Robert was a carpet fitter living in London when he married fellow Weatherfieldian Tracy in 1996. They separated in 2002 after Robert discovered that Tracy had been unfaithful. Remaining in the south, Robert became a qualified chef and went on to marry Joni. He rekindled his romance with Tracy in 2015, divorcing Joni. Once again the relationship went sour, but this time it was Robert who strayed by sleeping with Carla Connor. When Tracy spitefully exposed the affair at Carla's wedding to Nick Tilsley, Robert ended their relationship permanently.
Having moved back to Weatherfield, Robert found work in the kitchen at Nick's Bistro, of which he became co-owner in 2016 and full owner in 2017. His next love after Tracy was Michelle Connor, but theirs was a rocky road to married bliss with Robert imprisoned for assaulting Rich Collis, then battling testicular cancer and becoming addicted to steroids. They were set to marry in 2018 but on their wedding day, Michelle was shot by Pat Phelan, receiving non-fatal injuries.
Robert wanted children, but Michelle couldn't bear to go through childbirth having experienced a late miscarriage and briefly separated from Robert over it. During this period, Robert got Vicky Jefferies pregnant and for months he led a double life. His lies were exposed by Michelle at the altar on their second wedding day, with the couple again failing to tie the knot. Robert was later shot accidentally by Derek Milligan during an incident at the Rovers and died before he could meet his son.
1971-1996: Early life and drug addiction
Born on 22nd October 1971 to Maurice and Shirley Preston, Robert was brought up in Weatherfield and began working in a restaurant by his late teens, with the desire of becoming a professional chef despite being told that he had potential to make it as a footballer. At one point Robert befriended co-workers Rich Collis and a girl named Catherine (whom he began dating). To cope with the long hours at the restaurant the trio began taking drugs - specifically cocaine - however, Catherine eventually suffered from an overdose and passed away.
Consumed with guilt at having been the one to introduce his late girlfriend to the illegal substances, Robert fell into a deep depression but was eventually able to better himself and later began a new relationship with a woman called Jan. In the early 1990s, Robert's relationship with Jan ended suddenly, after around five years, and he decided to relocate to London before beginning a new profession in carpet fitting. In May 1996, Robert met shop worker Tracy Barlow, who had also relocated to London from Weatherfield, and the pair began dating.
1996-2003: Rushed marriage to Tracy Barlow
In November 1996, Robert and Tracy became engaged after only six months, much to the disapproval of Tracy's parents Ken and Deirdre Barlow. However, the pair soon warmed to Robert after he and Tracy turned up on the street in order to ask for their blessing. Although Ken and Deirdre were receptive to the idea of a wedding, Robert's parents were not so easily persuaded and suggested that Robert was on the "rebound" from his relationship with Jan and wasn't thinking straight.
Despite his parents objections, Robert and Tracy continued to plan for the wedding however, while they were originally intending to tie the knot in London, the pair changed the venue at the last second after Mike Baldwin gloated that Ken wouldn't get to walk Tracy down the aisle. On the day of the wedding, Robert went missing along with his best man Paul Davies after drinking heavily on his stag night. During the chaos of Robert's disappearance, Maurice suggested that his son may have had second thoughts about marrying Tracy and revealed that he was against Tracy because she used to take drugs. Eventually, one of Robert's friends Greg Bamfield came forward to explain that he could remember locking Robert in a shipping container. As a result the police were called to prevent the shipments being sent to Saudi Arabia, but it was soon discovered that Robert was not inside. Back at 1 Coronation Street, Ken and Deirdre were relieved to find Robert being shouted at by Tracy, who was furious that he had seen her before the wedding, and he revealed that he had let himself out of the container earlier that morning.
Finally arriving at the Weatherfield Register Office, the pair's wedding was attended by their parents along with Tracy's grandmother Blanche Hunt, and her godmothers Emily Bishop and Betty Williams. Unfortunately, Robert's best man Paul was still missing from the night before and so Deirdre offered up her ex-husband Samir Rachid's ring to complete the vows. After the reception a party was held at the Rovers Return organised by Vera Duckworth, and Ken made a speech, revealing that this had been the first time he had truly felt like Tracy's father. After the wedding, the Prestons returned to London.
