Meet the former Coronation Street actor who swapped cobblestones for a vinyl store

It’s not uncommon for a soap opera star to find herself on the red carpet of a glitzy event or promoting a social media campaign when she’s not appearing on some of the TV shows. the most popular.

However, one of the country’s most famous former cobblestone street stars shunned all that limelight, instead settling for a surprisingly normal job. Visitors to the holiday town of Tenby in Wales could be forgiven for being surprised to see who they find behind the counter at the local vinyl store.

Wales online was talking to Charles Dale, who played Dennis Stringer for two years on Coronation Street. Now he tends the counter of his family’s Dale’s Music store on the High Street, answering questions about vinyl and continuing the business that has existed with the Dales since 1947.

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Known for his roles on Casualty, as Big Mac and Chef in the dark 90s drama The Lakes, Charles recently appeared on ITV’s The Pembrokeshire Murders and Unforgotten. But that’s not all he does, as in addition to being an actor and a trader, Charles was recently appointed as a Tenby town councilor.

“I look at things and sometimes I think ‘this needs to be fixed,'” he said of his new role as adviser. “And I don’t know if I can, but I can definitely come in and say, can we fix this? How can we fix this? You know, weird things, toilets, parking lot, you know, garbage. Those little things.”

Although he spent 20 years of his life in London, Tenby has always been in Charles’ blood and it was the city in Wales that gave him the passion to act.

“We actually used to have a grand piano in the back corner where I had to practice my piano, while people were peeking through the door, which obviously fell like a lead balloon and my mother had the used to say, ‘Do you want to and your dad argues before or after supper? That’s why I basically became a guitarist,’ said the 59-year-old, who didn’t like working in the store in her youth. “I wanted to work for Barry Llewellyn who had the sports shop and played for Wales, that was a lot cooler.

Charles and his family run the business in Papa, Laurie's memory

© WalesOnline/Marais Gayle
Charles and his family run the business in Papa, Laurie’s memory

“Dad was always a performer and singer and did a lot of drams and when mom was little she did a lot of radio. She did accents and dialect and I just grew up sitting in the back of rehearsal rooms at school or at De Valence, wherever they put on a play, so I grew up with that, it was the most natural thing in the world.

However, for Charles, life wasn’t all about acting or, indeed, boutique: “You can’t use that word now without terrible connotations. The recall of memory definitely fuels his style of acting. actor, and vice versa, most likely.” We had a gang, there were about 10 of us, you know, and we would hang out and go everywhere together. We used to play rugby on Jubilee Gardens where you have a 45 degree slope. We had to play on it and we always lost balls. And we would hang out and we would go to each other’s house, on Saturday we would play rugby for school, we would come back and we would go to the chippy. Then everyone would come up to my house, watch Focus on Football and then go play football for Saundersfoot in the afternoon.”

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But acting was the goal of Charles, who participated in the National Youth Theatre. His mother wrote at the Torch Theater in Milford Haven who saw potential in the keen entertainer but needed those who could play older roles, so instead Charles was given a job as a stage manager for £18 a week as part of a youth opportunity program. At 17, he thought it was time to try to get into drama school and with a little deft promotion from dad, Laurie, he scored a spot at LAMDA, only to be nearly kicked out. after his freshman year.

“I got called up to various acting schools, but they all told me to come back when I was 18,” Charles explained. “My dad came with me and waited in the pub and after my audition one of the board members [of LAMDA] and he recognized her. She told him ‘We think he’s really good, but he’s young’, said my dad ‘he’s going to explode, he’s been offered a place at Central, Guildhall, Bristol. So she come back and said, “Well, that boy will go to the other colleges if we don’t take him this year.” So LAMDA took me.

“However, all these other acting schools were right and I was way too young to go and I was spending my time getting drunk and the girls and I couldn’t concentrate and they almost kicked me out at the end of the first year. Which luckily my parents never knew.”

Luckily for Charles, a vocal coach at school convinced them to give him a second chance. “He said ‘look, he’s a kid, he’s screwed it up, let’s go do something stupid on him and see if it makes a difference.’ And they did, and it did, and I ended up with the Alec Clunes Award, which was like the gold star, when I left.”

Admittedly this second chance has proven itself tenfold, with Charles traveling the world with theatrical productions, acting on Broadway, he loves theater but is currently on hiatus as the world balances out post Covid, and has a CV full of classic British television appearances, from Lovejoy and Touch of Frost to his bigger roles in Corrie, Casualty and The Pembrokeshire Murders, all while keeping the family shop alongside his brother, Linzi.

Charles as Dennis in Corrie with Les (Bruce Jones) and Jim (Charles Lawson)

© Granada Television
Charles as Dennis in Corrie with Les (Bruce Jones) and Jim (Charles Lawson)

“I try to do different things and I think that has hampered my career to some extent,” he said. “Because they like to put you in boxes and if you can find a niche and sit in it, it can do you a lot of good. But, I don’t act for any other reason I like doing it and what is the point of doing something you don’t like repeating the same thing over and over again Some actors out there who do the same performance every time and you just say “really? Try to be someone different, that’s work.”

Did Casualty and Coronation Street – the two shows he appeared on regularly for nine and two years respectively – ever feel like a strain as an actor?

“You have to find a balance,” he replied. “I really enjoyed Corrie, I had a great time socially, it was a great cast, If Gregson is my son’s godfather, you know, Steve McDonald, I had some great mates up there I loved Manchester it’s a great city, and then Victim, for the first four years I shuttled between Cardiff and Bristol, and then just when I got to the point where I was like, “I can’t do this anymore. And then they moved to Cardiff, two minutes from my house. So I was able to see my son grow up and that’s a real plus for the actors, because we’re away. We we’re not home, it’s just the nature of the beast.

Being close to home brings us to another recent role for Charles, Rambo in The Pembrokeshire Murders, one of his favorite roles to play, in a story that took place a few miles from Tenby – so it seems obvious that a local boy would be chosen.

“He’s such an amazing person,” Charles said, revealing he watched all the tapes of police interviews with notorious murderer John Cooper to calm down Rambo aka DS Gareth Rees, Cardi singing just right. “He never loses his cool and he’s done most of the interviews in real life. He’s an interviewing officer and he uses his calm to freak them out.”

Charles in the Pembrokeshire Murders

Charles in the Pembrokeshire Murders

His great performance as Rambo almost wasn’t to be, as Charles actually showed up for the role of John Cooper. “Well, that was very strange, because I auditioned for this and the audition seemed to go really, really well.

“And I waited months and months and months to hear, I didn’t hear and I thought ‘what’s going on?’ I couldn’t believe I didn’t have it Anyway, it turned out there was a possibility, because of Keith’s commitments, that I was playing John Cooper, so they didn’t want me to get Rambo. everything worked out for Keith, and it was fine. He was playing Cooper and I was playing Rambo. But they didn’t call me, it went on for so long and I thought “I don’t can’t believe I’m not gonna get this When they came back to me, they were like ‘Oh, no, no, you were always gonna get at least Rambo.’ It would have been nice to know that!”

With a few shows in the bag, including the BBC’s Sherwood, a six-part crime drama starring Lesley Manville and David Morrissey, and audio projects, things are pretty quiet for Charles so far this year. But, he doesn’t seem to care, “It’s really just as well. I have the shop to run,” he laughs.

Jack L. Goldstein