Thursday, 19 March 2015

EXCLUSIVE Coronation Street Blog interview with David Neilson (Part 2)

David Neilson with Corrie Blogger, Martin Leay
(Photo by David Doig)

Following on from the first part of our exclusive interview with David Neilson (published yesterday and available here), in which David talked about how he became an actor and some of his roles before he joined Corrie – here is the second part, which focuses on David’s portrayal of Roy Cropper in Coronation Street.

Martin Leay (ML): Roy has had many interesting storylines over the years – do you have a favourite?

David Neilson (DN): I’ve been very lucky. I liked the Tony Gordon thing when Roy got obsessed with truth and honour and trying to get Tony to confess and redeem himself. It was nice to be involved in that story and to be thrown into the canal. I also liked the Tracy Barlow story – being drugged and sleeping with Tracy. And I liked the initial stories – when he was just this weird Roy. And then, of course, the cancer story probably topped everything because it was the climax of something.

ML: Roy was brought in for only six episodes. Did you imagine you would be playing him 20 years later?

DN: Well, it was a brilliant part. It really made me laugh. I did think, I wouldn’t mind five years of this! As long as the writers have the appetite for writing for the character, then you’ve got a future.

ML: During his early days on The Street, you described Roy as ‘a bit like Norman Bates’. Was Roy ever really a ‘Psycho’-type character?

DN: He was supposed to be quite sinister but it was really nicely written. They write these characters and because they’re not regular characters, they can be a bit outrageous. Right up until they brought Hayley in, you didn’t know whether he was daft or dangerous – which was great and I don’t think the writers knew. That was exciting because the audience didn’t know either – and that’s intriguing.

ML: Roy has become one of the most loved characters on The Street. How does it feel to play someone who is a ‘national treasure’?

DN: It always surprises me how popular he is. Sometimes it doesn’t happen but we call it ‘Croppermania’. My wife will say, ‘have you been ‘Roy’d’ today?’

ML: Roy has an amazing vocabulary. Do you have much input into the dialogue?

DN: Occasionally, I’ll tweak something. When my friend Stephen was writing it, I used to tell him stories about my mother and he did put something in once but he gave it to another character. I remember when I was a kid, I hadn’t got my bus fare and I had to get to school. My mother was looking for thruppence or something and in her panic she gave me a postage stamp and she said ‘give that to the conductor – it’s got the Queen’s head on it, he’s obliged to accept it’. He gave that line to Jamie Armstrong (played by Joseph Gilgun) who said it to Roy.

ML: I’ve read that Roy’s shopping bag belonged to your Mum. Are there any other props or mannerisms that you added to the character?

DN: My father-in-law was a bit Roy-like and always dressed in beige but the key on the string was my mother as well. It’s all from bits and pieces that you pick up. The great thing about being an actor is that everything, even the bad things; you can treat them like research. You can access it in some way and use it. That’s the nice thing. But then you try and make him who he is and not a type. It’s in the writing… and its development.

ML: It has been suggested Roy might have Asperger’s syndrome. What do you think?

DN: I don’t know, I’ve never asked him! I don’t think it’s anybody’s business. I don’t think labels are helpful – he’s just who he is.

ML: I agree. But would you say Roy has difficulties understanding social situations?

DN: My wife was a Special Needs Teacher and when I was first in it, playing this guy who stood too close and might be dangerous, it was her who said to me, ‘well he might have Asperger’s – he might just not get it’. And that’s when I thought, oh yeah - he just doesn’t get it. And the great thing about that for the writers was that it’s quite difficult when a character is on their own because they need to link to other parts of the show. Nobody would be surprised to find him in the corner shop and then in Ken Barlow’s living room because he didn’t know the barriers. It means you can interact with a story or take the story around. At that time he was just this guy who lived in these flats or sat in the cafĂ©, went in the pub and brought his own coffee – he had his own flask. He broke the rules, really. That was a really interesting, exciting period, not knowing where it would go. 

ML: Do you share any of Roy’s passions?

DN: I read and I’m interested in stuff but I don’t think I’m obsessive – apart from, unfortunately, about football and Leicester City. Roy wouldn’t be into football. Steam trains are great – I like them but I prefer the Pendolino – 2 hours, 10 minutes from Manchester to London is very good.

ML: There is a replica of the Magna Carta on the wall of Roy’s Rolls. Did the criminal justice system treat Roy fairly after his recent altercation with Gary Windass?

