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Coronation Street EXCLUSIVE: Interview with producer Stuart Blackburn

soaps-coronation-street-producer-stuart-blackburnIt’s a big year ahead for Coronation Street and I was lucky enough to get a massive insight into what’s afoot when I was invited to a press screening of upcoming storylines as well as a chance to meet some of the up and coming as well as established Corrie stars.

As well as chatting to the various cast members about what is to come for their alter egos, I was also able to have an extended conversation with the man behind it all, Stuart Blackburn and, judging by what he says, 2015 could well be Corrie’s year. Be warned, there are SPOILERS aplenty.

Await no further, here’s a full transcript of what he had to say:

Tell us about the bus crash…
2014 was an action packed year for Corrie and early 2015 is focused on a spectacular crash. It isn’t just a stunt for stunt’s sake, let’s get that out of the way, it’s a turning point for a lot of characters. Everyone involved in filming these dramatic episodes is very proud of the end results.

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Coronation Street: All about Steve

17_11_coro_steve_steph_michelle_01I’ve been where Steve McDonald is right now; and it is, without a doubt, the worst thing that I have ever felt. Even though it is estimated that a massive 1 in every 3 of us will experience first hand some form of mental health issue, there is still an alarming amount of education and awareness required on the matter of depression and anxiety.

That is why I couldn’t be more proud of Britain’s top soap, Coronation Street, for tackling this issue head on with the sensitivity, honesty and realism that it is currently expressing. Those millions of you who read my soap musings both here and on social media will know that I have been fairly critical of Coronation Street over the last few months. But where it has been lacking in other areas, it has more than redeemed itself in this particular storyline.

For quite some time, and very subtly, we have seen Steve struggle with his moods to the point where he currently finds himself at; thoroughly sapped of the joy and energy that the character is famous for. Simon Gregson is playing a blinder of a performance with this story he’s been given; it is a huge challenge to portray accurately but I embargo-18-nov-coronation-street-steve-2recognise so much in Steve. From the blocking out of important everyday worries to the emptiness in his eyes and the lost expression on his face, Steve is a broken man. And yet, the regular comments and tweets I am seeing from people saying ‘What is even wrong with Steve?’ and ‘Steve needs to man up and pull himself together’ proves that many people still don’t really understand the horrendous effects depression can have on the sufferer and on the people around them.

The people tweeting ‘Carla has been through much worse and you don’t see her going on like Steve.’ are not being malicious or tactless; it’s just that there is still a genuine stigma around metal health that perceives people who are overcome by depression as being weak. As Corrie is setting out to prove, that is far from the case. Steve isn’t just being miserable or feeling sorry for himself; he is ill. And that illness is preventing him from feeling any pleasure or hope in life. He is being swallowed by a darkness that really cannot be described in words and it is heart-rending to watch.

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Coronation Street: Sally reads too much into this one…

Coronation_Street_spoilers__Sally_to_accuse_Tim_and_Anna_of_having_an_affair__reveals_Sally_DynevorThank heavens for small mercies: some Corrie episodes that I actually enjoyed! This is becoming a rare treat these days but last night’s double was an entertaining hour of soap.

Anything that focuses on the brilliant Sally Webster, played by Sally Dynevor, is automatically half way there. I make no secret of the fact that I adore Sally; she is classic Corrie and always delivers, whether it’s in her eager to please factory scenes, her outrageous snobbery moments or her down to earth kitchen sink drama, she is undoubtedly one of the show’s strongest characters.

Pairing her with Tim was a stroke of wonder; the pair are fantastic together and I love the added layer of making Kevin and Tim mates. Corrie could have easily gone down the cliche path of making Kevin and Tim sworn rivals but the fact that Kevin is a somewhat awkward gooseberry in the relationship is inspired. Even though the rushed explanation into how Tim was able to message Faye wasn’t really satisfactory, the story of his inability to read is a strong one, even if it did crop up out of nowhere.

I am glad that the signs are showing that it was not a mere plot device to get Sal to make a fool of herself and I hope that Corrie see this one through properly and with the attention and sensitivity it warrants. Tim has become an endearing character and the viewers root for him so this development, if done right, can only be a positive one.

