Jimmy Nesbitt: I wanted to buy Barry's Amusements... but got Cold Feet
Cold Feet star Jimmy Nesbitt has revealed he was going to buy Barry's Amusements in Portrush after it went on sale in November.
The Coleraine actor had a job as a teenager manning the Big Dipper roller-coaster and calling the bingo at the much-loved park, which has entertained children and adults alike for more than 90 years. Since it opened in 1926, Barry's has remained in the Trufelli family, who have put it up for sale as a going concern.
With a number of bidders said to be interested, Nesbitt has revealed he too had been tempted to buy the place where he first entered the world of work.
Speaking on the set of Cold Feet, which returns to our TV screens later this month, he spoke of his love for the amusement park, where Cold Feet filmed scenes some years ago
"I was going to buy Barry's," he reveals. "I worked there on the Big Dipper and was a bingo caller in Portrush when I was younger. Of course I'd love to get back again."
While he didn't elaborate on any negotiations to buy the park, it is believed he has not progressed with the plan as yet.
Cold Feet, the hit 90s ITV show which stars Nesbitt in the lead role, became a ratings winner after its first screening in 1997. Now, over 50 episodes later, it's back for a new series.
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The award-winning comedy, which follows the lives of friends Adam Williams (Nesbitt), Rachel Bradley (Helen Baxendale) - who was killed off in series five - Pete and Jenny Gifford (John Thomson and Fay Ripley), and Karen and David Marsden (Hermione Norris and Robert Bathurst), has returned to TV twice including the latest series.
Now middle-aged, the first episode of series nine is a roller-coaster catch-up with all the main characters whose lives are as dramatic as ever. Adam is now in a relationship with Karen, who was married to David in the first series. Meanwhile, the Giffords are a couple again and are struggling to come to terms with Jenny's breast cancer, while David is butting heads with Adam over Karen.
Cold Feet's ratings peaked at 6.6 million in 2016 when the show returned after a 13-year absence, but no one is more surprised at its longevity than Coleraine actor Jimmy. "We made the pilot 23 years ago - it's crazy," he admits.
He puts the Manchester-based show's success down to the realness of its characters. He says: "People can relate to them. We've all experienced things one or more of those characters have gone through. We've all been as lonely, as vulnerable, as sad, as happy as they all have been."
One of the biggest shocks this season, though, is the romance between playboy Adam and the sophisticated Karen, but Jimmy says their relationship is one to watch.
"We (Hermione and I) were as surprised as anyone. But the relationship was lovely to play because as characters they're not that ill-suited. They're able to be quite honest with each other."
He adds: "They're finding each other in a way they never expected too. They weren't the closest of friends, but they've been friends for such a long time. It flowers quite easily because so much groundwork has been done.
"Karen is potentially very good for him, and he is maybe very good for her."
The cast of the long-running comedy written by Mike Bullen are friends in real life, having worked together on the nine series over 20 years.
And Jimmy and Hermione were grateful to have known each other so long, especially for some of the more intimate scenes together.
The 54-year-old actor jokes kissing scenes don't get any easier. "Oh God, I get so shy and think about it, leading up to the scene. It's a bit exposing, not even physically. And I can't help thinking - am I not too old for all this?"
Hermione (52), adds: "Being an actor, it's just your job - but it does seem to get harder as you get older."
Having worked with Hermione for so many years, though, does help and Jimmy jokes "she loves it". "It's been a lot easier for Hermione and I because we know each other. We can support each other. Sometimes you're thrust into things where you don't know someone."
So will Adam and Karen go the distance?
"I would've thought there would be big odds on Karen and Adam being together a long time ago," Jimmy says. "These characters are very different - both likeable in a way - and I think that people can see Karen is really good for Adam. Hopefully people can see Adam is good for her."
And with the new relationship tested from the first episode, Hermione agrees Karen is able to deal with whatever comes the couple's way. "She's not intimidated by anything," she tells me.
The Cold Feet pilot first aired in 1997, returning to TV in 2016 after a long sabbatical - and 6.6 million viewers tuned in. With pressure on the new series to have a similar draw, Jimmy is confident the show's latest outing won't be the last. "I think there will be more Cold Feet," he says.
And it was easy for the cast to slot back into their familiar roles. "We hadn't seen each other for about three years. But after a week of filming we felt like it had been a matter of months - it was bizarre."
Jimmy believes the award-winning drama often mirrors real life.
"When Adam is accused of inappropriate behaviour at work in the new series and his kids question him, that's believable," he says. "I have two grown-up girls and that's certainly happened in my life."
The Co Antrim actor split from his wife Sonia Forbes-Adam in 2016, and has two daughters' Mary (22) and Peggy (18).
So how do his kids react to their dad's fame and Cold Feet in particular?
"They enjoy Cold Feet, but I'd be the last person to know when my daughters are proud of me - not that they would hide it from me. They do watch me on TV and from time to time they'd say they enjoy Cold Feet," he says.
"They don't bombard me with it because they've got their lives. We are tight, we're close and my fantasy is that they think I'm a cool dad, but they actually don't give a b******s."
He admits his kids watched him in the psychological child abduction TV series The Missing, which also starred Keeley Hawes, but couldn't watch all of The Secret about Northern Ireland dentist Colin Howell who became a killer in partnership with his lover Hazel Buchanan.
And the booming film industry in Northern Ireland means Jimmy will be back home this week.
"I start shooting Bloodlands by writers Jed Mercurio and Jimmy Mulville in Belfast on January 8," he reveals. "It's about a policeman and pretty noir-ish", is all he will give away at this stage.
"I'll also be filming at Strangford this month, so it's going to be Baltic."
Not unlike his Cold Feet character, Jimmy is more reflective in middle age. "I've loved it (Cold Feet), especially this last series. I've been very lucky in my career and I do think about the impact, I still get insecure about work and wonder when will it dry up?
"But I'm also conscious of trying to enjoy life and enjoy work because time is racing by. When you're working, time goes quickly - all of a sudden half a year is over."
Nowadays, Jimmy doesn't like being away from his family too much: "There have been times in the past when I've been away for what I consider is too long. I was acting in a film in Australia and I hadn't seen my family for two months. That's a long time - it was awful - never again.
- Cold Feet is on ITV on Monday, January 13, at 9pm.