Hayley and Roy’s final Christmas together is set to be an emotional affair, but as actress Julie Hesmondhalgh explains, there’s still some joy to be had for the Croppers over the festive season, particularly when it comes to a snowball fight out out on the Street…
Has this storyline been difficult to film?
It has been hard, but I’ve been able to take the make-up off at night, go home to my kids and be healthy and happy. What’s sad is that I’m going to be saying goodbye to a family that I’ve been a part of for so many years. I now know why everyone struggles to leave because it’s such a wonderful place to work. I’m beyond sad that I’m leaving David Neilson [who plays Roy] – it’s been a huge privilege to work with such an amazing actor and brilliant man. I also can’t believe I’m actually saying goodbye to Hayley; she’s been such a huge part of my life for so long.
Are you happy with the way the storyline has progressed?
I think it’s been beautifully paced and I hope that’s how it pans out when you watch it. There’s been a lot of light and shade to it. It hasn’t all been heartbreak – there have been some Roy-and-Hayley-style laughs along the way.
What are your feelings about right-to-die and the changes to the law that people like Lord Falconer are seeking?
I’m a member of the British Humanist Association so I have quite strong views in favour of it, obviously with all the constraints that have to be carefully laid out to make sure it’s not abused. I think everybody who is in favour of that bill will be at pains to make that clear as it could be so easily exploited and misused in the wrong hands.
But when you read about the cases that have gone through, it’s hard not to be in favour. It’s heartbreaking to see those see people whose minds are extremely keen and alert but whose bodies have gone. I wouldn’t want to live in that pain and anguish, or see my family and friends go through it. So I’ve always really understood Hayley’s decision, but what’s interesting is that David hasn’t. We have very different views, so we’ve each just played what we feel.
Do you think that the audience is more sympathetic towards Roy or Hayley?
I would imagine that a lot of people will have sympathy for Roy because he really doesn’t want this to happen and she’s very insistent. It’s very difficult to watch someone like Roy being taken down this road, but I think others will understand Hayley’s decision as well.
How have you, as an actress, approached the progression of Hayley’s illness?
I lost quite a lot of weight, which it’s really noticeable on screen. Also, my natural rhythm is very fast, so I’ve had to really slow myself down. I think it will be quite shocking to see because Hayley’s always been so quick and bubbly. The make-up has also been very good but quite horrible to look at.
You say Hayley is usually so full of life – so does she still want a big Christmas or a quiet one with just her and Roy?
Roy would like a quiet one, but what happens is that it all gets completely out of hand. Everyone ends up in Roy’s Rolls and then they go to the pub, but Hayley’s absolutely knackered. There’s a lovely scene where there’s a snowball fight and the residents make snow statues of Roy and Hayley. There’s all this joy and life around her and she loves that, but she is tired and she does fall asleep a lot over Christmas, which is really sad.
What presents does Hayley receive at Christmas?
Roy gives her loads of stuff because he’s had so much advice. There’s some smelly things that Mary has suggested and some fluffy slipper socks that are Tyrone’s idea, but her main present is a DVD about Amsterdam, which holds many memories for her and Roy.
Is Roy getting increasingly worried about how she’s doing?
He’s shocked when Hayley tells the nurse that she’s been in a lot of pain and they say that they have to up the medication. It’s also the last thing Hayley wants to hear. She doesn’t want to be on medication but she needs it. She’s in horrible pain and she’s been up all night.
So how is Hayley feeling as the day of her scan dawns?
She’s very nervous, but she’s trying her best to remain positive. She even gets Roy to book a holiday but he doesn’t think it’s such a good idea. He’s very aware the results may not be what they want to hear and to be honest they’re not.
One thing that’s also been noticeable is the disharmony between Roy and Hayley these past few months, which is quite unusual for them…
Well, Roy and Hayley have always bickered and always had disagreements. But, obviously, dealing with how you want the end of someone’s life to be is going to cause a lot of problems.
The turning point was when they came back from that magical trip to Blackpool and things started to go downhill straight away. That was quite a jolt for us. But what’s not been forgotten is the fact that this first and foremost a love story. Everything else – the transgender, the cancer, the right to die – is secondary to that. It’s a love story between two people and their journey together – and now that love story is coming to an end.