Former Coronation Street actor Charlie Lawson has led tributes to one-time co-star Johnny Briggs — known to millions as ladies’ man Mike Baldwin.
Enniskillen-born star Lawson, who played Jim McDonald in the long-running ITV soap, described Briggs, who was a fixture on the cobbles for 30 years and one of its most famous faces, as a “cheeky wee character”.
Briggs’ family said he had died peacefully after a long illness. He was aged 85.
His storylines included an affair, in the early 1980s, that gripped the nation.
Deirdre (Anne Kirkbride) and Mike had an illicit relationship two years into her marriage to Ken Barlow (William Roache), but she decided to stay with her husband.
Briggs made his Corrie debut as Baldwin in 1976 and remained in the Street until 2006.
His character’s death, of a heart attack and having suffered from a form of Alzheimer’s, was watched by 12m viewers.
The underwear factory boss died in the arms of Barlow, his nemesis, and it was described as an “historic moment in the Street’s history”.
Charlie told the Belfast Telegraph that he and Briggs had been “good pals” over the years, and the pair had enjoyed playing golf together as well as socialising as “drinking pals”.
He revealed that they had fallen out for a couple of years but became friends again at a golf event.
“I just thought: ‘This is daft now’ and I went up to him and we shook hands and made up and then we were friends again. It was one of those things that happens,” he recalled.
Charlie said there had been more to Briggs’ acting career before arriving on the famous cobbles.
“I think people forgot that he had done a huge body of work over the years before Coronation Street.
“And if you put your TV channel onto Talking Pictures UK, Briggsy pops up all the time,” he explained.
“He played a great character on the Street.”
Offering his condolences to Briggs’ family and loved ones, Charlie said his portrayal of Mike Baldwin worked because he was a “London lad in the middle of Weatherfield”.
“He understood it. Briggsy had been around a while and he knew how to work the cameras. If you look at the body of work that he did, he just slotted in perfectly,” he explained.
“Playing Mike Baldwin was easy for Johnny.
“He made it look easy because it was easy for him and he was able to live to the full.
“I don’t think he found it a hard task, as I didn’t because we had done a lot of work before we hit the Street.
“Jim McDonald didn’t have many scenes with Mike Baldwin but I had many ‘scenes’ with him on the golf course and clubhouse afterwards.”
Charlie revealed the pair last spoke around five years ago, after Briggs had retired from acting.
“He was a cheeky wee character and he lived to play golf and that’s how I’ll remember him: on the golf course,” said Charlie.
Briggs’ relatives asked for privacy, so they can “quietly grieve as a family and remember the wonderful times we had with him”.
The Coronation Street Twitter account paid tribute, saying the Baldwin character was “one of the most iconic the Street has ever known”.
Charlie said it was an “unfortunate” that as time goes on, the link to Coronation Street’s original legendary cast would lessen as time passes.
“We have elderly members of the cast. We have to get used to it. It’s a fact of life. People get old and pass away and there’s a new generation [on the Street] coming through,” he said.
Coronation Street star Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt, was also among those paying tribute on Sunday.
“I am very sorry to hear the sad news,” she said in a statement.
“I have many happy memories of working together with Johnny.
“Mike Baldwin was one of the street’s most memorable characters.”
Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully in the soap, tweeted: “Johnny Briggs was a complex character, on and off screen, and we all adored him.
“Feel lucky that I got the chance to work with him in the factory. I am, and will always be, a Baldwin’s Casual.
“Night night Mr Baldwin, I’ve left you a bottle of Scotch in the filing cabinet.”
Sue Nicholls, the soap’s Audrey Roberts, said Briggs was “a truly great actor”.
“He played the part of Mike Baldwin so well that, despite all Mike’s ducking and diving, you were always on his side.
“Although he left the show 15 years ago he will always be part of the Street and its history. I send my love and condolences to his family,” she said in a statement to the PA news agency.
The London-born actor also appeared on stage and in films, alongside the likes of Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde and Tommy Steele.
Briggs was appointed an MBE in the Queen’s New Year Honours in December 2006.