IT’S hard to believe, but it’s two years since Kelvin Fletcher said farewell to top TV soap Emmerdale as his character Andy Sugden left the village after a 20-year run on the show.

“Whether it was a brave move or a foolish step, you can call it what you want, but I made the decision to leave probably when I was the happiest I had ever been at Emmerdale,” said Kelvin, who is starring in The Wizard of Oz at Blackpool Opera House. “The storylines on Emmerdale were great, the show was great and the morale around the place was great.

“But I found myself in this weird position. They had given me this sense of belief and sense of confidence and I felt that artistically I really coming into my own a.

“Having played the same character for 20 years I had a real appetite to do other things, play different characters and work in different areas. I just wanted to try things which you’ve not really got the opportunity to do when your in Emmerdale as your commitment is so full on.”

Kelvin, 34, will play the Tin Man in the RSC adaptation of the classic family story which runs over the festive season.

“I had a bit of a bucket list of things I wanted to do when I left Emmerdale,” he said. “And to be in a musical was one of them.

“Getting back on stage was also something I wanted to do it’s where it all began for me.”

Chadderton-born, Kelvin went to the acclaimed Oldham Theatre Workshop.

“As a kid I did a couple of musicals,” he said, “but I ended up getting work on TV pretty quickly but when I was young I was pretty obsessed by musical theatre - I always wanted to play Gavroche in Les Miserables.

“The Wizard of Oz is my first musical role as an adult and I feel like I have got a bit of a taste for it again - who knows where it might lead.”

Since leaving Emmerdale Kelvin has had a number of offers but has been very selective over what he should take on. But he admits it didn’t take him long to agree to be part of the big Christmas spectacular in Blackpool.

“The fact that the show has the pedigree of the Royal Shakespeare Company behind it was certainly instrumental in me taking part,” he said. “It’s also an iconic story, it has this hold on people’s imaginations.

“Then to be part of that at the Winter Gardens over Christmas - there is no better place. Blackpool has always been somewhere special for me, we’d go there for family holidays when I was a kid and I’m so looking forward to going back there with this show.”

Many actors who have become so synonymous with a particular show as Kelvin was with Emmerdale have found it difficult to break away from that character once they leave.

But he has no fears about remaining Andy Sugden forever.

“It’s crazy to think that I’ve been acting since I was six, but at 34 I’m still relatively young in an acting sense,” he said.

“I’d like to think the minute I play a different part and am seen as a different character that straightaway I can break any kind of perception that people have got of me as Andy Sugden. I’m confident about that and like every actor I just want the opportunity to show my skillset and my range.

“When I left Emmerdale, it’s not as though I wanted to move on to bigger and better things. For me there isn’t really anything bigger and better than Emmerdale and those shows. They are watched by millions every night, they are the bedrock of British TV.

“Nobody is as proud as me as what the shows are and what they represent. I just had this real appetite to try something else.”

Kelvin spent much of his first year away from the soap with his family - wife Liz and daughter Marnie - the couple are now expecting their second child.

But he also got the chance to indulge in his other passion away from acting motor racing.

“I think some people thought I’d left Emmerdale to be a racing driver,” said Kelvin, who for the last two years has competed in the British GT championship. “But that’s not the case I want to do both.”

Kelvin was racing in a Nissan 370GTR in the endurance championship sharing spells behind the wheel with Martin Plowman. The pair won a race at Silverstone and finished runners-up in the pro/am championship. For 2019 he and Martin will compete in an Aston Martin Vantage in the GT4 category.

I’ve probably picked the two hardest careers,” he said. “With motorsport you need that big financial backing and with acting even some of the best actors are out of work.”

Both motorsport and acting are also regarded as being glamorous professions.

“I’m not sure its glamorous when your painting yourself silver every night,” he said, “but I can’t wait to get on stage.”

n The Wizard of Oz, Blackpool Opera House, until Sunday, December 30. Details from 0844 856 1111 or www.wintergardens