Nick Tilsley tonight said farewell to his mum Gail before driving away from Coronation Street – the emotional scenes marking the end of actor Ben Price’s seven-year stint in Weatherfield. Nick’s exit came at the climax of a dramatic week that saw the Bistro owner dicing with death in treacherous quicksand, ending his relationship with Leanne and leaving the Platt house at Number Eight for the last time.
So what did Price make of his final storyline? How does he feel about saying goodbye? And what lies ahead? We spoke to the man himself about life on the Street and why a flourishing career behind the camera could be leading to a new life in America:
So, Ben, the goodbye between Nick and Gail felt very poignant – there must be real affection between you and Helen Worth? There wasn’t a lot of acting involved because it was actually me saying goodbye to Helen. I personally feel that the advantage of being in a soap is that you get to know people extremely well. So, yes, I was saying goodbye to Helen under the guise of it being Nick saying goodbye to Gail. It’s been a hell of a ride – and she, Jack [P Shepherd] and Jane [Danson] have been there all the way for me.
Were you sad not to get a goodbye scene with Jack? Well, I don’t know. Part of me thought it was great that I just had a scene with my mum. That was the big one. You couldn’t let it drag on. And I don’t know what that scene between Nick and David would have been like – they’re both pretty unemotional. I think it would have been an awkward hug and not much else. What I’d have perhaps liked is a scene where Nick didn’t actually say goodbye to David, but it was obvious that he was actually saying goodbye. Do you know what I mean? But I think what Nick had Gail was enough. When it came down to it, his family and Number Eight were his life.
So, what did you make of the quicksand scenes? Did you think it was a surprising final storyline? As an actor, you have to be open to whatever comes. For me, the drowning part of it wasn’t that important. It was more about the disintegration of Nick and how Peter and Steve proved themselves to be the better men. And when I read the script, what I was determined to do was find a connection between me and Chris [Gascoyne], even though he was on the beach and I was in the water. Because it all came down to Nick thinking, ‘were the situation reversed, would he have saved Peter?’ Deep down, I think he probably would. Despite what he said at the time.
Why did you decide to leave? Was there a particular catalyst for the decision? No, there wasn’t any kind of epiphany. My thing has always been to leave the party while it’s still going. I wanted to get out while people were saying, “oh, it’s a shame that Nick’s going” rather than “thank God he’s gone”. Over the last seven years, I don’t think I could have been any busier – I’ve had amazing storylines and worked with fantastic actors and writers. And I’ve loved every minute. But, you know, my kids are growing up and I want to be there helping them with their homework and teaching them how to ride a bike. I don’t want to harp on – lots of people work away from home, I get that. But I was only ever with my family on a Saturday, and I felt that had to change.
You finished filming about a month ago – are you still waking up thinking you have lines to learn? No – I dropped it pretty quickly. There was one Sunday where I did briefly think, ‘have I put my scenes together?’ But no – I’ve left quite a few jobs over the years, so I understand the process. And I’d prepared myself, so that when the moment came, it was an easy transition. Storylines are planned out nearly a year in advance, so Kate Oates [producer] has known for a long time. And even though I’ve gone, I still feel very connected to the show. I don’t think that feeling will ever go. The boys text me all the time – Jack, Colson [Smith] have both messaged me today. So I do still feel part of it, despite being definitely ready to move on. And a lot of things have taken over already – I’ve been writing and I’ve been over to the States…
What were you doing in America? I went for a meeting with a TV network, which might result in a gig over there. It would mean the whole family having to move. But there was talk about me making a longer take on my third film, Hope Dies Last. It would look at the Second World War and the displacement of Jewish people around Europe. It’s certainly given me something else to think about, and the family’s going out there in August for a while, so who knows?
Tell us some more about Hope Dies Last… It’s about Jozef Pacynscki, a polish political prisoner at Auschwitz , who became the personal barber to the camp commander Rudolf Hoss, one of the worst mass murderers in history. They never spoke, despite him cutting his hair for four-and-a-half years. And I just thought it was an extraordinary story that I wanted to tell in the most simple, succinct way. So there’s no dialogue, just this feeling of almost unbearable tension. It’s on the festival circuit at the moment and people seem to like it the most out of the three films I’ve made. So I feel very lucky.
So, finally, returning to Corrie, then – how do you look back on the last seven years? With complete fondness and delight. How lucky was I to get Nick Tilsley and become a Platt? I just loved every minute, I really did. And to work with the actors I did – people like Jane, Chris, Simon [Gregson] and Jack; they’re really good and they deliver week after week. I’ll always be grateful to Coronation Street – and I don’t feel like I have to say these things. It’s a genuine feeling for me. I feel like the show looked after me and that I – in turn – put everything I had into it. I didn’t scrimp or hold back. I gave everything I could and I can’t think of a more perfect ending.
And would you ever go back? It’s hard for me to answer that question. Who knows what’ll happen in ten years’ time? So I’m not saying no or yes. I can only really deal with the here and now. And I know this will sound really weird, but I don’t think I’ll ever leave it. Part of me will always be at Number Eight and I know that if I did return, within half an hour I’ll have hugged it out with the Platts and it’d be like I never left. So I don’t really feel like he’s gone – he’s just taking a bit of time out. And that’s the great thing about soaps – the Platts are still there and I can always pop back and see my mum. But the audience does move on – I’ll probably just end up as a photo on the sideboard, never to be mentioned again!
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below.