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Wednesday, 1 March, 2000, 17:10 GMT
Barlow helps Heartbeat celebrate
Gary Barlow and Bill Maynard
Acting debut: Gary Barlow with Heartbat star Bill Maynard
Former Take That heart-throb Gary Barlow has a special role in a landmark episode of the popular police drama Heartbeat.

The 29-year-old singer makes his acting debut in the 150th edition of the ratings-topping ITV series as hitch-hiker Micky Shannon.

The Heartbeat cast
The Heartbeat team celebrate 150 episodes
He is the latest in a long list of big names, inlcuding fellow singer Charlotte Church, Full Monty star Mark Addy and David McCallum, to have guest starred in the series.

"I used to go around to see my nan on Sundays and she would always switch it on, although she used to call it 'Heartbreak'," says Barlow.

"It's a family show - the sort of thing you watch on a Sunday night.

"Most of my scenes were with Bill Maynard. We've had a crack, we've really had a laugh, him being a northern comic - it was brilliant."

Barlow admited he was pleased to be a part of a team again: "One of the things I have enjoyed is working with a lot of people.

"Because I've been working on my own for a while since leaving the group - it was great to be part of a team again."

He says he has no idea how his fans will react, but hopes they will like it.

In the Heartbeat special, Barlow's character Micky Shannon is picked up by Greengrass, played by Bill Maynard.

Shannon holds Greengrass spellbound with tales of his army life, but he is not all he seems.

Landmark episode

Adapted from the Constable novels of Peter Walker - under his pen name Nicholas Rhea - Heartbeat started its TV life in 1992 with former EastEnders actor Nick Berry in the lead role of London copper turned country policeman Nick Rowan.

Niamh Cusack and Nick Berry
Flashback: Niamh Cusack (Kate) and Nick (Nick Berry)
By 1995 the winning mix of dramatic storylines, gentle comedy and sixties nostalgia, was pulling in its highest ever audience of 18.7m.

Despite losing Nick Berry during season seven - his character emigrated to Canada - the series still averages 14-15m viewers.

Goathland, the North Yorkshire village that is the setting for the fictitious Aidensfield, attracts more than one million visitors each year, while the series can be seen in 30 countries including Canada and Australia.

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