Coronation Street star Johnny Briggs dies aged 85

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Media caption,
Coronation Street scriptwriter Damon Rochefort pays tribute to Johnny Briggs - a "magnificent actor"

Actor Johnny Briggs, who played Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street for 30 years, has died aged 85.

His family said he died peacefully after "a long illness, with family by his side" and asked for privacy to "remember the wonderful times we had".

Briggs was made an MBE in the New Year's Honours in 2007, the year after his character left the ITV soap.

Baldwin's affair with Deidre Barlow and his feud with her husband, Ken, were a long-running ratings hit for the show.

Coronation Street colleagues have paid tribute to Briggs calling him a "wonderful actor" and describing Mike Baldwin as "one of the most iconic characters the Street has ever known".

William Roache, who played Baldwin's long-term rival Ken Barlow, said Briggs was a "strong character who will be greatly missed".

"Mike Baldwin and Ken Barlow were arch enemies for many years, but as an actor, Johnny was impeccable, always good, and I was so fortunate to have worked with him for so many years," he said.

Sue Nicholls, who plays Audrey Roberts, said he was "a great friend" and was "always fun to be around".

"He played the part of Mike Baldwin so well that, despite all Mike's ducking and diving, you were always on his side," she said.

Helen Worth, who plays Gail Platt on the cobbles, said he was "one of the Street's most memorable characters".

Sally Dynevor, who plays Sally Webster, said "what a wonderful actor he was", while Samia Longchambon, who plays Maria Connor, tweeted she had "fond memories" of working with him, describing him as a "lovely man".

Antony Cotton, who plays Sean Tully, said "we all adored him", while former soap writer Phil Ford tweeted it was "very very sad" to hear of his death.

And John Whiston, managing director of continuing drama at ITV, said Briggs had been "right at the centre of the show" for years adding: "When Mike Baldwin was in a scene it was very hard to look at anyone else."

Image source, PA Media
Image caption,
Johnny Briggs, with children (left to right) Mark, Stephanie, and Michael after collecting an MBE from the Queen at Buckingham Palace

Born on 5 September 1935 in Battersea, in south-west London, Briggs was evacuated to the countryside during World War II before embarking on a career in show business back in London at the age of 12.

After a break for two years of service in Germany with the Royal Tank Regiment, starting in 1953, he resumed his acting career landing roles in several Carry On films and ITV police drama No Hiding Place.

Media caption,
The BBC's David Sillito looks back at Johnny Briggs' acting career

It was not until 1976 that he landed his defining role as Mike Baldwin.

As the uncompromising businessman in the soap he feuded with Barlow and was caught up in a love triangle with with his wife Deirdre, played by Anne Kirkbride who died in 2015.

Later, Baldwin would die in his rival's arms after suffering a heart attack, finally killing off the character after three decades.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Johnny Briggs (Mike Baldwin) with Coronation Street co-stars Amanda Barrie (Alma Baldwin) and William Roache (Ken Barlow)

The demise of Baldwin drew 12 million viewers and followed the character's battle with Alzheimer's - leading the actor to back a fundraising appeal to help those affected by the disease.

Briggs won the British Soap Award for lifetime achievement in 2006.

In 1995 Briggs had a UK chart hit, alongside Coronation Street co-star Amanda Barrie, with a version of Frank and Nancy Sinatra's Something Stupid.

He also appeared on stage and in films alongside the likes of Norman Wisdom, Dirk Bogarde and Tommy Steele.

He married Caroline Sinclair in 1961 and had two children before the couple divorced in 1975.

The same year he married schoolteacher Christine Allsop, a marriage which produced four children.

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