Actor Chris Bisson is the first to admit that his career could be classed as meandering. The former Corrie star talks to Steve Pratt about making low-budget Chicken Tikka Masala between shooting Shameless for C4 and appearing in Kiss Me Kate on stage.

FOUR years after leaving Coronation Street, actor Chris Bisson is finding that being part of TV's top series can have a down side. Being in the country's biggest soap made him a familiar face - and that's a disadvantage as far as some people in the business are concerned.

"There was a film being made last year and the director wanted only unknown actors, so he didn't want to see me. He said I was too famous to be in the film," he recalls.

"Some people in films say, 'oh, he's been in a soap' and snotty directors say I shouldn't be doing something because of that."

Bisson, who quit as Vikram four years ago, has no regrets about appearing in the Weatherfield soap. "I had a great time there, it was absolutely fabulous working on Coronation Street," he says.

"It's a whole new skill and such a great show to work on. I'd watched it since I was a kid. I remember telling my mum I'd got a job on the series and then my agent phoning to say he wasn't happy with the terms of the contract. He wanted to turn it down, but I said I couldn't because I'd told my mum."

It doesn't seemed to have impaired his ability to get work. He's been shooting an episode of ITV1's drama Where The Heart Is and appearing on stage in the Cole Porter musical Kiss Me Kate. That involved flying down to Cardiff to perform at the Millennium Theatre after filming in Yorkshire during the day.

That comes as his latest film, the independently financed British picture Chicken Tikka Masala opens in cinemas. He plays a Asian gay man whose resorts to desperate measures to get out of the marriage that his parents have arranged for him.

"Filming that involved a lot of dashing about because we had a lot to film and no money to do it," he says. "It was a low budget film and they're not easy to do. Everyone had to muck in together to get it made. "I had a gap in my diary before filming Shameless and managed to squeeze in the film. It's written by an 18-year-old. I thought that was impressive, how can he know so much about life? I don't really associate with any of my character Jimi. The important thing is playing a reflection of modern life and interpreting the world in different ways. It's nice to vary things and do different projects.

Contrary to reports, Bisson will be back in the third series of Paul Abboft's hit C4 show Shameless, which starts filming this summer. He did have concerns about reprising the role of Kash, although not because he's gay. "The only similarity between Jimi and Kash is they are both gay. That's the only thing the two characters have in common," he says.

He had concerns about the Shameless schedule which last series left him kicking his heels with little to do during much of the seven month shoot in Manchester. "I love doing Shameless. It's a real ensemble piece and it's important to have all those crazy characters in it. But I get really bored if I'm not working. It drives me insane, that's the honest truth," he says.

"I'm doing the next series but in a different way. I'll only be working when I have a storyline."

He also has high hopes of a comedy 10:96 he did for BBC3 being turned into a series. The pilot episode was made as part of the BBC's New Talent Week.

Bisson himself began his acting career at 13 in an ITV children's series as a result of his aunt recruiting him for a fashion show because she didn't have enough kids as models. An agent spotted him on the runway and a part in Children's Ward followed.

He didn't have a clue about acting at that time. "I learnt on the job," he says. "I'd never acted before, went to the audition and they gave me the part. I was following people around on the set and asking, "hey mister, what does that do?'. It's a great way to learn and you don't have any inhibitions at a young age."

The production of Kiss Me Kate, which was sadly cancelled at The Grand Theatre, Leeds, next week, marked his first time on stage in eight years, since the original theatre staging of East Is East, one of his first jobs out of drama school. He went on to appear in the film version too.

His latest musical role gave him his most nervous opening night ever. "I've never been so scared, partly because I've always been terrified of singing and dancing. I've been having lessons to get my voice tuned up," he says.

If his career seems a little haphazard that's inevitable. "I just meander through life, I don't have any big master plan," he says. "I take projects as they come. I do whatever seems right at the time. I don't know how else to live, to be honest. You can't plan to go to Hollywood or do this or that or the other."

* Chicken Tikka Masala (15) opens in cinemas tomorrow .

Published: 21/04/2005