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Coronation Street: Just say no

Education’s not all it’s cracked up to be, is it? Michelle sent Our Ryan away to university thinking he would come back all educated and ready to earn an honest living and that, but what’s happened? His appearance has totally changed – indeed, one might even think he wasn’t the same person any more – and he’s been thrown out of college and has taken up a cocaine habit.

The morphing into a new actor bit is a considerable improvement. Our Ryan Mark 1 bore an unfortunate resemblance to a Playmobil character and he had the acting talents to match. Ryan Mark 2 (Sol Heras) is somewhat easier on the eye and has presumably been chosen because of that and because he can handle “adult” storylines.

On the subject of which, are the Street’s citizens all so naive that nobody noticed he kept disappearing to the toilet at regular intervals and always came back with rather more of a spring in his step than when he went in? The ghastly truth of his descent into drugs hell was revealed last night when Michelle caught him at it, hoovering white powder off a toilet seat in the Rovers. The Rovers! There’s been no Class A activity in there since Becky got framed by a corrupt copper. At least we can rely on Stella to keep her surfaces clean. Who knows what he’d have inhaled in the Flying Horse? It’s all such a shock it’s no wonder poor, innocent Kylie Platt practically had a fit of the vapours when he offered her a line. The former cage dancer has apparently never been exposed to such corruption and decadence.

Elsewhere, poor Izzy has had to contend with the double trouble of a miscarriage and all the men in her life being a tad intense. It can’t be easy to find Gary looming just inches from your face at any given time.

I expect Carl is starting to feel the same about Sunita, who is trying her hardest to ignore the fact that he’s obviously not that bothered about her or her Beautiful Children and is trying to pretend she has found True Love. Really, Sunita. We know Dev has his drawbacks – a tendency to yodel in times of high emotion, a hairstyle from the 70’s and a strange enthusiasm for golf, but these are not reasons to dump him in favour of a gambling-addicted Len Fairclough lookalike who’d rather be with another woman and/or in the bookies than be with you. Have some self respect, woman.

Posted by PLA                 (More Coronation Street here)

 

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Coronation Street: I’m emigrating for the next 31 weeks

My very topmost favourite character on Coronation Street is Steve McDonald. I love his lugubrious, hyper-mobile face, and I love his banter with Eileen and Lloyd and Liz and Dev. I love the way he can be a right exasperating twat and the next minute he’s being so lovely you just want to give him a playful punch to the shoulder and yell, “Oh, you!” at him.

So why is it that the poor man is so often the centre of the most annoying storyline running at any given time? It’s the company he keeps, that’s what, and more specifically the women he gets involved with. For what felt like years Steve was living with the character known as Michelle Connor, a character so miserable and life-sapping that you could see your television screen turning monochrome every time she was on. When Steve finally dumped her and took up with the Street’s resident fruit basket Becky Grainger, I was throwing my Percy Sugden-era cap in the air and shouting “Huzzah!” Steve and Becky together? What enormous fun that’s going to be!

Except… Not. Things started badly with the wedding Becky was too drunk to complete. Then we had her being framed for possessing drugs and arrested by cartoon-evil cop Hooch (even his name was a cartoon name). Since Christmas, we’ve known that Becky is pregnant, but have had to put up with weeks of her and Steve squabbling and being horrible because he wanted kids and she didn’t and blah blah blah.

Now he knows she’s pregnant, he’s thrilled, she’s coming round to the idea of being thrilled, and you’d think we could finally settle down and relax a bit. Except I can’t help thinking that the scriptwriters are going to try and drag every last ounce of comedy/pathos/drama out of Becky’s pregnancy, because she’s currently their star performer (a position previously occupied by the aforementioned Monochrome Michelle). And I don’t think I can stand the histrionics. “I’m nine weeks gone!” she informed Steve yesterday. Holy crap. That means another 31 weeks to go.

Posted by PLA          (see all Coronation Street and Emmerdale posts)

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