The marriage ran smoothly until December 1998 when Robert caught Tracy kissing her friend Dan at a Christmas party. Robert soon became extremely possessive, wanting to know where Tracy was and who she was with at all times, causing her to declare that their marriage was over and flee back to Weatherfield in March 1999. Upon being contacted by Ken, Robert returned to the area in order to get their marriage back on track, but he was left dissatisfied when Tracy refused to apologise and admitted that she had only kissed Dan after being told that Robert had kissed Eve Phillips. Ultimately, Tracy realised that she was still in love with Robert, after he turned down advances from Linda Sykes, and Deirdre offered to give them some space back at No.1 so that they could make up. After spending the night together, Robert and Tracy reconciled and returned to London the next day.
In December 2002, Robert caught Tracy in bed with his best friend Graham, leading to him ending their marriage and kicking Tracy out. With nowhere to go, Tracy once again returned to Weatherfield but lied to her parents that it had been her who had walked in on Robert cheating with her best friend instead. When Robert turned up in January 2003 to retrieve the keys to his van that Tracy had taken without permission, he was gobsmacked to discover that Ken and Deirdre believed him to be the adulterer and expected him to apologise. Robert wasted no time in revealing the truth and, despite Deidre's attempts to have the pair sit down together to talk things through, left again for good.
2003-2015: Second marriage and reunion with Tracy
Later in 2003, Robert's father passed away from cancer and, after the funeral, Robert returned to London where he eventually became a fully qualified chef.
At some point Robert met and married a woman called Joni, with whom he opened up his own restaurant, Preston's Grill, in Alderley Edge. However, Robert never truly overcame his separation from Tracy, which caused problems for his relationship with Joni.
In July 2015, Robert returned to Weatherfield in order to pay his respects at Deirdre's funeral, having read about her passing in the paper. His appearance at the service was noticed by Tracy's godmother Emily, who wasted no time in telling others about his history with Tracy. During the ceremony Ken accused Tracy of "crocodile tears" and began to point out how her past behaviour had badly affected her mother. Devastated, Tracy rushed out of the church only to be followed and comforted by Robert at Blanche's graveside. When Tracy's ex-husband Steve McDonald came to fetch Tracy he was introduced to Robert, who was left relieved when he realised that Steve and Tracy were no longer together but was shocked that they had a daughter, Amy, together.
Robert proceeded to take Tracy home to No.1 and prepared her a meal. However, Tracy was left feeling unsettled by Robert's actions, as she was unable to understand why he was being so nice to her after how she had treated him. Upon growing close, Tracy and Robert shared a kiss and began to get undressed but were walked in on by Ken, who had been persuaded by Liz McDonald to fetch Tracy for the wake. Ken was appalled, considering Tracy's actions as being disrespectful due to it being the day of Deirdre's funeral, and chucked Robert out of the house, questioning how low Tracy was prepared to stoop. The following day Robert was able to rescue Tracy after two henchmen of her former business partner Tony Stewart turned up at Barlow's Buys wanting payment for some knock-off foot spas. Robert and Tracy went for a drink at the Rovers before Robert revealed that he still had feelings for her and that the reason he returned to the North was because he missed her. In order to make amends to Ken for his actions after the funeral, Robert offered to cook him one of Deirdre's recipes for stuffed marrow. After finishing the meal, both Ken and Tracy agreed that it was better than Deirdre's.
While Robert continued to comfort Tracy following her mother's death by inviting her and Ken to a trade fair, his wife Joni turned up on the street and inquired at The Kabin where she would be able to find Tracy. Rita Tanner was at first reluctant to inform Joni of Tracy's address but gave in when she lied that she had been a friend of Deirdre's at the council. Furiously knocking on No1, Joni was confronted by Norris Cole of No.3 who confirmed her suspicions that Robert had been spending time with Tracy behind her back. When Ken returned home Norris passed on Joni's message, this led Tracy to question Robert but he concealed the truth by pretending that Joni was simply the manager of his restaurant.
