This article includes discussion of terminal illness that some readers may find upsetting.


Billy Mayhew finally learned the devastating truth about his partner Paul Foreman (Peter Ash) in tonight's emotional episode of Coronation Street (26th May).

After finding out that Paul was due to appear in court over car theft, Billy walked in just as the magistrate (played by Susie Riddell) gave Paul a suspended sentence, referencing his diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease as she did so.

Paul has been keeping his terminal illness a secret from his loved ones, but was forced to open up to a stunned Billy when the latter refused to let Paul push him away.

Later, Paul revealed just how scared he was as he broke down in Billy's arms.

Speaking to and other media, actor Daniel Brocklebank reveals what is going through Billy's mind as he comes to terms with his partner's prognosis.

"It really comes out of left field for Billy, it's a massive shock. I think being given [the news] that your partner's diagnosed with something like that is hard at the best of times, but to hear it from [a judge].

"It was brilliantly written, it was very sort of curt and cold, delivered from a judge. So, of course, there was no compassion or anything, so Billy's hearing a bit of a car crash revelation there from the judge, and she played it brilliantly.

"And there's no dialogue [from Billy] in that scene either, so the reaction is purely just him trying to take it in and get his head around it.

Daniel Brocklebank (Getty)
Daniel Brocklebank plays Billy Mayhew in Coronation Street. Getty Images

"For Billy, it's utterly heartbreaking, he feels like he's just got this guy back and they've got things on track, and he thought that everything was going well, and then all of a sudden 'bang'. This thing comes in and literally smashes everything out of the park and completely dismantles the future that he thought they were building on."

Asked about filming the harrowing scenes, he explains that some last minute changes were made to the courtroom scene featuring Paul and Billy. "The scenes afterwards are the scenes where we were actually able to show that emotion between the two of us.

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"There was one scene in the court afterwards, and we discussed it with the director - Peter and I discussed it with Jason Wingard, who was directing the ep. And there were a few ways - sometimes when you get these scenes you've got the writer's stage directions. But then sometimes when you're rehearsing a scene, you don't necessarily want to play it in the way that they've decided you should.

"They decide what we're going to say, but it's my job to decide how I say that line - as long as it's sticking to the narrative and telling the story truthfully.

Paul Foreman as Peter Ash in doctor's office
Paul Foreman's Peter Ash learns some heartbreaking news. ITV

"The stage directions that we'd been given for this particular scene, Pete and I both felt that they weren't quite, they weren't helpful in terms of the way -- and Jason was in agreement. So I'm hoping the writers won't be too p*****d off when they see it!

"It is the director's call, and it's also our call as well. You chuck your half pence in, it's a collaborative process.

"They're heartbreaking scenes, they're absolutely heartbreaking; and even during the read-through, Pete and I were welling up. So sometimes, like I say, you make a choice about how you're going to play things. Sometimes you don't get a choice, sometimes it just gets you, you literally can't choose anything else because that's how it's making you feel in that moment. So they were very emotional."

Even so, Brocklebank adds that they are mindful of not using up all of the emotion at this stage in the storyline, instead hoping to find more of a balance: "I think because we've got such a long way to go with this storyline, and it's such an emotional journey, we don't want to burn all of that out too soon: the tears, the anger, the frustration.

"Of course, there's going to be those moments, but sometimes... we don't want to be crying all the time in scenes, we want to be giving it variation and colour. And, also, the audiences don't want to just see us sitting, crying all the time either.

"So there's choices in how we choose to play these things, and that was one of those moments where all three of us felt that, actually, this scene should be played not necessarily as the stage directions were suggesting."

Filming for this episode took its toll, but the actor adds that he and co-star Ash had a very special meeting on the same day: "They were brutal [to film], actually. I came home exhausted after that day. And Pete and I had done some filming that day with Rob Burrow as well, which I think added to the intensity of filming them.

"Obviously, having spent the afternoon with somebody with advanced MND, and such a hero like Rob as well who's made such a huge impact on the MND community and the MND Association, I think it added to filming [the scenes] that day."

Beyond tonight's bombshell, how will Billy cope in the coming weeks and months?

"He does have an awareness [of what they're facing], obviously, and I think Billy being Billy, he will have gone and researched what the potential outcome is for Paul - especially as he's not been there for the initial diagnosis and journey with him.

"And, of course, he's devastated. He's going be stuck in between being a pastoral role, but also this is a personal journey so it's not the same as a parishioner that's ill. He's very, very aware that their time together is coming to an end and their time as it stands is coming to an end because, of course, the longer it goes on, the less Paul will be able to do.

"So I think he's trying to live every moment as we all should, really, through general life, because I think we all forget that our time is finite for all of us anyway."

Discussing the eventual exit of Ash, he reveals how this has been built into playing out the storyline: "Pete and I get on like a house on fire anyway, we enjoy working with each other very much. Of course, we know it's not real, but also knowing that Pete's time on the show is now coming to an end, there is a deep sadness in that.

"Jane Hazlegrove, who obviously plays Bernie - Jane can't can't keep her eyes dry at all! She sees Pete limping onto the set and she's welling up. We're grieving Peter leaving, rather than Peter thankfully not dying, but the emotions are genuine."

For information and support on all aspects of motor neurone disease, visit the MND Association's website or call the charity on 0808 802 6262.

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