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Pierce Harris on his role in Emmerdale and life in Alderley Edge

PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:24 15 April 2019

Pierce Harris, played by Jonathan Wrather, in the dock (c) ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Pierce Harris, played by Jonathan Wrather, in the dock (c) ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Copyright (c) 2017 Shutterstock. No use without permission.

You may know him as Emmerdale baddie Pierce Harris, but Cheshire-born actor Jonathan Wrather's latest role is a chilling story from another age

Jonathan Wrather, left, in character as Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Photo by Matt AustinJonathan Wrather, left, in character as Lord Henry Wotton in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Photo by Matt Austin

He turned 50 on March 16th, but Jonathan Wrather's birthday celebrations will have to wait. Instead, he spent the big day pacing a stage in Southend in a new production of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, which comes to Crewe Lyceum in May.

His latest stage role is as Lord Henry Wotton, the hedonistic aristocrat who encourages young Dorian Gray to wish that his portrait would wither and age rather than himself. Cue a gothic cautionary tale - one which has a new relevance in the age of Instagram.

'We all like to present a perfect image of ourselves, if we can, on social media, whereas the truth can be a little different,' says Jonathan. 'There is that element to it, so there is a contemporary relevance. It throws up all kinds of issues of narcissism.'

It's been a hectic few years for the actor, who now lives in Alderley Edge.

'We've been having babies, setting up companies and moving house,' he says. 'It's been a busy time.'

For 18 months, until August 2017, Jonathan played Emmerdale's Pierce Harris in a momentous storyline. During his stint in the soap, Jonathan and wife Kathi moved from London - his home for 30 years - to Cheshire. Their second child Lulu arrived, and Kathi expanded a ballet-inspired fitness business she set up with one of Jonathan's old friends, actor Sarah Parish.

'My wife is now co-owner of Barrecore and they have a studio in Alderley and Hale and a space in Manchester,' says Jonathan. 'That was one of the other reasons to move north.'

Jonathan grew up in Mobberley and Twemlow, and his first interest in acting came during drama lessons at Terra Nova School in Holmes Chapel. He and twin brother Stephen went on to board at Sedbergh School in Cumbria, where Jonathan got involved in school plays. He moved to London to join the National Youth Theatre of Great Britain and then studied at RADA, where his contemporaries included Michael Sheen.

Stage acting led to TV roles, including a stint in Coronation Street as Joe Carter from 2002 to 2003, and later that explosive role in Emmerdale, playing a character who is convicted of raping his wife on their wedding day.

'My character Pierce Harris is in prison and has to serve at least a few years,' says Jonathan. 'If the opportunity arose and the storyline dictated there was room for Pierce to come back to the village, then perhaps he would. The door was left open for me. It was such a good storyline and it was allowed to play out over quite a period. It had a real impact and I am grateful we were given that story and that responsibility. A lot of people got in touch saying that the storyline had been dealt with in such a way that it allowed them to now speak of their own experiences to people close to them. That's an immense thing.'

Jonathan is full of praise for the Yorkshire soap.

'They are acing it,' he says. 'The writing is of such quality. Everyone there - cast and crew - was so charming. They have to be talented to sustain that pace. I worked with some wonderful people.'

Jonathan also managed to combine his time in Emmerdale with another of his passions - motorcycling. His Triumph Bonneville T100 had become daily transport when he was zipping around London, and he also used it to commute to work on Emmerdale.

'Riding in during the summer, to film in Yorkshire, in the Dales, was blissful,' he says. 'I couldn't believe I was riding in to a job I love on a beautiful day in beautiful countryside. What could get better than this?'

It was on a recent motorcycling trip to Scotland that Jonathan passed by his old school in Sedbergh. 'The school is in the middle of nowhere,' he says. 'I'd forgotten how beautiful it was. We were very privileged to be there. The surroundings are stunning.'

The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Tilted Wig Productions, is at the Crewe Lyceum from May 14th-18th.

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