It took less than an hour to turn Menston lad Christian Cooke from a shy, retiring schoolboy into an aspiring young actor who is now tipped to become one of the best known faces on television.
Awkward and terrified of the limelight, he followed his elder brother, Alex, into the turbulent world of drama at the Stage 84 in Bradford back in 1996.
Christian, now 21, was just nine years old at the time, but he distinctly remembers walking into the group as a reserved young boy with no acting aspirations.
Within an hour, he emerged feeling confident and hopeful with dreams of stardom already taking root in his young mind.
And if Christian’s current portfolio is anything to go by, that hour at the drama class has certainly paid off.
For with his boyish good looks and on-stage charisma, Christian is fast becoming one of the country’s most promising young actors, appearing in some of television’s prime time shows including Where the Heart Is, Doctor Who and spoof ITV soap opera Echo Beach.
He has already starred alongside such big names as David Tenant in Doctor Who, Sarah Lancashire and Leslie Ash in Where the Heart Is and Jason Donovan and Martine McCutcheon in Echo Beach.
And now he is about to blast back onto the screens as the main character in a new drama – Demons – tipped as Britain’s answer to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
He said: “I’ve been very lucky – especially in the last year and have really enjoyed my work.
“I am hopeful that the new show will be a great success – it was a wonderful part to play and I think it is different to anything else on television.”
Demons, due to be shown on ITV from Saturday, is a contemporary spin on the legacy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, set above and beneath the streets of modern-day London.
In it, Christian stars alongside Philip Glenister – of Life on Mars fame – as the two of them embark on a quest against the supernatural forces of evil.
Glenister plays Rupert Gavlin, a larger-than-life American who bursts into the life of his teenage godson Luke – played by Christian. As the last descendent of the Van Hesling line, it is Luke’s destiny to smite the half-lives stalking the streets of London.
As part of his work for the role, Christian reached the pinnacle of fitness after training with one of the country’s experts in martial arts to help him play out his fight scenes.
Such was his dedication to the role, that following one particular episode where his character gets trapped in a sewer, Christian almost became hypothermic after a long session in a water tank.
He said: “We were all geared up with wet suits under our costumes and were supposed to get out and go into an inflatable hot water tub every half-hour or so. But it was difficult to keep getting in and out.
“At one point the nurse checked my temperature and told me I was 33 degrees centigrade. They quickly got me out and warmed me up with hot cups of tea and a stint in the hot tub! I was absolutely fine the next day and there was nothing to worry about!”
The six part series has been produced by International Emmy award-winning producers Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps, also known for their work on As If, Hex and Sugar Rush.
Christian said: “This has certainly been the most challenging for me because we worked 74 days straight without a break and 15 hours a day and I was in nearly every scene, so it’s really difficult. But that’s how I like it, if I could work like that on every job I would.”
Born at Otley Hospital, Christian spent his early years in Yeadon where he attended Saints Peter and Paul’s Primary School. He later moved to Menston with his mum, Dianne, 52, and brother Alex, 24, where he was educated at St Mary’s RC Secondary School.
Christian said: “It was an excellent school and got really good results for a state school. I had a great time there and have many fond memories.
“In the early days of acting I was really following my brother. He got to go to acting classes first because my mum couldn’t afford to send us both. Later I joined in and used to cry myself to sleep when I didn’t get roles. The minute I started acting I felt different – more confident. I loved it.”
During his time with Stage 84, Christian starred in a number of productions, including Peter Pan at the Alhambra in Bradford, where he acted alongside former Eastender Leslie Grantham as Wendy’s brother, Michael.
But his big break, as he calls it, was when he burst on to television screens in a Birds Eye beef burger commercial at the age of 12.
He said: “Before that, my brother Alex got lots of television work and I didn’t. I used to cry myself to sleep.
“But starring in that advert was crucial for me because it gave me the confidence to see that I could do television work.”
Soon after, Christian found himself cast as Luke Kirkwall, son of Anna Kirkwall, played by Lesley Dunlop.
He remained in that role for seven years while studying for his exams and later left to take on small roles in Casualty, Doctors and later Doctor Who.
He went on to star in Echo Beach before securing the plum role in Demons and Trinity – an ITV comedy – of which he is also suitably proud.
He said: “This last year had been brilliant for me. In Trinity, I played an aristocrat at university.
“It’s basically a dark comedy involving sex, drugs and scandal and was great fun to be involved in.
“With Demons I had to work very hard. I got very fit during training for the fight scenes but I have to admit I did have two stunt doubles doing a lot of the hard work, including one who is a woman – Eunice Huthart! She was Angelina Jolie’s stunt double in Wanted and won a Gladiators competition before that. She was really excellent – there was no way I would mess with her, I wouldn’t last a minute!”
At the moment, Christian is taking a well-earned break from filming as he awaits his next role.
He was planning to spend Christmas with his mum and brother at her home in Menston last week while joining his former school friends on a Christmas Eve jaunt to Piccolino’s restaurant in Ilkley.
He said: “It’s nice to come back up north for Christmas but I feel my home is in London now. I don’t know what I will do next but I’d love to become involved in film. I just have to see what comes along and where it takes me.”
Demons starts on Saturday at 7.20pm on ITV1.