Coronation Street: The Inside Story

Making Waves: David Neilson as Roy Cropper

ROY Cropper made a big splash in Weatherfield last night.

Left to drown in a canal by killer Tony Gordon.

And summed up in two clear and simple lines:

Roy: “I can’t swim.”

Tony: “Good.”

David Neilson (Roy) and Gray O’Brien (Tony) filmed the canal scenes near Corrie’s Manchester HQ.

“I was out for every night of the canal shoot,” Corrie producer Kim Crowther told me when we met up recently.

“I’ve never felt more guilty in my life when David had to go under that horrible water.

“I said that to him afterwards and he said,

‘Not guilty enough.’

“I think David is still drying out.”

Poor old Roy was fighting for his life in the water as the final credits rolled.

His ultimate fate left hanging until the next ITV1 episode on Thursday.

Bearing in mind the use it gets, you’d have thought the Coronation Street set would include its own canal by now.

“We should do, the amount we use it,” agreed Kim.

“But it was great visually where we filmed, because we’ve got bridges and trains going over and all sorts of atmospheric things.”

Whatever happens to Roy, we all know Tony’s days are numbered with Gray making his last appearance on screen soon.

Is it, I asked, an unexpected end for the character?

“I feel good about it,” replied Kim. “I hope viewers will be surprised. That’s our intention.

“But at the same time, I hope that also what we do feels true to the character.

“It feels like a natural conclusion, the way we come to it. I think it’ll feel quite truthful and satisfying.

“Surprising but satisfying, because it feels right.”

On the edge: Roy and Tony

Gray always planned to be in Corrie for two years but outside factors meant Tony’s storyline had to be changed a number of times.

“There was another chapter which we had to re-invent when Samia Smith (Maria) told us she was pregnant,” said Kim.

“So there was a whole other chapter to go before we got to the climax.

“But then it forces you sometimes to be very creative when you have new restrictions to work to.

“And so this story was pitched, this whole new arc with Tony and Roy, which was so surprising to all of us round the table when the two writers who pitched it put it forward.

“It just came from a completely different angle and was so interesting. So we’ve got something very dramatic out of that in the end.

“But we did have different plans which we then threw up in the air and came back with something else.”

Tony is the biggest villain to hit the Street since serial killer Richard Hillman.

Kim explained: “The key thing with Richard Hillman, because I worked on that storyline too, and this storyline with Tony is that they’ve both got a heart.

“We’ve got to like them and quite like their villainy as well. We know what matters to them and they feel real and three dimensional.

“Richard was desperate to have a family of his own after his upbringing with his mother. Family was all important to him and the threat of losing that, when he was backed into a corner, forced him to do terrible things.

“And with Tony it was the threat of losing Carla. He’s a bit of a control freak and he’s also a psychopath.

“Being beaten by somebody – and I think that’s how he saw it – when he knew about the affair with Liam, the thought that they could be laughing at him and that he’d beaten him…

“He had to be kingpin and he had to come out on top.

Not so happy families: Tony and Maria

“Since then we’ve got a bit Richard III with Maria, which we didn’t know whether we’d pull off – but I think we have.

“When he found Maria, he felt that he could be born again himself and was really invested in having a family.

“He could wipe the slate clean and be cleansed at the same time with this family that could love him and not want somebody else.

“His relationship with Maria and becoming a father figure to baby Liam has been all about him trying to absolve his guilt and trying to be re-born.

“It’s all about redemption.

“I always describe it that he could become a kind of ‘jumper guy’, rather than having to be a ‘sharp business suited guy’.

“With Maria, he could take the chains off and be more himself.

“And so the threat of losing that has backed him into a corner and he’s forced to find a way out of it.

“If it excites that table of writers when somebody pitches something, then we think we’ll probably excite the viewers.

“We argue so much around the table about, ‘No, we won’t believe that,’ and. ‘How can we make that believable?’ to get to the heart of characters, which is why I think the show is so successful.

“Because I think all of the characters, even our worst ones, have got a heart. I think that’s from the strength of the writers, what they do and how they develop the characters.”

Kevin and Molly

At this point, I asked Kim about the Kevin and Molly storyline, which some, including me, are struggling with.

Does it matter that there’s been a mixed reaction to their affair?

“As long as it’s interesting viewing,” replied Kim.

“I don’t mind if people hate it, as long as they’re gripped by it. If they hate it and switch off, then that’s obviously not a good thing.

“But if they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I wish they wouldn’t do that, she’s being an awful vixen,’ or, ‘He’s being terrible because he’s betraying Sally,’ that’s all good for me. That’s good television.

“But if it’s objectionable because it makes you want to switch off, then, no, that’s not ever good.”

I also spoke to Kim about Corrie’s 50th anniversary next year, the return of old faces, plans for the future plus the casting of Nigel Havers and Rula Lenska.

More on that another day.


David Neilson had trouble keeping a straight face during some of the dramatic scenes with co-star Gray.

“He’s very funny, especially when he’s being scary. He makes me laugh,” said David, down in London to promote these episodes.

“You sink into that canal up to your knees.

“And they said, ‘It’s a four letter word beginning in S and ending in T – it’s silt.’

“I had to go under the water and then come up. Each time you jump up, you disturb all this silt.

“Two or three takes of that, it’s not very pleasant. I had a tetanus jab.

“The water goes up the nose and you can’t help swallow some of it. Horrible. It was freezing.

“I was singing, ‘There’s No Business Like Showbusiness.’”


Gray O’Brien also told me how Tony’s story had changed.

“A lot of things have happened along the way that no-one can predict, like Rob (who played Liam) wanting to move on.

“That could have been the end of the situation. But they lifted the baton and ran with that.

“And then the lovely Ali King (Carla) got pregnant and it looked like that could have stopped things. And that pushed it on again.

“Then Samia Smith was pregnant and, again, that just gave us this big boost.”

Gray said the reaction from the public has been heartening.

“I was told when I started that I would have a hard time. Other actors in the past have had some distaste in the street.

“And I have to say quite categorically, hand on heart, I’ve had nothing but great things said from the public.

“They enjoy the character.

“I think there’s a touch of charm to Tony, as horrid as he is.

“I never, in my wildest dreams, expected to have that much screen time, It’s been quite incredible.

“There was talk of letting it run a bit longer.

“We were losing an actress on maternity leave and there was talk at one point of just letting it die down a little and then maybe it would be more interesting to have the triangle of both women.

“That wasn’t to happen – and it developed organically.

“I think it’s a great payoff. I wasn’t at all disappointed with what I read.

“I will miss the character. I like the idea that the guy is a bit of an onion and layers come off.

“If you’ve got a badness in the centre, it will always come out.”

*You can talk to Kim Crowther online on Thursday night via a web chat on the ITV Corrie site – more details here.

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