William Patrick Roache,MBE (born 25 April 1932), known professionally as Bill Roache, is an English actor. He has played Ken Barlow in the soap opera Coronation Street since its first episode on 9 December 1960. He is listed in Guinness World Records as the longest serving living actor in a continuous role.
Roache was born in Basford, Nottinghamshire, the son of Hester Vera (née Waddicor) and Joseph William Vincent Roache. He grew up in in nearby Ilkeston, Derbyshire, where he attended a Steiner school set up by his grandfather in the garden of the family home. His Freemason grandfather was interested in such things as hypnotism, theosophy, spiritualism, homoeopathy and esotericism, and the teachings of philosopher and educationalist Rudolf Steiner. Roache was later educated at the independent Rydal Penrhos (Rydal School, Colwyn Bay, North Wales).
Roache joined the British Army, and was commissioned into the Royal Welch Fusiliers in 1953. A year later he was promoted to lieutenant. In 1956 he left the British Army with the rank of captain. Due to an exploding mortar round during his military service, Roache suffers from tinnitus.
After leaving the army, Roache turned to acting and was seen in minor roles in television serials including Knight Errant Limited and Skyport. He had a small part in the film The Bulldog Breed. Shortly before joining Coronation Street at the beginning of the programme in 1960, Roache played the leading role in a Granada Television play called Marking Time, transmitted on ITV in 1961. In an interview with the Liverpool Post newspaper in 2007, Roache recalled "I played a young soldier in Germany who fraternised with a German girl, although I can't remember now how it ended. It was highly prestigious, though, and I have tried to hunt it down but there is no trace of it." He added: "But Tony Warren, who created Coronation Street, saw it and thought I was right for Ken Barlow."
Roache is now the world's longest-serving television actor in a continuous role (as of September 2010 with the cancellation of the American soap opera As the World Turns, where Don Hastings played Bob Hughes since October 1960 without a break). If he remains in the role beyond December 2014, he will surpass American actress Helen Wagner's record (also for As the World Turns) as an actor portraying the same character over the longest time span (which will be shared with Philip Lowrie if Lowrie remains in the cast). On 16 October 1985, just weeks before the 25th anniversary of his debut on Coronation Street, he appeared as the special guest on the TV show This Is Your Life. With the departure of Pat Phoenix the previous year, he was the show's last remaining original cast member by this stage.
In 1999, Roache was the recipient of the British Soap Awards Lifetime Achievement Award for his role as Ken Barlow. In 2003, Roache appeared on Celebrity Stars in Their Eyes as Perry Como singing the song "Catch a Falling Star". In September and October 2005, he appeared as a celebrity contestant in Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon. He was the winner of The Golden Shot remake, progressing through to Bullseye where he was beaten by television presenter Vernon Kay. He later entered All Star Family Fortunes, hosted by Kay, but lost by two points to his competitors.
Roache's 2008 autobiography is entitled Soul on the Street. It focuses on many of his life experiences and contains a significant amount of philosophical content in which Roache affirms his belief in the afterlife. In October 2008, Roache revealed on BBC Breakfast that he had a two-year feud with fellow Coronation Street actress Pat Phoenix, during which they did not speak to one another. This was over her changing of a scene involving the two of them. However, they did reconcile and became good friends. On 13 April 2012, Piers Morgan interviewed Roache for his ITV series Piers Morgan's Life Stories. On 26 September 2012, Roache was featured on the BBC series Who Do You Think You Are?, researching his family history.
Roache lives in Wilmslow, Cheshire. His eldest son, by his first wife Anna Cropper (1938-2007), is the actor Linus Roache (born 1964). The couple also had a daughter, Vanya (born 1967). The couple were married from 1961 until their divorce in 1974. Roache married his second wife, Sarah Mottram, in 1978. She died suddenly on 7 February 2009 at their home at the age of 58. With Sara, he had a daughter named Verity (born 1981) and a younger son, the actor James Roache, christened William (born 1985). A second daughter, Edwina, died aged 18 months after her birth in 1982 from acute bronchial pneumonia in 1984.
In 1991, Roache won a libel action against The Sun, which had described him as boring and unpopular with his fellow Coronation Street stars. He was awarded £50,000 damages by the jury, the same amount that he had turned down in an out of court settlement offered by the newspaper before the case. As a result, he was liable for the £120,000 costs incurred. Roache sued his law firm for negligence in 1998, and was declared bankrupt in April 1999.
Roache is a supporter of the Conservative Party. In 2007, as a guest for Daily Politics, he championed Sir John Major as Britain's greatest post-war prime minister. He backed disgraced ex-Conservative MP Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election against Martin Bell. This is in contrast with his character Ken, who holds strong socialist views in the style of a Labour voter. Roache became patron of the Ilkeston-based production company Sustained Magic Ltd in 2006.
Roache is a vegetarian because he "doesn't want animals being killed for him". He wrote about his interest in astrology in his biography, which he learned by taking a correspondence course from the Faculty of Astrological Studies. He said he had impressed members of the Coronation Street cast by the accuracy with which he read their astrological charts for them. Roache is a spiritualist and was photographed practising Druid rituals in the 1970s. He predicted that the world would go through a fundamental change on 12 December 2012 and "move to a higher vibration".
Arrest, trial and acquittal:
On 1 May 2013, Roache was arrested on suspicion of having raped a 15-year-old girl in 1967, an allegation he strenuously denied. The Crown Prosecution Service subsequently announced that he was to be charged with two counts of rape. There was a preliminary hearing in a Magistrate's court on 14 May 2013 and a Crown Court hearing took place on 10 June 2013. On 6 June 2013, Roache was charged with a further five counts of indecent assault against girls aged between 12 and 16.
Roache appeared at Preston Crown Court on 2 September and pleaded not guilty to all charges. The full trial started on 14 January 2014 at Preston Crown Court, before Mr Justice Holroyde. During the trial, one charge was dismissed outright by the judge citing a lack of evidence and significant flaws emerged in two witnesses' accounts in relation to the other charges. On 6 February 2014, Roache was found not guilty on all charges. Following his acquittal, Roache gave a brief statement saying that there had been "no winners" and expressing his intent to "get back to work".
During the investigation and trial, Roache's character Ken Barlow was written out of Coronation Street. His on-screen wife Deirdre revealed that he was visiting his sick grandson in Canada. An image of Ken Barlow was removed from the Madame Tussauds waxwork exhibition in Blackpool due to fears it might be vandalised, The waxwork was returned to the exhibition in February 2014 following the trial.
Roache was awarded an MBE in 2001. In March 2007, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Chester in recognition of his contribution to television.
1958 - Behind the Mask - Uncredited,
1960-present - Coronation Street - Ken Barlow,
1960 - The Bulldog Breed - Space Centre operator,
1960 - Knight Errant Limited - David - Episode: "Eve and the Serpent",
2005 - Comic Relief: Red Nose Night Live 2005 - Harry