The star tells Now he's nothing like this cheating Corrie alter ego Aidan
Aidan Connor is Coronation Street’s Mr Smooth. Puppy- dog eyes? Check. Irresistible smile? Check. So when Now was invited to Manchester to spend the afternoon on set with the man who plays him, we didn’t need asking twice.
Shayne Ward – who first shot to fame when he won The X Factor in 2005 – is embroiled in the biggest storyline of his soap career. Aidan is sailing close to the wind – he’s been sleeping with Maria Connor behind his fiancée Eva Price’s back and he’s about to tell her he wants to leave her to be with Maria when Eva drops the bombshell that she’s pregnant.
When Shayne, 32, enters the room to meet us, he flashes a big grin and we can’t stop blushing – he’s even sexier in the flesh than he is on screen. But it’s pretty clear from the off that the star – who welcomed his first child Willow May six months ago with actress partner Sophie Austin, 33 – is nothing like his Weatherfield character.
He happily talks babies and how much he loves being a dad throughout the interview, which makes us love him even more. We also grill him on what’s in store for Aidan and how life is very different for Shayne off the cobbles…
Who’ve you been snogging today on Corrie, Shayne? We can’t keep up!
Everyone! Mad, isn’t it?
What does your partner Sophie make of it?
She’s fine. She’s not the type to reach for the remote control. She snogged guys on Hollyoaks – and killed people [she played Lindsey Roscoe from 2012-2016]! That’s the attraction that lured me in [laughs].
What do you get up to on set between scenes?
Loads of pranks. Not too long ago, I put a load of clingfilm over Catherine Tyldesley’s [who plays Eva] door. But I got grassed up by the wardrobe department before she could walk into it!
Do your mates think you’ve got the best job in the world because you get to snog Catherine and Samia [Ghadie, who plays Maria]?
To my face they go: ‘How could you, mate? In front of your missus?’ It’s quite funny. It was like that when the affair thing first started, but now my mates are really into it. They’re always asking me what’s going to happen and who Aidan’s going to end up with, but I can’t tell them.
Now you’re a dad yourself, how would you feel if someone treated your daughter the way Aidan does Eva?
When I first started doing interviews about this storyline, I’d be like: ‘Aidan’s genuinely torn between two women – he’s fallen in love with the pair of them.’ But now he’s just being a dog! The second time round, Maria instigated it and he could have said no but chose not to. After that it was impossible to feel sorry for him. If anyone did that to my daughter… don’t get me started. I’m very protective.
So Aidan’s ready to dump Eva but then she tells him she’s pregnant, right?
Yes. It’s terrifying for Aidan because he’s been telling Maria that he’s going to end things with Eva – he’d made his choice. It was genuine, too, not just giving himself some time to keep Maria onside. But Eva’s found out about his affair with Maria and now she’s discovered she’s pregnant.
Is he horrified or secretly delighted at the prospect of being a dad?
Becoming a dad has never crossed his mind before. For Aidan, it’s always been about impressing his own dad – that’s what he’s driven by. It’s all about the factory. He’s never had time to think about being a dad. He doesn’t know how to handle it.
What kind of reaction have you had in the street about it?
Oh, it’s all heckles! It’s great that the viewers get so involved over who they think Aidan should be with. They stay stuff like: ‘How could you?’
Do you, as Shayne, feel sorry for both girls? Even though Maria’s been naughty herself?
Oh God, yeah, but Maria’s not entirely innocent as she instigated the affair the second time around. However, I do feel sorry for both girls. No one deserves to be treated like this.
You’re such a nice guy in real life – have you enjoyed being a bit of a bad boy and having two women fight over you?
I can’t complain! I’ve known Cath and Samia for years and so everything’s just easy in terms of working together. We have a great laugh on and off screen. We make it as fun as possible and when we do a horrible scene and are shouting at each other, when it’s over we’re like: ‘I’m sorry – I didn’t mean it!’
How are you finding balancing being a new dad with working so hard?
I appreciate what mums do. It’s crazy being a parent and having a lot going on at work. I had a full day with my daughter yesterday – Sophie was away working in Surrey, so I sent her a little video message of me and Willow May. I was saying: ‘Hurry up and get home – I know it’s a long drive.’ It wasn’t about looking after Willow May, as she’s such a good baby who’s always laughing and she’s such a breeze to look after. But I asked Sophie how she ever manages to get stuff like chores done – all the dishes and the laundry.
How has being a dad affected you emotionally?
If I’m really knackered from looking after the baby, when I go into work and have to do a sad scene, my emotions are nearer the surface, bubbling under. It helps that I’m in that place of tiredness anyway. On the other hand, if I’ve had a fun morning with her and I’m doing a comedy scene, I’m really in the mood for it. I feel very blessed.
Will Aidan be able to stay in Weatherfield after all this has kicked off?
I hope so. Please keep me!
Do you see yourself mainly as an actor rather than a singer now?
It’s quite nice that people ask me if I’m still singing. The last gig I did was in early April. I do still sing and I do miss it. I still have a very good, loyal fanbase and I’ll never shut the door on singing. But I’m really enjoying acting. I love the challenges it brings me. A lot of youngsters who watch Corrie now don’t know me from 2005 on The X Factor as ‘Shayne Ward, singer’. I’m now Aidan Connor. I was in a supermarket the other night and I heard a load of young girls and lads nearby. They were shouting out and one lad said: ‘Stop shagging Maria! You’re with Eva!’ He was about 10.
Do you hear from Simon Cowell?
I haven’t spoken to him in years. He’s doing his thing and I’m doing mine. If we were at the same event I’m sure we’d catch up.
How has being a dad changed you?
I feel it’s my purpose. I think everything else is a hobby. Everything I do is to make sure Willow May’s looked after. People could say I was born to sing, but I think I was always born to be a dad. She’s wonderful, Willow May. She’s a beautiful girl. She’s just trying to crawl, but I absolutely love it. She’s wonderful.
What was the birth like?
Sophie was amazing. It was incredible and she’s an incredible mum. We’re blessed to have Willow May.
Would you like more kids?
It’s funny, every time Sophie reads an interview and I’ve been asked a question about kids, I’m always giving different numbers on how many kids I want. She’s like: ‘How many bloody kids do you want?’
How many do you want?
I always joke and say seven because I’m one of seven. For me and her, if we’re blessed to have another two or three, that’d be great. We’ll see, but it depends on Soph as well because she’s an actress and I respect that she’s in the same industry. If she wants to go back to filming soon, then absolutely.
Will you be proposing soon?
Who knows? At the moment it’s baby, baby, baby, so we’re not thinking too far ahead. But you never know.
What’s been the most surprising thing about being a first-time dad?
I think how natural it is. I remember me and Soph when we first carried the baby from the hospital. A lot of parents think: ‘How do we keep her alive?’ It’s crazy because we sat her there and everything just came so naturally. It’s just incredible this bond you feel straight away. I can’t imagine my life without my little girl, and it’s crazy… and yes, I will show you pictures in a minute!
Words: Sarah Robertson