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Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Corrie writer profile: Jonathan Harvey

If I had to name just one reason I enjoy Coronation Street so much, it'd be the dialogue. And of course it's the talented team of writers who put the words into the mouths of the actors on screen. I've been thinking for some time of writing short and sweet profiles of each Corrie writer and I'm starting with one of my faves. I'll blog the rest of the writers in turn when the mood hits me. If anyone reading this, including the writers themselves, would like to add or amend anything to the extensive research that is two minutes on Google, do please let me know.

And so, here we go with the first in the Coronation Street writer profiles: Jonathan Harvey.

Sources: BBC, The Times and IMDB.

Jonathan Harvey was born in Liverpool in 1968 and educated at Hull University before moving to London, where he worked for four years as a special-needs teacher at a comprehensive school in Thamesmead, the area where his film Beautiful Thing is set. He started writing at the age of 16 and continued writing whilst studying and teaching. It was for his play Wildfire that he was awarded an attachment to the National Theatre's Studio at the end of 1992, prompting him to give up his teaching post and write full-time. His play-turned-film Beautiful Thing was a landmark in gay storytelling, featuring working-class teenage lovers and a happy ending. The film won 'Best Gay Film Ever' on Gay.com. His BAFTA nominated sit-com Gimme Gimme Gimme beat Will and Grace to the gay man/straight female flatmate format. Harvey also wrote the book for Closer to Heaven, a stage musical with songs and music written by the Pet Shop Boys. And it's been rumoured that he's now working on a film with Simon Cowell. His new comedy drama Beautiful People started in October 2008 and was shown on BBC2. Jonathan also leads the writing team for the new telly series of Britannia High.

Jonathan Harvey now brings his touch to some of the most comic and touching episodes of Coronation Street. He was drafted in to Coronation Street in 2004 to guide the Street’s first gay character, Todd Grimshaw.

The actor playing Todd left and Harvey has had more fun with the flamboyant gay barman Sean and villainous Tracy Barlow, who, in an exquisitely vicious attack, described the Rovers landlady Shelley as “a hippopotamus with split ends”.

From The Times: “I was offered Coronation Street a few times but always said no. I thought it was beneath me, to be honest,” Harvey says. “But it’s really nice to be writing for something that you know is going to be on screen.” He likes writing for Sean. “The fans think he’s a negative stereotype because he’s camp. But he’s got a dick. He’s unapologetic. The hard thing has been coming from theatre, where you handpick people and feel connected to a show, to somewhere where there are lots of actors, some good, some not so (booo, he won’t name names). You quickly learn who says your lines correctly and who doesn’t.” The producers “are always trying to tone down my campness”, he claims.
Harvey admits to feeling “awestruck” the first time he walked on set. “It’s like the family silver. To go from the Bush Theatre with 80 people watching to 12 million is something.” The street itself is two-thirds of the size of a real street, “so most of the actors are really small. Sally Webster is like a doll. Cars rarely park on the street because if they do they dwarf at least three houses.” His only niggle is that Corrie “swallows up stories so quickly. I loved Raquel having a dinner party and saying: ‘You can’t go wrong with boil-in-the-bag.’ That to me is more memorable than Maya setting fire to Dev’s shop.” This fan can only agree.

In 2011, Jonathan Harvey wrote the successful stage play based on Coronation Street, Corrie!

In August 2012, Jonathan Harvey had his debut novel published by Pan MacMillan - All She Wants.

If you'd like to read more on the representation of gay men in Coronation Street, have a look here.

1 comment:

Jane Markland said...

Last week on Corrie re: Sean and Marcus

Jonathan

After watching last week’s episodes featuring the break up between Sean and Marcus I felt compelled to write to you to congratulate you on a truly marvellous portrayal of how tough love is.

It’s not enough for both Antony Cotton and Charlie Condou to receive the plaudits when the writing itself seems secondary to fans and critics. While the acting was at worst, believable and at best, heart wrenching, the writing was what hit home. Those words, it should have been fantastic, amazing.......but it wasn’t. I don’t think I will ever forget the look on Marcus’ face. You have two stars there, we don’t often see Sean thinking things through, turning the tables on Marcus by not going storming off hysterically, but agreeing to moving on. It was heartbreaking in its quiet, reasoned way - I imagine you had the whole of the Corrie nation in floods of tears. How anyone could have sat through Friday’s episodes and remained dry eyed, impossible.

You write for everyone who has ever loved and lost. Beautiful.

Building up to Friday’s heart to heart showed Sean at his worst, as insecure and hurt as he witnessed another man making a play for the man he loved. Let’s get it said, Aiden is absolutely awful (and I hate him) as we are all meant to. Sean must have been gutted to see him turn up on his special night out out with Marcus, the beginning of the end. I doubt anyone could, hand on heart, say they would have handled that one well. Why Sean didn’t hit him, I don’t know. I would have done. The hospital scenes, described as over the top by some were simply a fantastic, if heart wrenching portrayal of Sean in despair. I guess most of us have been there and perhaps lacked the guts to go to the lengths Sean did.

Both of them in a dark place - Sean and Marcus, unable to resolve the main difference between them, that fabled and incessant insecurity which plagues poor Sean and I doubt anyone more patient than Marcus will ever materalise for poor Sean. Marcus’ hunger for a family seems secondary to the real wall for them both. That awful paranoia Sean could not shift that one day Marcus would find someone better.

Then Marcus seeking comfort from Maria, again, so true to life, so beautifully done, down to the bitten fingernails. Both of them completely and utterly heartbroken and still in love with the other makes this completely unforgettable viewing.

And there you left us, a whole weekend before the roller coaster of emotions started again. Monday and the killer blow.

Marcus collecting his things and coming down, tentatively and handing Sean the CD of their photos. “Our memories”

That was the moment which defined those two. They had happy times, they had shared much, and still loved each other but couldn’t agree on how to go forward.

They belonged together and you have created and moulded a love and relationship between Sean and Marcus which was essentially so sad for us all to let go. Will miss them together.


Jonathan, thank you, this is a long running TV show, not Hollywood, not big budget writing, and you made their relationship melt down as good as I think I have seen in years.

I am not a kid, I am a grandmother of two and have to say that Sean and Marcus’ final week together on Corrie was some of the best TV I have seen. Thank you, a stunning achievement.

May you carry on with more for us in similar vein. Much love and respect. Please pass onto Anthony Cotton and Charlie Condou my warmest respect for their portrayal of a much loved couple (now sadly ex!). Thank you.


Jane Markland

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