William Patrick Roache MBE (born 25th April, 1932 in Ilkeston, Derbyshire - although Roache states his birth certificate is incorrect and he was born on 23rd April) is the son of a doctor and began to study medicine himself. He then joined the army, becoming a captain in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. After five years' service, he resigned his commission to become an actor. Following a small part in the film Behind the Mask, he played in rep at Clacton, Nottingham and Oldham and then went into television. He was spotted at Granada Television in the Autumn of 1960 making Marking Time, a play about National Service soldiers in Germany by Richard Cottrell (adapted from his own stage play Deutsches Haus and eventually broadcast on Thursday 20th April 1961 at 9.35pm) by the producers of Coronation Street and asked to audition for the part of Ken Barlow. He has since played the role from the debut episode on 9th December, 1960 to the present day, making him the only continuous remaining member of the original cast, although Philip Lowrie returned to his role of Dennis Tanner in May 2011 after a forty-three year break. He is also now the longest-running actor in a continuing role in the history of television serials, according to the Guinness Book of Records, taking over from Don Hastings of U.S soap opera As The World Turns who played the part of Bob Hughes from October 1960 to September 2010.
William sued The Sun newspaper for libel in 1992 when it accused him of being as boring as his Street character Ken. He won £50,000 in damages (the same amount The Sun initially offered out of court) but was liable for the considerable legal costs. He declared himself bankrupt in 1999, the same year he spoke out in the media against the growing trend of sensationalist storylines in British soaps.
William's first wife Anna Cropper, second wife Sara Roache, and sons Linus and James Roache have all appeared in Coronation Street. He won a Lifetime Achievement Award at the British Soap Awards in 2000, and was awarded the Member of the British Empire the following year. Sara, his wife of more than 30 years, died suddenly in February 2009.