As James Bailey prepares to leave the cobbles of Weatherfield behind in Monday night’s episode actor Nathan Graham talks about his decision to leave, his pride at being part of the soap’s first black family and why there was one keepsake he had to take with him when he left.

When you joined the show with the Bailey’s. Did you have a length of time in mind that you wanted to stay?

I hadn’t put a time frame on it no, I am the sort of person who lives in the moment and goes with what feels right. When it came to my decision to leave I mean it was very difficult, it was a tough thing to decide, obviously for various reasons. Going from a place of security to not know what is next is scary and a risk. But then also it was just the right decision and it felt right. I had a good chat with Iain MacLeod and he understood my decision. I have had some great storylines and I did wonder where the character could go next so I felt it was time to go and do something different for me. At this moment in time I only have myself to think of and that is the time to step out of your comfort zone. Once you are settled down with responsibilities and a family to think of it isn’t as easy to make that leap.

What was it like filming your final scene?

It was strange as my actual final scene of James leaving was filmed a few weeks before I finished filming so I had James’ departure which was emotional and then a couple of weeks later my own final moments so it was a bit of a double whammy really. It felt like I got to say goodbye twice

Did you feel sad?

Yes it was emotional and I did fill up. I am so close to my on screen family so I know I will see them all again but that was my last time being part of the on screen Bailey family. There were a lot of similarities between James’ departure and my own, he is sad to be going but is excited about his future and so am I. James’ family are upset he is leaving but can see this is an exciting new chapter for him so they are pleased for him and that was the same with Trevor, Lorna, Ryan, Vinta and Channique so it felt very real.

What are your highlights of your time on the show?

I guess from the very beginning when we all met for the first time as a family. It was such a special thing, it had taken a long time for the casting process to make sure they got the chemistry right and find a family unit, almost a year I think. So I can remember the first day we were all there to work together and then we did a publicity event to introduce the family and it all felt so surreal. We all just got on so well from day one. It felt like such an exciting time and there was such a buzz in the building. We are proud to have been the first black family on the street, the reaction was amazing. For me I also had the story about James coming out. It was such an honour to be given the opportunity to tell a story like that. For both stories I was excited, we all were but there was also a certain amount of pressure that we all felt to get it right. We all felt very grateful but we just wanted to deliver.

Were you glad when you were going but you weren’t killed off?

Yes, they gave him a heart attack so they could have killed him. I was fully aware of the fact that once you have decided to leave it is out of your hands and they can do whatever they want for the character to go. So I was pleased when I found out that it was a happy ending for James and it is nice to know I could potentially come back in the future to see the family.

Were you glad that you got to meet the mysterious DeeDee before you left?

Yeah, I feel like it would have been really frustrating if she arrived just after I left. I was pleased that we got to play some fun scenes together as part of my exit storyline. Channique is great and I was so pleased to be able to meet her and be part of the family with her for a couple of weeks. She has brought a different dynamic into the mix and I look forward to watching her settle into the family, she has made her mark already! It already feels like she has always been a part of the family. It will be like reverse roles, because she’s there and now we’ll be hearing all about James and how he’s doing so that’ll be fun.

Do you have any specific plans for the future?

I am just going to take things as they come and roll with the punches. You know, it sounds cliche, but I just feel at the end of the day if you put the hard work in it eventually pays off. I don’t expect anything from anyone I don’t expect to walk into a job. It can be a difficult process and I understand all that. I think it’s just knowing it’s a journey. It’s a process. I am a big believer in what is meant for you won’t pass you by. I will keep my foot on the gas and see what happens. You come into this career to play different characters, that’s the exciting thing about it.

So have you taken any keepsake of James’s with you?

I did yes, they told me I could take some stuff from his wardrobe so I have got a few pairs of trainers and of course I couldn’t leave without his Weatherfield County shirt as a keepsake with his name and number on the back but I don’t think I will be walking around wearing it.

Coronation Street airs from 8pm on ITV.