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Q & A with The Case of the Frightened Lady's Gray O'Brien

From the hunted to the hunter. Gray O'Brien was voted Villain of the Year after his stint on Coronation Street in which he played all-around baddie Tony Gordon who eventually came to a very sticky end. Now, having made the transition from murderer to detective via suspect status in the ITV crime drama series, The Loch, he is starring in the new stage show The Case of The Frightened Lady, which is coming to Milton Keynes Theatre from May 21 to 26. It's not the first time that Gray has been on the side of law and order in MK. Back in 2016, as DS Roy Grace, he solved the baffling case in Peter James' crime thriller, Dead Simple.

We caught up with Gray in CID HQ (aka his dressing room...)

The Case of The Frightened Lady: I'm guessing this is no gritty 2018 crime drama. 

It's a brilliant thriller set in 1932 in a country mansion. There's been a suspicious death but rather than get in the local constabulary, they bring in the big guns from London because they want to keep it quiet. It's a bit of a pressure cooker situation and everyone's doing the cloak and dagger thing. There's a lot about class in there too because it's just after the Depression and employment has all changed. Service is about to stop and all these stately homes will soon become a thing of the past. 

You play the detective, Tanner. What's he like?

In the classic films of the period, the coppers were always a bit thick. We're trying to get away from that. Tanner and his colleague Totti are smart guys. They're educated. They're old school coppers but with a modern attitude.

Why did you want to be in The Case Of The Frightened Lady?

I loved the script. I thought it was something exciting and new from a different writer because we've seen all the Agatha Christies, haven't we?

Why do you think people love a murder mystery?

We all love to quiz and work things out and we've all got an opinion. Audiences are going to puzzle their way through The Case of The Frightened Lady and it will keep them guessing. That's why you go and see a thriller, isn't it? 

What do you enjoy doing with your free time when you're on tour?

I'm a very keen cyclist, so I'll be taking a road bike. I'll be one of those lycra-bottomed chaps. I think it's important to keep fit and healthy. 

I'm also a big afternoon tea fan. I do like visiting tea rooms and testing their Victoria Sponge. I don't really do Twitter very much, but I will tweet a nice afternoon tea. You've got to be careful of the cakes, but if you cycle 40 miles you can work off a slice of Victoria Sponge.

You're well known as Coronation Street's Tony Gordon. How do you look back on your time in Weatherfield?

It's wonderful at the time, but you don't get the chance to enjoy it because you just don't have any time off. It just becomes crazy. In one year I did 196 episodes, another 197, out of the 252 that were filmed.

But I'm very grateful for the past television opportunities like Coronation Street, Peak Practice and Casualty. They allow me to be in something like this. I've been doing this job for 28 years now, and I'm in it for the long haul.