GRADO seems his usual self, the wrestler, actor and TV presenter is as bouncy as top ring ropes and as loud as the final round bell.

But half an hour into conversation the reality emerges.

“One of the real reasons I’m enjoying being part of this play is because of the distraction,” he says of his latest Pavilion appearance, taking a break from rehearsals.

“Life has been difficult recently. “That’s why it’s so great to be working in a comedy play, and fantastic to have people such as Stephen Purdon around.

“It’s friends like him who can make all the differences.”

Grado and co are appearing in Rally Roon The Rangers, a true-blue comedy created to reflect a reinvigorated Rangers FC and the fans pre-season excitement.

However, Grado himself (real name Graeme Stevely) has been far from feeling positive himself. In recent times the likeable, ebullient character from Ayrshire has lost his mum, split with his long-term partner and one of his best friends, the wrestler Adrian Lionheart, took his own life.

READ MORE: River City star Stephen Purdon talks about Rangers play at the Pavilion

“Adrian had actually been helping me get through things,” he says in soft voice. “And it’s especially sad he’s gone.

“So it’s great for me to come in here and take my mind of things.”

He offers a wry smile. “I’m also sure I have ADHD. I have a very short attention span. I need to be busy all the time.”

Grado has long been a Rangers fan. His voice becomes animated as he recalls his connection.

“I went to my first game in 1994 with my dad. A year later I remember seeing Paul Gascoigne and he became my hero. A couple of weeks later at Firhill I waited for him after the game. But no sign. Then I spotted him up the back of the team bus, on the mobile, and I began shouting ‘Gazza! Gazza!’ And he turned round, put his phone down and blew me a kiss.”

He grins; “Since then he’s been my hero. And Ally McCoist of course. And Jorg Albertz.”

Glasgow seems to present Celtic plays as often as St Mirren change managers. But Rangers plays (this one is set in a Rangers social club that’s facing the bulldozer) are scarce. Is this because, traditionally, Celtic fans have been more loyal to theatre productions?

“That seems to have been the case, but maybe that’s because there hasn’t been so much Rangers theatre product out there. And tickets are selling really well for this show, so we’re confident.”

Grado is wearing a Rangers shirt as we speak. Yet, he hates the whole notion of sectarianism.

“I’ve got pals who play for Celtic and Rangers, as well as pals who support both sides,” he maintains. “I love the Rangers-Celtic rivalry. It’s amazing.

“But at the same time I don’t have an ounce of hatred in me. I hate the bigotry from both sides that gets thrown up on Twitter. It’s a cess pit.”

Grado, who is still wrestling with ICW back at the Pavilion with his own wrestling show in October, Grado’s Big Family Bash, is in fact chums with Celtic boss Neil Lennon.

SEE MORE: ‘The wee hoose must stay open!’: New Rangers comedy show set to hit Glasgow theatre

“A couple of years ago I did a fun day stunt at Hibs training ground and we got on well with each other. And I like Scott Arfield at Rangers.”

He grins; “But of course, I’m really in love with Steven Gerard. I have a man crush on him.”

The Ayrshire-born performer will be back in panto this year in Pinocchio.

He admits that in spite of life’s recent cruelties he still has a lot to smile about. “I’m working,” he says in thankful voice.

“I love doing my telly show Test Drive (BBC Scotland). And I have a new girlfriend, Stephanie, who’s a trainee nurse.”

He adds; “I went all the way to Magaluf to meet someone from Ardrossan. I was on my brother’s stag do and she was on a hen night.”

Grado heard a whisper the young nurse was interested in grappling with the wrestling star.

“I met up with her on the beach one night and I said ‘Are you the lassie that fancies me?’ She said ‘Yes,’ and I said ‘Well, you’ll do!’ And we’ve been together since.”

How could she have resisted such a lyrically profound introduction that suggests Noel Coward at his very best?

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“Ah’ no’,” he says laughing. “And when she told me she supported Rangers I suspected we could have something special together.

“But then I asked her a really important question. I said ‘What’s your favourite Chinese restaurant in the toon (Saltcoats)?’ Immediately, she replied ‘Mei’s Kitchen.’”

At this point, Grado turns around, pulls up his Rangers shirt and just above the decency line is tattooed Mei’s Kitchen and a phone number.

“There’s you go,” he says in an excited voice, pointing to the inking.

“It was all meant to be. We’re a match made in heaven.”

Rally Roon the Rangers also stars Stephen Purdon, Nicola Park, James McAnerney, Liam Dolan, Alyson Orr and Wullie Brennan. The Pavilion Theatre, July 24 - August 3.