DN: He really thought he deserved punishing. He thought they were a bit lenient!

Corrie Blogger Martin Leay serves up a Full English at Roy's Rolls

ML: Roy serves the most competitively priced breakfast in Weatherfield and his Full English has been frozen at £3.95 for years. Does Roy’s Rolls have an ethical pricing structure?

DN: Or the design department haven’t really kept up. There are also things about his organic suppliers. I think that’s an area we shouldn’t look too closely at.

David Neilson, Martin Leay and
the late, great Tony Benn

ML: Roy is quite politically active, having campaigned to save the Red Rec and Weatherfield Library. How would he exercise his democratic right in the general election in May?

DN: He would definitely vote and he wouldn’t postal vote - he would show up. He’d know all about the candidates and he’d challenge them… so it would depend on who is standing. He obviously cares about community. For him, there is such a thing as society.

ML: Would you have liked Roy to meet his father?

DN: I like the thing where Roy came in and you didn’t know who he was and where he was from and it always happens in these shows that they have to fill in the background. It was great when I heard they were bringing a mother in – I thought 'oh, what’s going to happen?' But then it was so well cast and Steph (Stephanie Cole) was brilliant, so that was nice. It was something I didn’t know was going to happen. It’s nice that you can continue to have some kind of mystery about him or about any character. That’s quite a quality because if you keep people wondering, that intrigues them.

ML: I’ve been wondering… is Roy still sleepwalking?

DN: Not that I know of but he’s asleep when he does it! It was a lead in to the cancer story. He had some wonderful things – like piling all the chairs on top – and that’s the thing about playing a character like that. You get quite eccentric things to do, which is good – whereas the others have affairs and all that stuff. You can’t give that to Roy because he’s no good at it. They find other things that are a bit off the wall, which I enjoy.

Don’t forget to visit the Coronation Street Blog again tomorrow (Friday 20th March) for the final part of our exclusive interview with David Neilson, focusing on Roy and Hayley’s relationship and what the future may hold for Roy Cropper.

Interview by Martin Leay
You can follow Martin on Twitter @mpleay
You can listen to Martin on Croydon Radio

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Anonymous said...

I've learned from sad experience over the years to be leery of learning too much about my heroes and people I admire. The disappointment in finding their "feet of clay" has too often ruined my enjoyment of their work. So it was with hesitation and trepidation that I read the first of these interviews. What a relief and joy to find that Mr. Neilson is as thoughtful and decent as his character, our beloved Roy, but with more self-awareness and insight. The second interview has confirmed my initial impression, and now I'm eager to read the final installment.
Thanks for this, Martin. Your questions have been excellent, and your enthusiasm and appreciation for Mr. Neilson's portrayal of Roy have, I'm sure, helped elicit such a generous and thoughtful response from him.

Anonymous said...

Without wanting to sound too grandiose about it, what I'm most grateful to David Neilson for, in his characterization of Roy, is how, by exploring and showing his quirks and peculiarities, as he evolves over his life, while simultaneously showing his values and morals, David has demonstrated that the "outsiders" of our society can have much to contribute. We are reminded to reserve our judgement, and to see everyone for all their virtues, as well as their faults. As viewers, we're quite defensive and protective of our Roy, since we've learned his true worth. The writers and Mr. Neilson are to be commended for portraying such a valuable lesson in such a brilliant way.

Gail in Canada said...

Thanks again Martin! Looking forward to part 3! I love that a fan (about the age of my son) is so enthusiastic about Corrie! Love your blogs!

maggie muggins said...

Coming after the previous gorgeous comments, I don't think I can add much to the conversation. I totally agree with them! Martin, if anyone had to interview David, I'm glad it was you. Such gentle, insightful questions!

It's so nice to hear a bit from an actor who is a favourite character in Corrie. I recall those first episodes when Roy showed up. Like David, I wasn't sure whether to be afraid of him or try to understand him more. What a wonderful unfolding this journey has been so far.

Loved the first 2 parts of the interview, and looking forward to reading the third. Martin, I'll never look at the cook's corner of Roy's Rolls again without seeing your happy face there. And you noticed the Magna Carta! Best prop-spotting ever.

Martin Leay said...

Thanks all! Glad you enjoyed it. Roy is totally unique - a great character, played brilliantly by David Neilson, who is a great guy :-)

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