Ailing Hayley Cropper is to meet with her estranged son Christian next week, despite being left bloodied and bruised after their last encounter.
“Roy isn’t happy with Hayley for making contact with him after what happened last time,” reveals Julie Hesmondhalgh. “Christian ended up punching Hayley and running off. She hasn’t seen him since.”
So what is it that prompts her to get in touch? “She just feels it’s something she needs to do, so she calls him. She doesn’t want him to know what’s wrong with her because she doesn’t want him to feel that he has to see her.”
Initially, Hayley is left disappointed when Christian (Andrew Turner) fails to show up for a pre-arranged meeting. But there are shocked faces all round in the episode airing on Friday 27 September after Christian suddenly arrives at the café wanting to talk. So what is Hayley hoping for from this new encounter?
“She would like a reconciliation and to know that he accepts her for who she is now,” says the actress. “But she doesn’t want him to that just because he thinks she’s dying, so Hayley keeps that information to herself. She would love to meet her grandchildren but she knows that is a big ask.”
In the end, Hayley her son that she felt the need to get in touch following a family bereavement. For his part, Christian (who was originally introduced to the show as the surprise result of a liaison that Hayley had had while still living as Harold) is clearly appalled by his past behaviour and saddened by how things were left last time.
Hayley’s aim is to build bridges before it’s too late, but reestablishing contact with Christian isn’t the only thing she wants to achieve before she dies, as Hesmondhalgh explains:
"She decides that she wants to write a wish list of everything she wants to do and there are some really varied things on there. She’d like to overcome her fear of puppets, set off 99 red balloons, ride on a Harley Davidson, go on a camping trip, go back to the boating lake where she and Roy first kissed and teach Roy to drive.”
So while Hayley is channelling her energies into making the most of what time she has left, how is Hesmondhalgh coping with the pressures of the storyline?
"I feel very blessed that I came in with such a big storyline that really made a difference to people’s lives and now I’m being given the opportunity to do something which can help again.
“I’ve worked very closely with Pancreatic Cancer UK and have got involved in an online petition and helped raise awareness of a disease that doesn’t really get any funding help. It’s very challenging to play a storyline like this as you feel the responsibility to get it right for all the people out there who are really going through what Hayley and Roy are. I’ve been so moved by the response from the public.”
And how easy has it been to switch off at the end of the working day? “Sometimes it is hard as I have more lines to learn for the next day, but I have a lovely husband and children who keep me very busy and that helps to leave Hayley and her troubles at work.”