BURY soap star Antony Cotton is looking forward to a happy Christmas both on and off screen this year.

As Coronation Street's Sean Tully, things are looking up for the usually unlucky in love pint puller and knicker stitcher.

And at home, the 39-year-old is set to enjoy a festive season surrounded by friends, family and partner Peter Eccleston.

Antony, who joined the soap as its first gay character in 2003, has endured several failed relationships but has a new love interest, a vicar played by Shakespeare in Love actor Daniel Brocklebank.

Antony, who was born in Edenfield and attended Woodhey High School, Ramsbottom, said: "He has met a lovely man called Billy, he is happy at the Grimshaws, they have a lovely time in the Rovers, they get drunk eat well and get merry.

"They aren’t together on Christmas Day as Billy is with his parishioners, it is a busy working day for him."

Looking to the popular character's future and does Antony think his happiness will last?

He said: "Certainly for the immediate future he hopes that it is all going to go well. He is always an optimist, he is hoping there is a future with Billy but we shall have to wait and see."

As a youngster, Antony was a member of the Octagon's Youth Theatre, in Bolton, before making his television debut in 1998 and appearing in programmes including Queer as Folk, Absolutely Fabulous and The Bill before landing his part in the nation’s favourite soap.

Antony, whose favourite festive films are It’s a Wonderful Life and Home Alone, said: "I am very lucky as I have lots of great people to work with. I love everybody in the Grimshaws.

"I love Ali King, Kym Marsh, Jennie McAlpine, Samia Ghadie, Cath Tyldesley.

"Katie McGlynn is my new favourite person in the world. She plays Sinead and is hilarious — I love everyone I work with and because Sean is in the Grimshaws, the factory and the pub, I get to work with lots of different people."

As well as his current co-stars, Antony is also good friends with his former Corrie colleague, Suranne Jones, who played Karen McDonald.

He said: "Every year Suranne buys myself and my other half a Christmas jumper each. Last year’s was red knitted and had ‘cold turkey’ written on it."

Looking towards the big day itself and Antony describes his perfect Christmas as a homely affair.

"At home surrounded by friends and family, snow on the ground, fire on, massive tree in the lounge and everybody well and happy," he said.

Family aside and Antony reveals his dream Christmas dinner party guests would be Sir Ian McKellen, Alan Turing, Shirley Bassey and Kathy Burke.

Once Christmas is done and dusted for another year, will he be making any New Year resolutions?

He said: "No, I think it’s absolutely ridiculous and I will not partake in any of it.

"But we do uphold the tradition of the piece of coal being brought into the house out of the back door and into the front."

Catch Antony in Coronation Street on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on ITV1.