all, my utmost sympathies and sorrows to anyone who's lost anybody.
"If you have vulnerable or older people in your family or people who need looking after, then I believe we should throw our arms around them and look after them. The rest of us I'm afraid have to get on with our lives."
And while Charlie - who has starred in Coronation Street on and off since 1989 - says he and partner Debbie are financially secure, he's acutely aware of young actors struggling as the pandemic carries on.
"I've been a busy boy over the years," he says. "But had I not, we'd be in financial difficulty without question. A lot of young actors will be finding it very hard."
And backing criticism of "insulting" government calls for people working in the arts to retrain as the sector faces extraordinary pressure, he says mistakes are being made as policy is made on the hoof.
"A lot of what the government says is insulting, but they don't really have a clue what they're doing," says Charlie.
"Everybody is making this up on the hoof, so mistakes are being made. I'm not convinced though that any government would handle it any better or any worse.
"Look at Michelle and Arlene, they are doing the best they can, but people all over the place have made mistakes and they've all been very well documented.
"Everybody's kicking their legs underneath the surface like mad, like wee ducks and wee swans, they're just trying to keep their heads above water."
Spending lockdown with partner Debbie, who is originally from Essex, the star's regular trips back to Northern Ireland have been disrupted for much of 2020.
"Normally we'd be back twice a month," says Charlie, who turned his hand to gardening during lockdown. But we haven't been back for months. We'd usually stay at the Culloden or the Europa, or sometimes the Stormont. The flights from Manchester to Belfast were for next to nothing sometimes. That's how we'd go so often.
"Sometimes we'd look online and get six return flights at once and there would be times we'd come over just for the night, for a brilliant lunch and an evening meal.
"As far as I'm concerned, the food in Manchester isn't a patch on Belfast. People don't know how lucky they are in Northern Ireland.
"We'd get off the flight into a ValuCab, over to The Crown, then in Muddlers, Deanes, and all points east and west in between."
And while he isn't sure exactly when he'll get to come back for his next visit, the star says he and partner of 19 years, Debbie, who runs a farm shop in their village, are planning a more permanent move to Northern Ireland at some point in the future.
"That's the plan," he says. "After all these years Debbie doesn't want to be in England anymore, she wants to be in Northern Ireland.
"We visit the lakes in Fermanagh every year, and Debbie can't make her mind up whether she'd like to get a place in Enniskillen, or to go with Belfast, where I think I'd like to move. I always have."
After spending the early part of his childhood in Co Fermanagh, the actor, who went to Campbell College in East Belfast, fell in love with the city.
"As soon as I had my feet under the table, I only ever went home for the summer holidays," he recalls. "I just stayed in Belfast and I loved it. It was more exciting to me than living out in the countryside in Fermanagh and I only started to appreciate Enniskillen and Fermanagh as an adult."
In fact, reveals the star, as hopes for himself and Debbie to find a home in Northern Ireland progressed earlier this year, the couple had planned to base themselves temporarily in Co Fermanagh as they scoped out the area for somewhere to live.
"We were going to rent a property near the village of Killadeas," says Charlie. "This was before Covid. Then as Covid started we were still thinking of spending some time to look around, but then Flybe went and my agent was immediately concerned about availability.
"Because no matter how cosmopolitan Northern Ireland is now, the reality is if you're freelance in the game I'm in, you need to be able to get to London at the drop of a hat and we worried we'd struggle.
"Back when I started in the business your agent could say to you, I need you in London in two days. But now those days are gone because everything is very, very fast. If you need to be in London, you need to be there and at the minute it's a tricky one. It's a big decision but one that we want to make."
But one job that could help with a move back to Northern Ireland for Charlie and Debbie would be a gig back on the cobbles - which the star says would make a commute across the Irish Sea pretty doable.
Actress Kerri Quinn, who played Vicky Jefferies in the soap, famously did it, travelling back and forth between Belfast and Manchester throughout her time on the Street.
"If I got another long contract at Corrie, I'd move like a shot," says Charlie. "Because you have a schedule, which is reasonably set in stone. Yes, it's not concrete, but you have opportunity to plan.
"You can see on the schedule when you have three weeks off, when you're in and all of that. But at the moment as a freelancer, it's tough. It's our dream though, and it will happen. Who knows what will happen in 2021?
"And the main thing is, it's not just me who wants it, it's Debbie too. She calls Northern Ireland home now, too. When she walks into the foyer at the Europa and meets everyone, I take a back seat. She's part of the scenery along with me."
I’m very proud of what the writers and I created
But of course, freeing up his schedule for a regular commute to work is far from all Coronation Street has going for it.
And with such an iconic role, playing Liz's hellraiser husband Jim over the course of three decades, Charlie explains why the show has meant such a great deal to him.
"I've been back nine times or something since I left," he says. "I'm very proud of Corrie and I'm absolutely delighted that most people, apart from my 101 or so trolls on Twitter, are very proud of the character. I always feel very touched and humbled, as does Debbie, by the reception we get when we go home to Belfast.
"It's overwhelming sometimes and I couldn't be more delighted with it. You can pick holes in the character if you want, and as I said to Gerry Kelly one night years ago, there were plenty of people who were worse adverts for Northern Ireland than Jim McDonald. That was back in the bad old days. "I'm very proud of what the writers and I created, and I'm very proud that I had a chance to do it. There weren't that many people coming out of Northern Ireland back then to fly the flag.
"When I started there was me and Alex Higgins, and my great friend Adrian Dunbar hadn't really hit the TV scene yet - although he certainly has now. I think everyone was reasonably proud of what we achieved."
And while actress Kerri and Charlie didn't spend much time together on screen - although their paths did cross during the actor's last appearance on the cobbles in 2018 - the pair have met, and Charlie hopes they can catch up again soon.
"Kerri is adorable," he says. "She'll be on my list of people to meet with again in Belfast as soon as we're able to get some flights sorted.
"It will probably be the end of November before we're back again because I can't see all this improving immediately unfortunately.
"We look forward very much to getting back. Unfortunately, the Christmas market won't be there, but hopefully the restaurants and all the places we love to go will be open again and we'll get the chance to say hello to everyone we've missed seeing. There's nowhere like it and we can't wait to get back."