Coronation Street’s Billy Mayhew is going to be left fighting for his life after clashing with Peter Barlow this Christmas.
Peter is hell bent on revenge after Billy confessed to his involvement in Susan Barlow’s death, and it’s not long before he’s got his own kind of justice.
Having bundled Billy into a car boot he forces him to down vodka before reversing the car close to the edge of a cliff.
Bosses want exactly what happens to be kept a secret but while Billy does manage to make his way to hospital, the drama isn’t over as he’s rushed into life-saving surgery.
Here Daniel Brocklebank, who plays Billy, admits Christmas is a hellish one for his character…
How do you feel about delving into Billy’s backstory?
Oh, it’s fantastic because as an actor, normally if you’re doing a drama or a play, you’ve got a character’s entire arc. You know where they’ve come from and where they’re going – you’ve got the beginning, the middle and the end. Whereas with this, you’re constantly playing middle. So to be playing a character for three and a half years, there were about 20 years where I didn’t know what Billy was up to. So it was great to fill in those blanks. I also had this burning question as to why was he was a vicar, how did it come about? Why would a gay guy of my generation choose to join an institution that is inherently against them? That’s really what this storyline is explaining, it’s not changing who Billy is now, it’s explaining why he is the way he is now.
Was the backstory what you’d envisioned?
Not entirely but from the discussions that I’ve had with Kate Oates and our writers, yes it is. It’s better than I had thought.
You always thought he had a dodgy past?
There were a few people in my personal past that I’ve met who had become Christians due to incidents that had happened in the past and they’d used religion to get themselves out of those situations. I just thought that was a really interesting journey for somebody to have. It was always something I was keen to explore… and we’ve really gone for it! We had a discussion with some of the writers and I jokingly said: ‘If you ever write a scene with my top off, you’re going to have to explain why the vicar’s got tatts.’ Debbie Oates, one of our writers, said: ‘Why do you think he’s got tatts?’ I said: ‘He’s got a past, there’s something, he’s been somewhere before he was the person he is now’. That was really what sparked the idea and when Kate Oates first started she asked: ‘Is there anything you would like answering?’ I said: ‘Yeah, why is he a vicar?’
How did you feel when you found out you’d be up against the Barlows?
Well, they are Corrie, aren’t they? To be suddenly involved not only in the history of the show but the history of that particular family is fantastic. It’s incredibly clever knitting to bring a character that’s only been in the show for three and a half, four years, to suddenly place him back there 16 years ago is brilliant.
Is it slightly worrying as the Barlows are so loved?
It doesn’t change who Billy is now, it more explains who he is now. I am slightly nervous. With social media, you get an immediate reaction so I’ll know whether I’m going to be lynched or not!
In the car boot, is Billy thinking that this is the end for him?
Yeah, well he’s not thinking clearly because he has had quite a lot of vodka to start with and because of what has led him up to that point, his head is in a bit of a whirlwind anyway. All this information that has led to this is new to him as well – he’s still processing all of this stuff. I don’t think he knows what the hell is going on. Once that car is reversed up to the edge of the cliff, then in that moment, possibly yes.
He starts praying, doesn’t he?
Yes, he does say a little prayer. You would, though, wouldn’t you?
What was it like to film these scenes?
Well I’ve never been bundled into the boot of a car before, it was surprisingly comfortable! It was great. Again, this particular storyline, predominantly during my time here it’s been dialogue-led performance, whereas this is much more physical. I’ve done other things in the past, movies and series where I’ve had to do things like this, but for Billy to be in those situations was completely different. Bringing out those different aspects of the character and being able to explore emotions I’ve not had to play through Billy, it’s been brilliant and I’ve come out feeling like I know him a lot better.
Did you have a stunt double?
We did have a stunt double but we didn’t use him – I did all of them myself. It was brilliant, it was such a fun few days. The speed which we shoot at normally is fast but I come from a drama and film background where I’m used to shooting four or five pages of dialogue a day whereas on this, I can be shooting 30 a day. It was lovely to spend a couple of days with that time to really put in all of those extra bits – the drones, the special effects, the stunts – it was a lot of fun.
Do you get claustrophobic in the boot?
No, because obviously you know you can get out. We filmed some of the boot stuff a few weeks before which was just an hour or two. It was very different as we had a big black tent over the boot, which stays open so it looks like the camera is in the boot with me. But there’s not enough room for me, the camera and the cameraman so obviously we have to cheat that. It was a lot of fun.
Did you come out bruised?
Yeah, black and bloody blue!
Could Billy question his faith over all of this?
We’ve played that a couple of times – it has normally been boy based. Dick or God, God or dick. And he did choose dick! For me, I think Billy’s faith is unwavering in many senses. He has doubts in it here and there but I do think…from a performance point of view, I would hate to lose that actually. It’s been such a linchpin of the character for me that I don’t think he would lose it.
Has it been quite challenging filming the scenes with Chris – they’re quite dark…
We have had such a laugh – we have pissed ourselves laughing constantly. It’s not dark – I think it’s more dramatic and emotion led. It’s certainly not anywhere near in terms of the darkness we have seen recently with Phelan and Andy’s story. It’s not going anywhere in that direction.
What about the scenes when he is forced to drink vodka?
Yes, I had to put a fair amount of research into that! Again, that’s drawing on Peter’s past – Chris and I have had a really good time working together. What’s great about this show is that there are stock actors that you tend to work with over and over again and then all of a sudden you get involved in a storyline like with Chris and I. We had not had a huge amount to do together previously so it brings a whole different dynamic to the working day. So, as dramatic as the scenes were, we had a ball shooting them.
Do you think Billy’s need to tell the truth is a conflict of interest given his need to help Summer too?
Because of his job, he does have a very strict moral code. And of course, his job is all about forgiveness, whereas he can’t forgive himself for the things that he’s done in the past, which is an interesting conflict to have. If you then throw Summer into the mix, primarily he’s now a parent, so of course his angle of parenting is to do it from a truthful place and he feels he’s a better parent if he tells the truth. He believes things will be as they will be, and if there are consequences of telling the truth, then that’s the big man going: ‘Well there you go, there’s your comeuppance for what you did after thus far getting away with it’.
Do you hope he does get to keep Summer in the end?
I do. I think it’s incredibly important. When I first found out we were going down the LGBT adoption and fostering route, I was thrilled because I think it’s not something a lot of people in the UK know is even possible. I was thrilled and honoured to be part of the first LGBT family that they’ve had on the Street and I do hope we continue with that.
How will Billy cope as a single parent now Todd’s gone?
On vicar’s wages? I think it’s going to be quite tough!! Difficult, I think obviously kids require as much family around them as possible – with Eileen, there is extended family. Also, within the LGBT community, from my own personal experience, your friends become your family as well, so it’s not just necessarily about parents or blood relatives, it’s about the extended circle that you’ve got. Billy’s best mate is Eva, which is great because she’s hilarious and then you’ve got Eileen so there are extended branches there to help out.
Do you think his sermons are going to get much more interesting?!
You’ll have to ask the writers! I don’t know! I would hope so. I think the more life experience a vicar has, the broader their perception of their flock would be and their sermons therefore in turn.
Do you think Eileen will fight his corner when she finds out what he’s done?
She may not find out, I don’t know whether she does, certainly in anything we’ve shot so far. Eileen’s pretty cool, she’s very level-headed and since the time Billy’s been involved in the Grimshaws, which was day one because he was dating Sean, she’s always been stoic.