MANY of us can pinpoint moments where life could have been so different. For Dean Fagan, had it not been for a college tutor’s desire for an early lunch he could well have been a bricklayer.

Instead he became an actor, playing mechanic Luke Britton on Coronation Street for four years, and is now starring in a new adaptation of Wuthering Heights at Manchester’s Royal Exchange.

“I hadn’t a clue what I wanted to do when I left school to be honest,” said Stockport-born Dean.

“I was a bit of a sheep at that age and all my mates were going to be electricians or plumbers or brickies so I went to Stockport College to enrol on a bricklaying course.

“I’d got my passport and was all ready to sign up but when I got there for my appointment, the guy had gone on lunch. So I went for a wander round the college and saw a sign for performing arts.

“I thought I’d just go in and see what it was about. When I said I was thinking about joining the course they just said ‘right, give us your passport’ and the next I knew, I was being welcomed on to the course.

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“I had no idea what I’d signed up for. But the rest, as they say, is history. Looking back, it was a definite crossroad in my life. I always look back to that and wonder what life would have been like if I’d gone on that bricklaying course.”

Although he never had ambitions to be an actor - “playing the saxophone very badly at primary school was the limit of my early performance skills,” he admits - Dean found that, by accident, he had found his true passion.

“I know it sounds cheesy but the first time I stepped on stage it just felt right,” he said. “I have never felt as comfortable as I did that first time on stage.”

Dean is delighted to be back in Manchester with Wuthering Heights.

“I’ve been to a number of productions at the Royal Exchange but never had the opportunity to work there until now,” he said. “I just love the space. You walk in and you can feel the history and energy of the place.”

In this new production of the Emily Bronte classic which tells the story of lovers Cathy and Heathcliffe, Dean plays Edgar Linton. Directed by Bryony Shanahan, the production has been adapted by Andrew Sheridan.

“The language of the piece has been modernised,” said Dean, “it’s still set in the original period. We wanted to capture essence of the moors in that period - the vastness, the magic of it.”

But Dean believes that it is a production which will both surprise and inspire a modern audience.

“It’s Wuthering Heights jacked up on four cans of Red Bull,” he laughed. “But it’s so very relevant.

“In the book Edgar is a bit stuck up, a bit posh - the complete opposite to Heathcliffe.

“But we wanted to give him a bit of backbone and actually get the audience to like him a little.

“It would be easy for him to become almost a cartoon baddie; someone who is trying to stop love from happening but in our version he really wants the best for Cathy. She’s this whirlwind that has come into his life and he’s never met anyone like her.

“She’s like a drug to him. He knows she’s bad for him but he’s addicted.”

Wuthering Heights is Dean’s highest profile role since leaving the cobbles of Weatherfield two years ago.

His character Luke had a dramatic exit from the top TV soap - becoming a victim of the Street’s notorious serial killer Pat Phelan.

“That was some way to bow out,” he laughed. “Even though it was two years ago I still get recognised which is something that still amazes me.

“Initially I was only due to be in the show for two years. They wanted to bring Steph Britton, played by Tisha Merry, in as a major character and I was her brother.

“I was so nervous when I went for the initial screen test. I thought I’d blown it but they rang me a week later and said I’d got the part.

“After two years they asked if I’d like to renew my contract which I was very happy to do but by time I was coming to the end of my fourth year in the show, I was approaching 30. I could quite easily have stayed, it was such a nice job and everybody was lovely.

“But I wanted to see what else was out there. I wouldn’t have wanted to get to 50 and looked back wondering what might have happened if I hadn’t left.

“So I approached them and they were really so good and gave me a really good ending.”

Dean is well aware that he will forever be associated with the show.

“It’s so nice to think that I have been part of TV history and be part of that machine,” he said. “Plus it does raise your profile.

“Now I’ve got the chance to appear at the Royal Exchange which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

“We have all got such a good feeling about Wuthering Heights. It promises to be something really special and we just want to get it out eher in front of an audience and see their reaction.”

Wuthering Heights, Royal Exchange, Manchester, until Saturday, March 7. Details from 0161 833 9833 or www.royalexchange.co.uk