Johnny Connor will seek solace with Liz McDonald in next week's Coronation Street as he faces the grim prospect of burying his son Aidan. The grieving dad will be seen lashing out at wife Jenny and banning her from the service before tipping up at Liz's flat clearly drunk. Here, actor Richard Hawley reveals all about an emotional week in Weatherfield...
So, tell us about Johnny's state of mind in next week's episodes?
This is the story of men’s difficulty in expressing feelings and in this case, Johnny is finding difficulty with grieving and of course he is deeply traumatised. He’s acting out the silence that Aidan lived in.
Does Johnny realise that he's pushing Jenny away?
Johnny is blinded to everything - he's keeping other people out, not deliberately, but he can’t stop it. This is the danger of the difficulty of grieving. It’s an instinctive response to protect his own pain and vulnerability and it’s a classic case of lashing out at the ones closest to you.
What happens when Johnny tells Jenny she's not welcome at the chapel of rest?
The trigger for banning Jenny is because she spills a coffee on Aidan’s suit, which is almost like desecrating his son. He sees innocent mistakes as desecration because all of his feelings are elevated -you just can’t reach him.
What are Johnny’s first thoughts when Imran and Alya tell him that Aidan has left her the factory?
Honestly, for a moment, he can’t take it on board. This whole time is an absolute explosion of grief and feelings, cracking off in every direction. But he welcomes the fight as a distraction from the fights he is picking around him. And he has been picking fights.
What makes Johnny decide to turn to Liz for support?
Liz is an old friend and she has always been someone who he can talk with. She has good wisdom but that is confused now, without him knowing it, because she's actually developed strong feelings for him.
What makes them share a kiss?
He's able to express himself with her. Somehow all the currents come together and they find a sense of warmth, intimacy and a gentle nurturing in a way that he and his heart needs.
Do you think Johnny’s feelings for Liz are real?
Tears can heal the heart's pain but I don’t actually think it is real. It's of this moment and it's because he's grieving.
Is the funeral a turning point for Johnny?
Within that day, he suddenly realises just how wrong he had interpreted their whole relationship, signs that had been missed from when Aidan was a kid that he hasn’t seen. With a shove and a push at certain moments it could all have been so different and now he can see the truth he spends the day wishing it would be different. That’s an enormous revelation to him and I hope to the audience as well.
What were the funeral scenes like to film?
They are were amazing to film because what I do love about this storyline is it is a human domestic drama. It’s not relying on big stunts, it’s real people’s lives and that’s what soap can do incredibly well. There is some amazing writing in those scenes and again, like all the way through this story, there are strong statements about those signs we have missed.
Did you ever think this storyline would have the impact that it has?
No, we knew it would have a strong, positive impact, but the scale of it has been off the scale; people sharing stories, people saying that they have talked to someone because of this storyline. The scale of that has slightly shocked me - it has been incredibly moving and it needs to be because the storyline will move on at some point, but we want this moment to have a lasting effect.
Have people come up to you in the street?
Yes, I was out the other night and a lot of men, big tough strong men, came up to me saying I had had them in tears and they get it. We’ve opened up something, that light is there now so I hope it will go on now that people are starting the conversation.
What did you think when you first heard about this storyline?
It has been an immense privilege - I only came to Coronation Street thinking I would have a few pints and sort out strikes down the factory! This is probably the biggest storyline of my life, professionally. I’m very proud of it and I think the whole building is very proud of it and I know that everybody went above and beyond, the extra mile, because it’s personal to many, many people.
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