A year ago, he got sent down for Tina McIntyre’s murder, but now Rob Donovan is back! December’s episodes of Coronation Street will see Rob begin to manipulate both Tracy Barlow and Johnny Connor from the confines of his cell when he asks them to visit him in prison.
But what is the huge Connor family secret that Rob thinks he can use to his advantage? And will Rob also end up destroying Tracy relationship with Robert? Here, actor Marc Baylis reveals what’s in store as puppet master Rob makes his presence felt…
Rob’s been in prison for a while now – what’s his state of mind?
He’s obviously had a lot of time to think about things over the last year and ponder why he ended up where he is. He’s got a sternness to him, he’s a bit colder than he was before and there’s a slightly nasty side to him. He’s less caring, which I guess is one of the side effects of what’s gone on in his life.
What makes him start getting in touch with some of the people on the Street, namely Johnny and Tracy?
Opportunity knocks – he’s sees a photo of Johnny Connor in the paper and discovers he’s now involved in Underworld, and Rob has a nugget of information about Johnny that he wants to use to his advantage. He sends Johnny a visiting order so he can start blackmailing him in order to get some money for whenever he gets out of prison, so that he can have a basis to build from. Not a clean living basis, but right now he’ll take anything that he can get.
So is Rob playing games when he starts sending out these visiting orders?
Yes, initially it’s Johnny, so that Rob can set his plan into motion. And then Tracy, the previous love of his life, is invited in. Rob’s of the attitude that if he’s having it so hard for the foreseeable future then why should everyone else have it so easy. He feels that he’s been hard done by and he just wants a little bit of payback.
So, he’s bored and wants a bit of fun, but is he also out for revenge?
Yes, there’s definitely an essence of revenge. I’m not sure if he’ll ever forgive Tracy and Carla for handing him over, especially on his wedding day, which was supposed to be the happiest day of his life. It definitely was the genuine article with Rob and Tracy, he did really love her, so it’s not just the fact that he ended up in prison it’s the fact that his life is now the opposite of what he’d expected it to be. He was thinking that it was going to be the start of a new happy chapter for him and it looks to him that Tracy has moved on quite quickly from that. Also the fact that she’s gone back to an ex, Robert, is a kick in the ribs for Rob and he thinks, ‘well I’ll mess that one up for you’.
Does Tracy fall for Rob’s patter?
Yes, absolutely. The thing with Rob and Tracy is that they’re both each other’s crutch – as soon as they’re in each other’s presence for a certain amount of time it’s almost as if nothing has ever changed and he still has that power over her. He knows that deep down inside she does still feel that Rob was the love of her life and he’s going to use that as much as he possibly can.
Do you think Rob’s tempted to stray from his plan when he’s with Tracy as there clearly are still feelings there between them?
There are definitely still feelings there. What it is more than anything else is that Rob’s in denial because of the situation he’s found himself in, so he wants to ignore any of those feelings as that’s not what his focus is. Rob’s very bitter about the way things played out.
So, onto Johnny Connor – what’s the history between him and Rob?
The families all grew up on the same estate, so Johnny was present in Rob’s childhood and they are familiar with each other. Rob actually remembers him as being a bit of a character when he was growing up and, with his dad not having much of a presence, Johnny was this male figure in his early life. So they go way back.
Rob’s not a child anymore and he’s more of a match for Johnny – is Johnny intimidated by what Rob’s got to say?
Yeah, Rob totally catches him off guard and he uses that again to his advantage. Rob’s very on the front foot with Johnny, so there’s no messing around. Rob tells him exactly what he wants and why he wants it. There’s no cloak and dagger – Rob’s very up front about the fact that he’s blackmailing him. Rob’s emotional injuries have made him put up an even stronger shield than he had the first time we ever saw him on the street. There’s a harder edge to him.
Johnny has a secret which Rob knows about – is it safe to say that this could make life difficult for the new Connor family on the street?
Yes and it’s a double-edged sword. It plays to Rob’s advantage as he hopes that he can get some money out of it. But he also feels that it could make the Connors have a bit of difficulty with settling into the street and especially the factory, which Rob has history with as well. It’s the fact that Rob could still be living the kind of life that they are living and he begrudges everyone on the street for the fact that they’re just getting on with their lives and, thanks to some of them, he’s locked up for 25 years.
Can we expect any scenes with Carla?
Yes, although it’s not as straightforward for Rob as it is when he gets Tracy and Johnny to visit him. But, yes, they do eventually have a bit of a reunion.
Have you enjoyed coming back to the show and working with people like Alison King and Kate Ford again, who you worked so closely with?
It’s awesome – I think the reason why this storyline works is because we as actors work so well together. We understand the way each other works and we’re obviously great mates as well, which is a double bonus. I’m working with people who I respect, but who I can also have a good catch-up with.
Is there anyone who’s joined the show since you left that you were particularly looking forward to working with?
Richard Hawley [Johnny] is ironically is one of those people. I was familiar with his work and thoroughly enjoyed working with him. We’ve had some cracking scenes, some quite tense as well – lots of talking heads and duologues in the prison, so really intimate scenes that as an actor you can get your teeth into.
The other addition is a guy called Carl Rice, who’s playing Ian, Rob’s cell mate, and we’ve already started writing a prison spin-off! There are some great, slightly more light-hearted scenes where they’re plotting like Dastardly and Mutley. They’ve got each other’s backs and Ian’s a bit of a character, so Rob takes advantage of that as much as he possibly can because Ian’s not the sharpest tool in the box.
How did it feel stepping back into Rob’s shoes after being away for a year – was it quite natural?
Yeah absolutely, it’s the longest that I’ve ever played a character for, so it was a joy to bring Rob back to life. I always felt that it would happen, as to when and how I didn’t know. But he’s a character that I love playing so it was quite easy to get back into it.
This story has a beginning, a middle and an end but is there a chance we could see Rob again in the future?
Who knows? I love playing the character, so if the situation arises and the timing is right, then absolutely.
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.
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