Johnny Briggs, known for portraying iconic Coronation Street character Mike Baldwin, has died at age 85.
The Battersea-born actor passed away after a lengthy illness, his family said.
"We politely ask for privacy at this time, so that we can quietly grieve as a family and remember the wonderful times we had with him," the Briggs family said in a statement.
Those connected with the British soap opera, on which Johnny thrilled viewers with his portrayal of cigar-loving factory boss Mike, were quick to pay tribute to the star.
"He was truly one of the most iconic characters the Street has ever known," John Whiston, Coronation Street's managing director, said in a statement. "We wish Johnny's family all our condolences."
William Roache, known for playing Ken Barlow, Mike's nemesis with whom his character had an extensive on-screen feud in the series, said he will be "greatly missed."
"As an actor, Johnny was impeccable, always good, and I was so fortunate to have worked with so many years," he said, according to BBC News.
"Johnny Briggs was a complex character, on and off screen, and we all adored him," Antony Cotton, Coronation Street's Sean Tully, tweeted as news of Johnny's death broke. "Feel lucky that I got the chance work with him... I am, and will always be, a Baldwin's Casual. Night night Mr. Baldwin, I've left you a bottle of Scotch in the filing cabinet."
"Rest in peace Johnny Briggs," Samia Longchambon, known for playing Maria Connor on the show, tweeted. "Really sorry to hear the sad news. I have fond memories of working with Johnny, he was such a lovely man."
#RestInPeace Johnny Briggs. Really sorry to hear the sad news. I have fond memories of working with Johnny, he was such a lovely man ♥️
— Samia Longchambon (@realsamia) February 28, 2021
Sally Dynevor, known for playing Sally Webster on the show – who is mother to Bridgerton's Phoebe Dynevor – called Johnny a "wonderful actor," while Sue Nicholls, who portrayed Audrey Roberts, said he was a "great friend."
Johnny, the son of a master carpenter, began acting when he was 12 years old when he won a scholarship at the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts in London. He landed his first major role in 1948's Quartet just a year later, starring alongside Joan Collins in the drama, which was based on a set of stories by British writer W. Somerset Maugham. He moved into television work working with the late John Thaw of Inspector Morse fame in The Younger Generation, based on a series of plays.
His acting was briefly interrupted by service in the Royal Tank Regiment in Germany in the early 1950s, and his triumphant return to film and television saw him land roles in three Carry On films: Carry On Up the Khyber (1968), Carry On Behind (1975) and Carry On England (1976).
In 1961, Johnny married Caroline Sinclair, with whom he had two children. They divorced in 1975, and he later married teacher Christine Allsop and had four more children. Their marriage also sadly ended in 2005.
Johnny's work on Coronation Street actually began in 1974, two years before he landed his iconic role as Mike. That year, he had a brief role as a truck driver before taking the part of the clothing factory boss who partly drew Ken's ire for having an affair with his character's wife and later married Susan, Ken's daughter. Johnny played Mike for for 30 years before leaving the show in 2006, when his character passed away from a heart attack in Ken's arms.
Following his work on the soap, he took on additional television work in Agatha Christie's Marple and Holby City, along with BBC medical drama Doctors.
Johnny was honoured for his extensive work on Coronation Street and in film and television and on the stage by receiving the Most Excellent order of the British Empire in 2007. A year before, he received a lifetime achievement award at the British Soap Awards.