Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Pregnant Pause

Actors are - and this may come as a shock to you - human beings.  They breathe, eat, defecate.  Obviously they do all this in a much classier, more inspiring way than you or I, but they're still people after all.  Some of these people (experts call them "women") even get pregnant.  This can cause a few problems.

In regular jobs, if a woman gets pregnant, it's quite simple.  She gets bought a load of chocolate, people pass round a card, then everyone complains that she isn't pulling her weight round the office just because she's up the duff.  "She says that the baby's pressing on her bladder and that's why she has to go to the toilet six times a day, but I saw her take an OK! magazine in there, so I think she should be penalised for taking unauthorised breaks".  Then the woman goes on maternity leave and everyone steals the office supplies from her drawer and she comes back after six months to find she now has the desk in the corner beneath the rattling air conditioner that probably has Legionnaire's Disease festering inside.

On a soap opera, things are different.  The old way to deal with an actress getting pregnant was to make her character pregnant as well; after all, it would save the make up department money on prosthetic tummies.  This method went out of favour after Jill Chance on Crossroads was pregnant for over a year (the actress lost her first baby, but then became pregnant again shortly after - the writers just extended the character's gestation accordingly).  The other inconvenience is that the actress tends to want to give birth to her own child just as the character is due, which means her availability for huffing and puffing in Weatherfield General may be limited.  Natalie Barnes was pregnant in real-life and on the show, but she disappeared to the Cotswolds when it was actually time to force it out.

You also have the problem we currently have in Corrie: a character who definitely, absolutely can't have a baby is suddenly six months gone.  Poor Julie went through the trauma of having her reproductive organs removed last year.  I bet the writers wish they hadn't bothered now Katy Cavanagh is asking for maternity leave.  We've yet to discover how they're going to write her out, but let's hope it's as imaginative as the fate that befell poor Hayley.  For obvious reasons, Mrs Cropper could never have a child, so the character was sent to prison while Julie Hesmondhalgh dropped her sprog.

The current default is simply to disguise the baby bump.  The trend was started by Michelle Collins over on EastEnders: the Cindy Beale Memorial Handbag has rightly passed into legend.  No matter what she was doing - arranging for the murder of her husband, having illicit sex, abducting her children - Cindy's four-foot wide handbag remained close by her side.  The handbag has since been passed around, with Carla Connor being a particularly keen user.

Costuming has a part to play in all this.  We're used to Julie having eccentric taste in clothes, so her sudden fondness for a cape doesn't seem out of character, and those puffball skirts can hide a multitude of sins.  Similarly, Carla married Tony Gordon in an Empire line wedding dress - handy for concealing a tummy, not so good at hiding enormous pregnancy breasts.

If all else fails, just give the character a job that requires her to stand behind a lot of things.  Leanne Battersby was working in Underworld the first time Jane Danson fell pregnant; cue her wandering around amidst shoulder high racks of knickers and deploying careful use of a clipboard.  For her second pregnancy, Jane was put behind that high counter in the bookies, leading us to conclude that if she decides to have a third baby Leanne will take up a job inspecting sewers and will spend three months with just her head poking out a manhole.

Eventually, the actress will have to leave to actually have the thing.  If it were up to the producers they would work until the mucus plug fell out, but those lawmakers at Westminster have gone and intervened and demand a proper period of rest.  A sick relative is always a good option to get rid of a character; Sally Webster disappeared for months to look after her mum, despite previously showing absolutely no inclination to even phone her on Mother's Day.  The payback for this uncharacteristic bout of generosity was Kevin ravaging Natalie Horrocks in the inspection pit, so she never did that again.

A good trauma can drive a character off somewhere, no matter how unlikely it sounds.  Maria finally managed to assemble four brain cells in a line and deduce that Tony Gordon was a wrong 'un, sending her scuttling off to Ireland long enough for Samia Ghadie to have her baby.  A similar revelatory moment drove Carla to sun herself by the pool in Los Angeles; I can't help thinking Maria must have been a bit annoyed by this. 

You have to remember that a pregnant actress is a fragile thing, too; you have to give her some interesting storylines, but you can't chuck her character under a tram or in a burning bus shelter.  Over stress her and you end up with the disaster when Kym Marsh Ryder Marsh Lomas had to be written out sooner than expected due to her delicate health.  Her storyline had to be rewritten with Maria, presenting us with a world in which Maria - a woman who has to be repeatedly told that curling tongs get hot - became a high powered business woman.  Admittedly, this is only slightly less believable than a universe in which Michelle Connor is the new Hilary Devey.

Above all, she has to be written out in a way which means she can come back as if nothing happened.  Maria returned from six months in Ireland and went straight back to the flat above the hairdresser's; Carla returned to be amazing in very high heels all over again; Hayley went back to wearing that duffle coat.  Their time away was discussed but it was made clear that no matter how wonderful that sunshine and swimming pool was, it couldn't compare with a tatty back street sweatshop.  What you really don't want to be is Claire Peacock.  Julia Haworth must have realised that her character was doomed when she was told how she would be written out during her pregnancy.  "We're just not going to mention it.  You'll just disappear for six months and then afterwards we'll just have you say you'd been working nights in the cab office all that time.  Fair enough?"  I bet she was straight onto her agent to update her showreel after that...