Following this, Robert and Tracy officially reunited, but she was left heartbroken when he cancelled their evening together due to work. Beth Sutherland convinced Tracy to surprise Robert at work but he wasn't best pleased when the pair arrived and attempted to get rid of them.
Joni walked in on Robert kissing Tracy goodbye and, revealing that she was his wife, slapped Tracy across the face. With Robert unable to provide an explanation, Tracy fled the restaurant humiliated. Robert followed Tracy back to the street where he admitted that he wanted to be with her instead of Joni and asked to make it up to her, although Tracy refused and ordered him to leave. After another attempt to speak to Tracy failed Robert drowned his sorrows at Nick's Bistro where he was tracked down by Joni, who demanded that he sign everything over to her. Upon seeing this Beth accused Robert of cosying up to his ex and refused to allow him the chance to explain.
Later that week Robert overheard Nick Tilsley and Leanne Battersby complaining about their chef at the bistro and offered his services. Taking Robert up on his offer, Leanne proposed that if he cooked a meal from their menu to a better standard of the current chef's that he could have a trial shift. Leanne was impressed with Robert's meal and he accepted her offer of a trial shift. Nick was unhappy that Leanne had hired someone without consulting him and insisted that it was only a trial. When Ken and Tracy went for a meal at the bistro they were shocked to discover that Robert was the chef and Tracy accused him of stalking her. In order to once again apologise to Tracy, Robert wrote the words "sorry" in her dessert - but when Tracy saw this she threw it on the floor and demanded a reduced bill from waitress Steph Britton.
Not long after Tracy once again exploded at Robert, however this time it was clear that he wasn't the reason that she was so distressed. With Robert providing a shoulder to cry on Tracy admitted that she had done things in the past that she wasn't proud of and was even responsible for having taken other people's lives. Robert assumed that Tracy was referring to her ex Charlie Stubbs, whom she had bludgeoned to death in January 2007 and claimed self-defence, although she was hiding an even more sinister secret - that she had caused the Victoria Court which had resulted in the deaths of Kal Nazir and Maddie Heath. Following a heart-to-heart with Ken, Tracy decided that she did not want to lose Robert and marched into the bistro to declare her love for him.
Robert's relationship with Tracy began going from strength to strength, with Tracy admitting that she had no regrets about reuniting with him and when she overheard Robert complaining about his flatmate she suggested that he moved into No.1. Although Ken originally refused to allow Robert to move in, he later reluctantly agreed after Tracy pretended that Robert had been thrown out and had nowhere else to go.
In December, Tracy received a visiting order from ex-fiancé Rob Donovan, and although she was now with Robert, she grudgingly went to visit Rob at Highfield Prison. Rob told Tracy that despite the fact that she had betrayed him by turning him into the police he still loved her. Tracy failed to mention that she was with another man and agreed to visit Rob again. He later managed to use a mobile phone that had been smuggled into the prison, and called Robert to ask him to meet him. When the two men faced each other, Rob informed Robert that Tracy had been seeing him. Robert was sceptical at first but Rob was able to prove that she had been there. Robert intended to propose to Tracy on Christmas Day but with the new information he decided against doing so and instead made a fool out of Tracy by revealing to everyone in the Rovers that Tracy had been meeting her ex-fiancé. Tracy was devastated to discover that he knew and begged Robert not to leave her, but he didn't listen to her pleas.
Robert ended up spending New Year's Eve at The Sunset Casino drowning his sorrows. While in there, Robert bumped into Carla Connor and decided to sit with her. After a big win at the roulette wheel, they booked a room and while on a high after the big win, they ended up having sex, although they immediately regretted it. Robert then bought a 20% share in Nick's Bistro, owned by Carla's fiancé Nick Tilsley, to wind Carla up. In an attempt to win Robert back, Tracy named her new florist shop Preston's Petals, but Robert refused to attended the opening ceremony and headed back to the bistro but ultimately the couple got back together with Tracy not knowing about Robert and Carla's one-night stand.
