Coronation Street welcomes some new faces when the Baileys arrive tonight, the first black family in the soap’s history.
The clan move in when Norris Cole sells up number 3 – don’t worry, we’re assured this does NOT mean the end of Norris and Emily Bishop – and are promised to be a lively bunch set to make a big impact on the cobbles with some explosive plots, including a storyline tackling homophobia in football.
Ex-Doctors star Lorna Laidlaw is vivacious matriarch Agatha, married to Edison (Trevor Michael Georges) a self-made builder and property developer who buys the builders’ yard and sets up his own business.
Joining them are grown-up sons Michael (Ryan Russell), a cheeky chappie with bags of charm and big ideas, and closeted 19-year-old football prodigy James (Nathan Graham), keeper of the Baileys’ first big secret as he is hiding the fact he is gay.
Speaking about the family’s introduction, producer Iain MacLeod said: “I am really excited about the Baileys, the audience is going to love them. They’re funny, warm and will pull together. The actors we’ve cast are all individually brilliant but together they have a truly incredible chemistry.”
As to why it’s taken until now for Coronation Street to introduce a black family, MacLeod says their creation was led by character but acknowledged it was the right time and “felt overdue we represented modern Manchester a bit more accurately”.
Aggie Bailey (Lorna Laidlaw)
For eight years she was kooky practice receptionist Mrs Tembe in BBC daytime drama Doctors, and is excited to be swapping soaps. “I am absolutely thrilled to be joining this iconic show I grew up watching. It’s the meat and two veg of the nation’s soap diet – I’ve got my knife and fork at the ready so let’s tuck in!” Pharmacy assistant Aggie is loud, full of life, still madly in love with her husband and massively proud and protective of her children. Expect a clash with the Barlow family early on due to ‘noise issues’.
“I have never allowed to imagine myself being part of such a massive TV icon,” enthuses the actor, who has also appeared in Holby City and Noughts and Crosses. “To read a script where my character is chatting away with Ken Barlow is humbling – and scary!” Fun-loving, spirited Ed will become part of Ken Barlow and Roy Cropper’s friendship group, and may even engage in some vinyl swapping with Ken.
Michael Bailey (Ryan Russell)
The CBeebies House presenter’s character is a mixture of Steve McDonald, Del Boy and Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral. “It’s truly a blessing and a privilege to join the show,” he says. Expect some attempts at smooth moves on the local ladies that don’t quite go to plan, but won’t affect his success with the opposite sex…
MacLeod revealed one of the family’s first big storylines will be youngest son James’s coming out journey and explore the reality of being a young, gay footballer. “We wanted to look at homophobia in football and do a modern story about coming out. James knows who he is but has is apprehensive about his teammates finding out. He’s on the cusp of bigger things in his football career as a future star of Weatherfield County, and is aware homophobia on the terraces is fairly rampant. He’s scared about the reaction.” Graham, who at a fresh-faced 28 is almost a decade older than his alter ego, enthuses: “I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this show, and excited to explore the difficulties James may face.”
The as-yet unseen – and uncast – middle child is Aggie and Ed’s daughter, a high-flying success story waiting in the wings. “She’s named after Princess Diana, her mum wasn’t a massive royalist but thought she had good taste in clothes,” laughs MacLeod. “She will be an off-screen presence for a while but a source of comedy friction as Aggie will be constantly talking about how well she’s doing or sharing pictures of her new sports car. Hopefully there’ll be some anticipation about her before she arrives.”