You can follow us on Twitter @CoroStreetBlog and Facebook: CoronationStreetBlog

Creative Commons Licence
All original work on the Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


njblas said...

Love your work Scott:)

Karl said...

Brilliant post!

Anonymous said...

Very witty

Anonymous said...

Hilarious! Love it!

Joseph who decided to be anonymous today

Anonymous said...

Wow! ...and I thought I was cynical!

Mavis Pendlebury said...

No, it started with Curly's fiancee Kimberley. She wore her coat indoors a lot because the actress became pregnant during her big storyline.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I also love the shots of pregnant actresses taken from across the street, stood behind a car.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Our Top 10 Blog Posts in last 7 days (automatically updated)

Click on a name to find out more about your Corrie favourites!

aidan connor alan halsall alex bain alison king alison sinclair all about soap awards amy barlow amy kelly andrea beckett andrew paul andy carver andy whyment anna windass anne kirkbride antony cotton audrey roberts awards barbara knox barlows battleaxes becky mcdonald behind the scenes ben price ben tagoe bet gilroy bet lynch beth tinker bethany platt betty driver betty turpin betty williams betty's hotpot bev callard bev unwin beverley callard bill roache bill tarmey billy mayhew billy the vicar blanche hunt brooke vincent bruno langley Callum Logan can i visit the coronation street set Canada canadian coronation street fans cardy o'donnell carla barlow carla connor carmel morgan catherine tyldesley cathy matthews celebrities on coronation street characters joining coronation street characters leaving coronation street charlie condou cherylee houston chesney brown chris fewtrell chris gascoyne claire king classic corrie clothes worn on coronation street colson smith competition conversation street coronation street art coronation street fan events coronation street fan of the week coronation street fans coronation street funerals coronation street history coronation street in canada coronation street look-a-like coronation street map coronation street men coronation street merchandise coronation street news coronation street spoilers Coronation Street The Tour coronation street weekly update coronation street weekly updates coronation street writers craig charles damon rochefort daran little david neilson david platt debbie oates debbie rush deirdre barlow deirdre hunt deirdre Langton deirdre perm deirdre rachid Dennis Tanner dev alahan eileen derbyshire eileen grimshaw ellie-louise leach elsie tanner emily bishop emily nugent ena sharples exclusive interview famous people who have been in corrie fat brenda faye windass fiz brown fiz stape flaming nora florizel street flying ducks gail hillman Gail McIntyre gail platt gail potter gail rodwell gail tilsley gary windass gary's army diaries gay and lesbians gay men in coronation street gay men in soaps gay women in soaps granada manchester coronation street set granada studios gurn of the week helen worth hilda ogden hilda ogden's curlers Hope Stape hot pot how to contact coronation street inside soap magazine izzy armstrong jack and vera duckworth jack p shepherd jane danson jane danson's husband jason grimshaw jennie mcalpine jigsaw jimmi harkishin job vacancies at coronation street julie carp julie goodyear julie hesmondhalgh julie jones julie walters kabin karen mcdonald kate ford katherine kelly kathy jones katie mcglynn Katy Cavanagh ken barlow kevin webster kim crowther kirk sutherland kylie platt kylie turner kym marsh kym ryder leanne barlow leanne battersby leanne tilsley leanne's real mother les dennis lisa george liz mcdonald lloyd mullaney maggie jones malcolm hebden maria connor maria gordon maria sutherland mark llewellin maxine's bench michael le vell michelle connor mikey north mikey north miley windass minnie caldwell Morrissey mothers on the cobbles new set newton and ridley nick tilsley nick's bistro nigel pivaro no.1 Coronation Street no.11 coronation street no.13 coronation street no.3 coronation street no.5 coronation street no.6 coronation street no.7 coronation street no.9 coronation street norris cole norris cole's brother nuttalls brewery odd side of the street official coronation street website oldham coliseum on location outside broadcast paddy mcguinness pat phoenix patti claire patti clare paula lane peter barlow peter gunn pets on coronation street phil collinson Philip Lowrie pickled jo pictures of the coronation street set pigeons pillars of the community platt family props qasim akhtar returning characters rita fairclough rita littlewood rita sullivan road to coronation street rovers bosses rovers fire rovers return rovers return barmaids rovers return fire rovers return landlady roy and hayley roy cropper roys rolls ryan thomas sally webster sally and tim sally dynevor sally webster sally whittaker sam aston samia smith sarah platt schmeichel sean tully simon barlow simon crowther simon gregson sinead tinker sophie webster state of the street steve mcdonald storyline speculation storylines streetcars stuart blackburn stuffed marrow sue cleaver sue johnston sue nicholls sylvia cropper sylvia goodwin terence maynard terry duckworth the corrie years the kabin the road to coronation street through the years tina mcintyre todd grimshaw tony warren Tony Warren inspiration tours of coronation street tracy barlow trafford set tram crash tricia hopkins tyrone dobbs underworld underworld sign unofficial book vera duckworth victoria court fire walking tours weatherfield weatherfield arms weatherfield council weatherfield county weatherfield county football club weatherfield fire station weatherfield gazette weatherfield haulage Weatherfield Open Days weatherfield style weatherfield wayfarer wedding wedding dress weddings weekly awards weekly update where have you seen william roache William Roache Interview window cleaners writers for soaps