A few days later Carla found Robert doing paperwork inside the bistro and begged him not to go into business with Nick, but Robert refused to throw away a good opportunity for her sake. While talking in the darkened room, she spoke about the night in the casino. Unbeknown to Carla, Tracy was in the kitchen half-naked waiting to surprise Robert. After Robert left Carla in the bistro, Tracy was tempted to seek revenge on her long-time rival, but before she could do so two thugs burst into the bistro demanding money. Carla was tackled to the ground before she could escape. Tracy slipped through the back door without telling anyone what had just happened since she was so shocked by Robert's betrayal. Carla suffered serious injuries after she was thrown from the thugs' getaway vehicle in an attempt to reclaim her handbag, and was put on life support but managed to survive.
Carla, frightened that Tracy would tell Nick that she had sex with Robert, begged Nick to leave Weatherfield with her and start afresh in Devon. Robert saw this as an opportunity to buy the bistro and offered £90,000 to Nick for the business but before he could seal the deal, Leanne Tilsley gave a higher offer to Nick, the money being from stepson Simon Barlow's trust fund. Tracy, who desperately wanted the bistro demanded that Carla gave her £10,000 in order to beat Leanne's offer. Carla took money from Underworld's account and handed it to Tracy. Nick ultimately took Robert and Tracy's offer following heavy persuasion from Carla. Nick and Carla's marriage didn't last long and Nick ultimately stayed in Weatherfield whereas Carla moved to Devon by herself.
Compared to Nick, Robert was not a natural boss and soon began to mistreat his staff. This resulted in Leanne quitting her job. Nick, in an attempt to spite Robert, planned to open a new restaurant with Leanne and chose premises on Viaduct Street right beside Robert's and he also reported him to the police for drink driving which ended in Rob facing a ban for twelve months. Soon after Robert's chef, Zeedan Nazir, had enough and also quit his job. Now desperately low on staff, Robert managed to strike a deal with Nick but only after much arguing: the two settled on a 50-50 partnership in the bistro.
Background informationRobert Preston was conceived as Tracy Barlow's fiance in 1996, in a storyline designed to write out Dawn Acton's character, whose appearances had become more sporadic, from the programme. York-born Julian Kay was cast as Robert and appeared in two episodes, returning for a further seven appearances in 1999 and finally a one-off in 2003, in order to tie up his relationship with Tracy who had been brought back to the show permanently with Kate Ford in the role. Robert was Kay's first credited TV role and he has gone on to appear in the BBC drama Dangerfield among other roles.
In April 2015, it was announced that the character of Robert would be returning to the show on a permanent basis. The part was recast to Tristan Gemmill who signed a one-year contract with the show. Gemmill who was born in London in 1967 had previously appeared on the programme for two episodes in January 2000 as drugs counsellor Will Griffiths. Between his two Corrie appearances, Gemmill had appeared in various TV dramas including London's Burning and Cape Wrath and was most notably known for his four-year tenure as Adam Trueman in the long-running medical drama Casualty. On the casting, producer Stuart Blackburn said: "Tristan is a fantastic and classy actor who will bring a real gravitas to the role of Robert Preston. We're all delighted to have him on board and I can't wait to see him striding down those famous cobbles."
Robert's return saw him resume his relationship with Tracy after many years, with Gemmill explaining: "Robert’s one of those people who are attracted to danger and ‘broken’ people, because he thinks he can fix them. There's a thrill about someone who's a bit unpredictable." Robert's one night stand with Carla Connor and Tracy's subsequent scheming to ruin Carla's wedding day would be the final nail in the coffin for the relationship.
In April 2019, Gemmill announced via Twitter that he was leaving the show after four years in the role, writing: "Folks, I just wanted to let you know that the time has come for me to hang up the chef’s gear and head for pastures new. There is still a lot of drama & shenanigans to come for Robert but I will be leaving Corrie later in the year."
First and last lines
"Cheers. Nice to meet you." (First line, to Deirdre Rachid)
"I never deserved you, Michelle." (Final line)
(To be completed)
List of addreses
|9 Victoria Court||16th December 2016 to 4th December 2019|
|Owner/head chef||Nick's Bistro/Viaduct Bistro||5th July 2017 to 2nd December 2019|