Coronation Street spoilers: Hayley collapses and is taken to hospital – Julie Hesmondhalgh interview

The actress discusses Hayley's s latest health troubles and her current right-to-die storyline

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Hayley’s decision to take control of her own death is to have repercussions after she has a row with Roy (David Neilson), who disagrees with her plans.

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Hayley goes to stay at Fiz and Tyrone’s, while Roy remains at the café lost in worry. But events take an unexpected turn when Hayley is taken ill and collapses. Fiz calls an ambulance and Roy puts their argument aside as he races to be by her side. But can they settle their differences and find common ground on this most emotive of issues?

Here, Julie Hesmondhalgh discusses the current plotline and the repercussions that Hayley’s intentions will have on the future for the Croppers:

Can you explain a little about how Hayley reaches the decision that she’s going to take her own life?
It comes from a friend that Hayley has made called Jane who she meets at a cancer support group. Very quickly, Jane gets poorly and Hayley and Roy go and visit her in a hospice. She’s heavily medicated and her husband explains to Hayley and Roy that she’s kind of there but kind of not and he thinks she’s living in the past.

Now, Jane had a very lovely adolescence. She has a lot of happy memories so she’s in a nice place, but this brings home to Hayley that if she were in that hinterland it would not be a great place for her to be. She’s had a nightmare already that she’s woken up and is Harold again and it terrifies her because the second half of Hayley’s life is in such stark contrast to the beginning.

She’s scared that when she’s heavily medicated she will go back to thinking she’s a child again and that would be hell. So that’s what kind of prompts it and also the trip to Blackpool is kind of icing on the cake. She’s thinking that there’s not going to be many more of these days left and she wants to be remembered as being full of life.

How will she know when her time has come?
She feels confident that it will be clear to her when she needs to take her own life. She won’t do anything that means Roy will get into trouble, so she’ll take control of it. She knows she’ll have to do it herself so she needs to be well enough. Roy’s biggest fear though is that it will cut off the precious time they have together. But she’s saying that they have to stop it when it’s good. That’s at the heart of what’s going on between them and they just cannot find a way to agree on it at all.

Has Hayley given any thought to how Roy would feel about her plan?
I think that Hayley doesn’t see it as selfish at all because she thinks she’ll actually be saving him a lot of heartache. She doesn’t want him to see her in that terrible half way place with her not knowing who she is. So she thinks it will be best for both of them, but Roy thinks that it’s a very selfish decision from her. He just wants every second he can have with her.

Rather than seeing her suffering and in pain, she wants him to remember her as she is now. She’s scared that if she’s heavily medicated she will think that Roy is her father and she had a terrible relationship with her parents. The writers have very cleverly tied Hayley’s exit in with how she came in to the show. And she’s scared she’s going to end her life the way she began it, not as Hayley but as Harold.

Is she determined that this is the way she’s going to die or is there any way Roy can change her mind?
Neither of them will budge at all and that’s a new thing for Roy and Hayley because they’ve always found a common ground before. Roy has a certain way of looking at the world and it’s hard to shift his point of view. Hayley’s much more malleable, but in this instance she’s absolutely certain and there’s no doubt in her mind about it. It ends up becoming the most important thing for Hayley because she can’t properly live until she knows she has his blessing on that.

How does it get so bad that Hayley leaves Roy?
The problem is that it comes straight after Blackpool where they’ve had the most wonderful time. They come back and that’s when Hayley decides to have the conversation. It’s such a terrible shock for Roy to think that while they were having this amazing time in Blackpool, she was thinking about taking her own life. It seems like a massive betrayal to him. He’s never felt as alive and as together with Hayley as he did on that trip and all the time she’s been thinking about doing this.

When Hayley is taken ill and rushed to hospital, does she think that the cancer has spread?
She’s really scared, especially after they’d had such a terrible row. It turns out to be an infection but it brings home again the importance to Hayley to be able to end it when she can. Roy thinks that she’ll change her view as a result of the infection, but it doesn’t.

Hayley, for her part, thinks it will change things for Roy but it doesn’t. They’re just devastated this happened when they were apart, but at the end of it there’s still an impasse. When he leaves the hospital nothing’s been solved.

Do you understand why Hayley wants to be in control of her own death?
Completely. I understand that it’s a very delicate issue in terms of the law and you have to be incredibly careful about allowing individuals to not take advantage of vulnerable people, but there are past cases that have broken my heart.

You have to ask yourself: what is life? It’s not just about having a heart beating; it’s about being able to live and having a quality to your life. You don’t want to see people you love suffer.

What’s the response been from the viewers?
Amazing, I’ve had so many messages and it’s been overwhelming. I did think that people might be angry about it because a lot of people don’t want to be watching this sort of thing in Corrie, especially with a character that’s likable like Hayley. But a lot of people have found it moving because it’s been so true to Roy and Hayley.

For me it’s a love story with a beginning, middle and an end and this is the end. In a way, she has to die because it would be much more of a betrayal of everything if she just left Roy. She’d never do it.

The story touches real life and it’s a part of life. I wish it wasn’t but it is and therefore I think it’s completely valid for us to address it and we’ve done so in a very Corrie way. We’ve kept it true to the style of the programme and the characters. I’m proud of the way it’s been done and the response that we’ve had.

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Are you touched that people seem so genuinely devastated to be saying goodbye to Hayley?
It’s been incredible. People have been really kind. I couldn’t be happier with the journey I’ve had at Corrie. There was Hayley’s transgender stuff, which I’m so proud of, and now we’ve got this tragic but beautifully written cancer storyline. Plus we’re also touching on the right to die issue, which is important and so topical.