Antony Cotton will next year be celebrating his very own Coronation Street milestone. The actor, who is best known for playing Sean Tully in the ITV soap, will mark 20 years on the cobbles after making his debut in 2003.
Sean appeared in Weatherfield while searching for somewhere to live and it is then that he found a home at No.11 with Eileen Grimshaw, where viewers still find him today. And, following his sacking from a cosmetics firm, he became Underworld's first male machinist. He is now also a barman at the Rovers Return.
Over the years Sean has struggled to maintain a serious relationship. The two main loves of his life, sonographer Marcus Dent and vicar Billy Mayhew, left him for Maria Connor and Todd Grimshaw respectively, with the latter causing him to be kicked out of No.11 after twelve years.
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In 2007, Sean impregnated his friend Violet Wilson in order to give her a baby, with the understanding that he would play no part in the child's upbringing, however, Dylan has recently returned to the cobbles where it has been decided he'll live with his dad on a permanent basis.
But in 2018, Antony took on a heartbreaking story when his character became homeless. And many fans of the soap may have been unaware, as the soap prepared the harrowing storyline, the Bury-born actor had stepped in as a lifeline to a man who contacted him on Facebook after he lost everything.
Antony, who was competing in the ITV skating show Dancing On Ice at the time as well as filming Corrie, helped the man to find a home and a job after receiving a message on Facebook asking for his help. "When I was doing Dancing On Ice which was at the beginning of the year I had a message off somebody who wasn’t a friend but somebody that I knew," he recalled to us at the time of the storyline.
"I randomly got a message on Facebook and by fluke the top message out of thousands was from this lad I met a couple of times socially and it just said ‘can you help me I’ve got nobody else to turn to I’m homeless?’ So then I thought ‘is this real?’ and I rang and it was him and I was thinking like everybody: ‘what could possibly have got you into this position?'
"I do a lot of work with the military around PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) so I’m used to this kind of conversation. It doesn’t frighten me. I said ‘I’ll help you’ because how could I not? Even though he wasn’t a friend I knew him and it’s a human being at the end of the day."
Antony then knocked on the door at Manchester-based homeless charity Barnabus and explained the situation about the man, who was at the time living in a tent in a stairwell in a block of council flats in Fleetwood. The last time they met he had been married with children and self-employed. Barnabus explained it wasn’t in their jurisdiction to collect him and advised the Bury actor against going alone to pick him up. But they said if he could get to Manchester, they could start to help.
One night Antony received a message to say the man was on the train to Manchester, so the soap star booked him into a hotel near the Northern Quarter for the weekend. The pair met at the hotel and Antony says he "internally burst out crying" when he saw him. "He was about eight stone and when I knew him he was massive, he was a unit," he recalled.
"He looked very, very ill. I said: 'We’ve got three days to sort you out.' I was in the middle of doing Dancing On Ice. I may have appeared quite grumpy on Dancing On Ice occasionally because people didn't know the half of what I was going through." And with help from another charity - Homes of Hope - within nine days he was found a home and was given access to benefits. He has since found employment with a construction company, via Barnabus, and has phoned Antony every day since to check in with him.
As he mentioned, Antony has long been a supporter of the British Army and its veterans. So much so, the soap star was recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to British Army personnel and veterans earlier this year. As well as his work on-screen, the 46-year-old has been involved with the military community since 2008 and was named as the first celebrity ambassador for military charity the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA).
He is also a patron of Help For Heroes and was made the SSAFA’s 2022 ambassador for the defence inclusivity category. Antony's official association with the charities began following the return of a close friend from Afghanistan, who needed support.
Away from his work, Antony is loved-up with his long-term partner Peter Eccelston who he first met on the set of Coronation Street where his other half works as a props buyer. When they started their relationship isn't quite clear but in 2010, the pair did exchange rings as a sign of their commitment to one another.
And Antony is also Corrie's very own cupid. He is responsible for setting up former co-star Kym Marsh with her husband, Major Scott Ratcliff. But the first co-star couple he helped pair up which was Jenny McAlpine and her partner. He told the Daily Star earlier this year: "Yeah, I have I set up Kym Marsh and her now-husband Scott Ratcliffe and I was the MC at their wedding.
"But I think those days are gone, my cupid days are gone now I've hung up those wings. I've introduced two couples, Jenny who now has two children. So, that is my contribution to society."
Peter is reportedly the nephew of Doctor Who star Christopher Eccleston and he's not the only one with famous relatives. Antony's mum is Enid Dunn who is an NHS volunteer who previously appeared in Peter Kay's hit comedy Phoenix Nights. But she has also appeared not once but FOUR times in Corrie.
She first appeared as Joan Lawson, the aunt of the deceased Dennis Stringer, at the latter's funeral in January 2002 before playing two other roles in 2006 and 2011. Then, in 2014, she appeared in the long-running soap as bingo player Maureen Rothwell. Enid also appeared in the 2010 special drama The Road to Coronation Street as the immortal Agnes, the Granada Television tea lady who told Tony Warren that Florizel Street, the name of his new serial, sounded like a disinfectant leading to a change in the iconic show's name.
She has also appeared in City Central, Merseybeat, had several roles in Doctors, and a regular role in Cutting It as well as Phoenix Nights, the latter in the part of Joyce, one of the barmaids in Peter Kay's clubland comedy.
Antony has previously spoken out how he was forced to call the police when he was the victim of online abuse. According to the Daily Star, he said: "This was before Twitter. There was this hateful forum on a website that just used to go on and on and on about me. I’m talking tens of thousands of messages from these vile trolls that would talk about me."
Antony was "upset" by the abusive messages before he received a call from an unexpected place. Actor Ian McKellen phoned the soap star and told him: "What anybody else thinks of you is none of your business. Just think about that." Antony added: "And from that day forward I did it, I just stopped caring what people thought of me. He probably knew they were good lessons but he wasn’t doing it to teach me, but to show me the way. He's told me some of the most profound things that I’ve ever been told, they’ve all come from him."
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