Christmas in Coronation Street is going to see the dark side to Peter Barlow come out in spectacular fashion – and could leave one resident fighting for their life.
The recovering alcoholic is going to go on the warpath after Billy Mayhew confesses to his involvement in the death of his sister, Susan Barlow.
It all unfolds after Peter agrees to go to court to help Billy and reads his victim impact statement saying that he believes his neighbour has suffered enough and shouldn’t go to prison.
As they leave court a fight breaks out between two men, Billy and peter wade in to break it up but in the furore Billy is severely injured. Peter tries to save his life but Billy fears he’s going to die and confesses to killing Susan.
That confession is going to spark chaos on the cobbles as a furious Peter decides to take matters into his own hands to get justice for Susan.
What unfolds is a story involving booze, boots and a cliff top. Here Chris Gascoyne, who plays Peter, teases what’s to come this festive season…
Was it a surprise to you that they were going to revisit the Susan Barlow storyline?
Yeah because it was so long ago. It’s good, I like it because you’re playing something that’s happened so it’s easier for an actor to contact with that. It’s worked out really well, I’ve enjoyed it.
Talk us through Billy’s confession and Peter’s reaction…
Peter supports him in court over the fight that they had when the kids smoked the spice, he defended Simon and Billy hit Peter, which was very out of character. But then he has to go to court to say that he doesn’t want to press charges, that he’s not ordinarily like that and he wasn’t in his right mind. They are fine and it gets sorted out in court. Then there’s a fight outside court that Billy tries to stop and he gets a pendent that was in his pocket goes into his artery. Peter thinks he must have been stabbed. There’s blood everywhere and Peter starts to stem the flow, he rings the police and the ambulance. Billy thinks at this point that he’s going to die, so he confesses to Peter about Susan all those years ago. Peter takes his hand off the wound and watches him to start to die, but then comes back to his senses and puts his hand back on again. Up to that point it’s just shock for Peter, he can’t take in what he’s just told him. Then later, he starts to formulate some sort of mad, misguided revenge plot in his head.
So it’s all out revenge?
In a sense. I’m not quite sure Peter knows what he’s doing. He wants to make him feel what Susan felt. But he kind of goes beyond that. It’s very dark. It’s probably the darkest part of the character. Peter forces him to drink two bottles of vodka. Then he locks him in the boot of his car.
Does Peter feel more betrayed because he’s been helping Billy?
Yeah, that makes it worse for him. It’s as dark a story as I have ever had. I found it a bit odd playing those scenes because they are so dark. He’s very tortured. He doesn’t go all the way, there’s still a decent person in there. I struggled with it a bit but in a good way. It’s very well written but I found it hard to place it with the fact Peter’s become quite happy, we’ve gone back again.
Does Peter tell Ken and Adam?
You’ll have to wait and see. There’s another big strand that brings up family, it’s huge. It certainly brings up massive family issues with Ken and Peter. He feels he can’t tell Toyah, you’ll realise why he can’t tell anyone when you see Christmas day!
Could this make him drink again?
Yeah, sort of. Because of what happened, in the AA meeting Peter realises that what happened to Susan was the beginning of him becoming an alcoholic. So he’s connected that together. What he wants to do is make Billy know what it’s like having to rely on alcohol because you’re so afraid to do anything else. So he makes Billy see what it’s like to be an alcoholic. He wants him to experience what he has experienced and then what Susan has experienced. It’s crazy, he’s crazy and it’s quite disturbing because Peter’s intention are to scare him as much as possible.
The Peter we’ve seen this year has been calm and gentle…
Yeah, it’s been dead easy! I have enjoyed that though, him not having to stress about everything. But it’s one extreme to the other now, this is as bad as it gets for him.
Do you like this dark side to him coming out?
Kind of, yeah. Any side I like to do. I’ve not done this before, I don’t think I’ve ever gone quite this far with Peter. I don’t think he knows what he’s doing. Whatever it is, it’s a very bad choice he’s making.
How do you reconcile this side of him in your head?
You just have to roll with it, certainly on this show. You can be doing one thing one week and the next thing you’re doing something completely contradictory to that. As an actor you can go, ‘Well, would he do that?’ but because the show rolls on so quick, people can’t remember what happened four/five episodes ago. So you have to go with it, if you start saying, ‘I think my character wouldn’t say that…’ then you’re going to make an awful lot of trouble for yourself. Like Peter and Daniel, the last thing I said to him was, ‘I never want to see you again’. But then we go out and buy a Christmas tree! That’s a very strong statement at the end of that episode but we’re now two months later. So what we’ve done is have these huge, brilliant scenes off screen that you’ll never see where they have reconciled and moved on. That’s all you can do really.
What about Carla’s return, could they get back together?
Peter’s trying to pretend she’s not. He’s saying, “All right? How you doing?” But how long he can keep that up for, I don’t know. Poor Toyah! I’m guessing that at some point something will happen between Carla and Peter because that’s what the viewers will want.
Are you pleased the Barlows are at the heart of the Street – there are so many of them now?
The question I get asked the most is, ‘Where does everyone sleep?’ because it must be crowded. The truth is that I don’t know. ‘Where’s Eccles?’ is the other question. He’s in a kennel in the back yard!
What is it about the Barlows that we like so much?
Ultimately they love each other and would fight for each other. But everyone of them is their own worst enemy really. They’re all crazy. And Tracy’s on a level all of her own. She’s above and beyond all of them. When they all do stick together – which at one point in this SL they all do – they show a very strong, united front.
You left a while back because you were pretty frazzled. You’re going to be really busy again as Peter revisits his dark side – how do you feel about making the transition into that?
Do you what? Since Kate Oates has been on, it’s been great. I do seem to do very big, in tense storylines but then she’ll drop me off for a bit so I’m not going straight into that next wave. So it’s been really easy. Thing is, actors complain when they don’t have enough work and complain when there’s too much.
You’ve left quite a few times in the past, are you here for the foreseeable or can you see yourself leaving again?
I can, yes, but I can’t think ahead too much. If I think, five years or something – it’s too far ahead and I’ll be getting old then. At the moment, I’m loving it.