It all seemed to be going so well for Nick Tilsley – Leanne’s agreed to marry him, they have a trip to America planned with a wedding in Las Vegas thrown in. And then – just as he, Leanne and young Simon are about to depart in a taxi for the airport – two very familiar faces return to Weatherfield.
Yes, Peter and Carla are back in town, bringing trouble in their wake. Suddenly wedding locations are changing and holiday plans are being stymied – so how does all this leave Nick feeling?
“Initially, it’s just a thorn in his side, but then he doesn’t expect to see Leanne react the way she does to seeing Peter,” says Ben Price, who plays Nick. “He thought they’d moved on from Peter and Carla, and while them being back is annoying, he didn’t expect Leanne to be as bothered. It’s when she says she can’t get in the taxi with him that he realises there’s still more to it.”
So despite Nick now being with Leanne and offering her and Simon the stability that her ex could never provide, does he still perceive Peter as a massive threat?
“I think that has always confused Nick: what does Leanne see in Peter? In any other walk of life, Peter would be irrelevant to him, but where Leanne is concerned, he gets to him. Nick loves Leanne, but he also doesn’t want Peter to be with Leanne. He couldn’t stand him having her. Between them, it’s a bit of ‘I’ve got her, no I’ve got her, no I’ve got her and you can’t have her!’”
Peter, of course, is keen to re-establish his relationship with his son Simon, having been apart from him for a number of months. A happy by-product for Peter is that he also gets to antagonise Nick by messing with the family dynamic that’s been evolving in his absence:
“The fact that Peter is Simon’s dad, and that Leanne is so involved in Simon’s life, means Peter will always have that draw,” says Price. “So Peter plays that card and they go off ice-skating, while Nick has to work, which gets to him. He thinks Peter isn’t a good father – he takes his son out of school and tries to buy his affection, and he’s upset that Leanne seems to be taking in by this.
“Nick wants to look after Simon but, at the end of the day, he’s not his son. Plus Simon’s ecstatic that his dad’s back. He has a good relationship with Nick, but he’s happy to see his dad, although he is a waste of space!
“Alex Bain, who plays Simon, does very well. He works harder than a lot of adult actors. It’s a lot of pressure being a child in an adult world and he does really well. It’s intense for him.”
Simon’s thrill at seeing his dad ends up causing the main complication when Leanne decides that she and Nick will have to stick around and reschedule their wedding. “Nick starts to think that this isn’t going to end well. He can see Peter’s got his claws in and he can’t understand why Leanne is even entertaining this bloke. Peter left for four months with another woman, he abandoned his own kid, left her to run his business, then he comes back and she’s torn. Nick realises there’s something else going on here.”
So how confident is Nick about Leanne’s feelings for him? “I don’t think he’s very confident at all and that’s where Eva and Kylie come in and play their little mind games.”
Ah yes, the scheming Eva, who’d do anything to derail Nick and Leanne’s relationship. This time around, she and Kylie plant the seed in Nick’s head that Leanne would love the grand romantic gesture of a Christmas Day wedding. So off he goes to book the nuptials – without consulting Leanne first:
“I think he’s trying to kid himself and, also, it’s emotional blackmail. He books a huge place, he sorts it for Christmas Day and he makes it all work, which is what Nick does, he makes things work. Nick facilitates what Nick wants.
“I don’t think Leanne’s very happy when she finds out. I think she feels caught on the hop and maybe a bit emotionally blackmailed by Nick. But Peter’s paying dirty tricks and maybe Nick thinks that if Leanne loves him, then she shouldn’t be that bothered about him booking the wedding. I think Nick’s testing her.”
Then there’s the prospect of Peter deciding to stay on the Street. Surely the possibility of Leanne and her ex running the bookies together is going to rub Nick up the wrong way?
“Nick doesn’t want to cause too much too much of a ripple, so he says to Leanne, ‘if you’re happy with it, then I’m happy’. But he knows that while Barlow is hanging around, things are never going to run smoothly. They’ve got businesses bookending the Street. Every time Nick walks out of the Bistro, he sees the Bookies. He would rather Peter had gone away for a very long time.”
But that long-standing animosity rears its head once more after a big restaurant booking comes in at the Bistro that prevents Nick from going to Simon’s nativity play. When no-one arrives for the booking, he thinks that Peter (rather than Eva, who is the actual prankster) is trying to keep him away from the school show, so he hares over to Bessie Street to sort the situation out. What reaction does he get from Leanne when he causes a scene?
“A very cold one, which amazes me the number of times that Peter has done it,” exclaims Price. “In the end, though, Nick has to apologise and he admits that he made a huge mistake. But Nick’s had enough of being pushed around.”
All this while, of course, Eva has been circling, just waiting to get her claws into Nick again. Is there any possibility that he could be tempted back to her?
“Yeah, of course. Why not? Nick likes to know he’s got somewhere else to go! I think he likes Eva. They had a good laugh together, she’s feisty and he likes a strong woman.”
And does Nick realise that Peter is, in actuality, trying to win Leanne back? “No, not at all. He thinks he’s messing with her head and him. Nick and Peter are almost motivated by their hatred of each other more than wanting to be with Leanne and Carla.”
All of which bodes rather ill for the wedding of Nick and Leanne on the 25th. Is it something that Price is looking forward to? “Yeah, I think it will be fun. It’s great to have such a big storyline on Christmas Day. It’s amazing. It’s safe to say it’s not going to run smoothly – it’s going to be much more of a rocky road than even a rocky road is! It’s not just about Leanne and Nick. There are so many other factors involved.”