Butler’s Farm is set to see an influx of Bartons as James and his sons move in under Moira’s roof. But is there any sexual tension between James and the woman who was once married to his brother? And where does Cain stand in the equation? Here, actor Bill Ward reveals what lies ahead for the Barton clan in the coming weeks as they face their new future:
Can you tell us a bit about how James has got himself into such financial ruin? It’s because he’s been chasing his wayward son Ross around for the past three years. James’s wife left him early on and he’s bringing up his three kids on his own for more than a decade. Ross has been a handful ever since he was small, but recently James hasn’t known where he’s been. So James’s eldest son Pete has been running the farm and although he’s been keeping it ticking over, some of the big business decisions haven’t been made. Which means that the farm is now losing money and going out of business.
And is James in denial about having his farm repossessed? He’s not in denial, he knows what’s happening but he’s fighting it. He’s managed to get a very good deal with one supermarket but they keep trying to drop the price that they’re prepared to pay for his cattle. And James isn’t having it – he’s a very principled and strong-willed man and he doesn’t like to be mucked about. And if that means financial ruin then that’s still the way he’s going to go.
He thinks he’ll win in the end by toughing it out, but quite the reverse occurs. James has a very clear sense of who he is and what he thinks is right and if you cross him – whether you be a supermarket boss or Ross or Cain – then he’s going to have a problem with that.
Is he embarrassed that Moira is now aware of how deep his work problems run? Yes, because he’s a proud man. And he was a pedigree, prize-winning farmer before Ross ran away. The trouble is that the circumstances that surround the demise of his own farm are not of his own making. They’re of Ross’s making. Moira’s always run a good farm and James is embarrassed that he’s let his run down to the extent that he has.
Does he misread Moira’s concern? He is quite overly friendly with her… Well, it’s partly wishful thinking on his part. He’s always carried a torch for Moira. And there is some history between them. It’s quite possible that he and his brother John fell out and had a fight over her – what I certainly imagined when I got this job was that this was the case. But James Barton is not a ladies’ man. It just doesn’t interest him. He’s more interested in is his boys and his business.
How does he find out that Pete and Finn have asked to stay at Butler’s Farm? He comes across them one day unloading their cattle onto Moira’s farm. And, as far as he’s concerned, as soon as you take the cattle away, the bailiffs will take the land over. He was intending to do was sit tight and make a stand, but his boys have decided otherwise. So he turns up with his family at Butler’s Farm through no desire of his own. He would have stayed put and fought his corner.
What does make him decide to take Moira up on her offer? They’re essentially homeless and Moira is family, even though James hasn’t seen her for a considerable length of time. James didn’t even go to John’s funeral – he’s kept his distance but that doesn’t mean that he’s not holding a torch for Moira.
How does James feel about living under the same roof as Cain? He can’t be doing with Cain because it was him who got Ross into trouble. Ross wouldn’t have been shot if it hadn’t been for Cain. But right now he has serious problems in that he doesn’t have a business or anywhere to live. So, he feels that Cain is part of the reason why his business has gone down the tubes and he also believes that Cain doesn’t treat Moira right.
At one point, Cain is away and Moira suggests that she and James go to a farmers’ party. How foes James feel about that? Yes, he goes as her ‘plus one’ because he wants to make some business contacts. But he’s also quite chuffed because Moira looks tremendous and somewhere deep in his past is this torch he’s carrying for her. I don’t think though that he’s dated women for years because he’s had far more important things on his mind. So he’s slightly fingers and thumbs. But he doesn’t want to steal her from Cain – he wants to get his business back on its feet. Yet a pleasant side-effect is that he gets to spend the evening with his heart’s desire.
Zak is very worried by all this and secretly puts in a call to Cain, who comes home. Can you tell us what happens next? There are a couple of moments where it’s like two stags rutting. A couple of face-offs. Scenes like that are always fun to do!
Does he think he could win Moira’s heart? Yes, but the point about James is that he’s highly principled and he’s not going to go around stealing another man’s woman. So yes, if she was free and available, he’d be very interested. But she isn’t. If he was to make a pass at her, things would get very difficult, particularly because they’re all living under her roof.
Do you think he’ll want to take over Moira’s farm? No, quite the opposite. He can’t wait to get out of there but he realises that right now, it’s where he needs to be. The only asset he has are his cows – he’s taken those onto Moira’s farm and his idea in the short term is to go into business with Moira and merge his herd with hers because she has the means of production. But he doesn’t want that to be a long-term plan.
So is James a worthy adversary for Cain? James is only worried about Cain being a bad influence on anyone he knows. Whether that’s his sons or, I suspect, if that was Moira. James is very much aware of who he is and what he stands for and if Cain gets in the way of that or causes him trouble then he’ll go after him. But he won’t go looking for trouble.
In a way, he respects Cain because he looks after himself and the people he’s with. So, in that way, there is a mutual respect because Cain has got where he has through sheer force of personality and strength of character. And James has got a lot of time for that.
Do you get along with actor Jeff Hordley (who plays Cain)? Yes, he’s a lovely man. He’s a magnificent fella and he’s been unbelievably welcoming and kind to me since I joined. When I did Corrie [Ward played Charlie Stubbs], I bumped into him at various soaps dos, so it’s been great working with him.