Friday, 11 January 2013

Blog Exclusive! Interview with Corrie’s real-life Hayley Cropper

I am absolutely gutted that we're going to be losing Coronation Street's Hayley Cropper later this year.  It's therefore time to re-post this interview with the real-life woman who worked with and advised Corrie on the character of transsexual Hayley.

Here at the Coronation Street blog, we are privileged to bring you an exclusive interview with the lady who helped bring Corrie’s Hayley Cropper to life.  The interview was first posted here on the Coronation Street blog after Roy and Hayley's (2nd) wedding in 2010.

Working with Press for Change, the lobbying and educational organisation, which campaigns to achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transsexual people in the UK, she’s been the advisor to Coronation Street since April 1998, three months after Hayley first appeared on screen.

We are absolutely honoured to speak now to the woman whose help and advice has propelled Hayley to become one of Corrie’s best loved female characters.

Q: First off, how did you enjoy Hayley’s wedding tonight on Corrie?
Wonderful! Very happy that Granada have continued to invest in Roy and Hayley as a couple and still occasionally drop in the kind of everyday situations that trans people face, legally and socially, in the wider world. The legal wedding of the Croppers is, in a way, the final step in a 12 year journey. It was all shot on location at the end of June, when we still had a summer, so it all looks beautiful. It was a lovely atmosphere on set for those five days of filming... I got quite emotional!

Q: Most people thought that Roy and Hayley were already married, so why was this second wedding necessary?
When Roy and Hayley first wanted to marry, they were unable to do so because the law at the time refused to acknowledge that Hayley was now a woman, i.e. she was still legally male. The best they could have was a “blessing ceremony”. The change of law brought about by the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 means that persons such as Hayley could now apply for a revised birth certificate, legally allowing her to marry the man of her choice, Roy. Since the law changed, I’d been hoping the story team would “finish the story” as it were, so I was delighted when I was told in March that it would indeed be featured this year.

Q: How did you get involved in bringing Hayley to life?
I was introduced to the story team by campaigning group Press for Change in 1998, just as Hayley was leaving Weatherfield for the first time, because they wanted to bring her back later that year, and really get to grips with her as a person and the subject of transsexuality as a plotline. I had already expressed a desire to do so, because there were very large parallels with Hayley’s life and my own. It was more a consultation exercise about her thoughts, emotions and hopes, than it was about the legalities. Things that only a first-hand experience could relate. The regular advisory role gradually diminished as years went by and ended around 2001, but I have always tried to stay in contact with the office, and offer whatever help I can.  

Q: Are there any of your own experiences that you suggested for Hayley’s storylines on Corrie?
There weren’t that many incidents as such. It was more life experiences, such as her father refusing to acknowledge her as Hayley, the missing photographs of her as a teenager, the fear of discovery and the humiliation felt when insults were thrown. The tax office blunder experienced by Hayley and Mike Baldwin was one of the good ones though. Because the first meeting between myself and the researcher was taped, a lot of my quotes and lines were used by Hayley over the next couple of years. I was often asked what my reaction would be to certain situations.

Q: What’ve you been most proud of in your advisory role with Hayley on Corrie?
Helping to change public perceptions I suppose. Not all trans people are some of the attention-seekers we see occasionally in the press. I’ve also been very happy at the warmth and love shown by the public to this “odd couple” love story, which has had to overcome so many challenges to get to where they are today.

Q: Isn't Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley on screen, a patron of Press for Change?
Julie’s patronage is not a duty, nor is she led by Press for Change. She is simply an ambassador for “the cause” as it were. Because of her character, and our personal friendship, she can answer almost any question on the subject with honesty and insight. She has a passion for social justice and equality, and the role of Hayley has allowed her to have her part in changing the world in a very real way. She was the perfect person to cast as Hayley... in every way.

Q: Do you think having such a high-profile transsexual such as Hayley has helped change the public’s understanding and perception of transsexuals in the UK?
It has been very encouraging to see the sensationalist aspect of transsexualism diminish, as the wider public came to know a trans woman face-to-face, albeit a fictional one. The vast majority of transpeople want the same as Hayley; a quiet life with the one they love. For those of us who experienced the conflicts and emotions of being trans from very early childhood, life up to the point of transition was anything but quiet. Life has, in many ways, but not all, been made a little easier for the other transpeople out there, men and women, who want just that.

Q: What would you dearly love to see Hayley achieve in the future on Corrie?
After this wedding, she’s achieved everything I think... certainly in the realm of trans issues. I’ve often suggested to the story team that the issue of Hayley’s mum needs addressing. (She left Hayley and her dad to run off with another man when Hayley was only 12). So technically, she’s out there somewhere.)
Although the storyline about foster child Wayne back in 2001 has prevented the couple fostering or adopting a child officially... I’d like to see them become some kind of parents in the future. Having said that, they almost are, to Fiz and Becky.I’d also like to see Hayley become her own boss somehow since she’s got the skills and drive to do so. Most of all, I just want to see Roy and Hayley live happy ever after.

11 comments:

abbyk said...

Confused. Was this an interview with Julie Hesmondhalgh, or with someone else? If so, could you tell us her name (unless she wants to keep it private)?

Tvor said...

The interview is with the woman who was the advisor for Hayley's character. I believe she preferred her name not be used but i count her as a good friend :))

abbyk said...

Okay, makes much more sense now, and I think we can all respect her wish for privacy.

Anonymous said...

this interview confused me too :)

Flaming Nora said...

Apologies for any confusion. Many people don't realise there's an advisor to Corrie for Hayley and this interview was with the Press for Change advisor. She's a good friend to both Tvor and I and we've known her for over 10 years.

Zoe Brain said...

A suggestion for a new storyline - Hayley gets assaulted, then is refused entry to a Rape Crisis Centre on the grounds that she's Transsexual.

See the "Equality" Act 2010 that for the first time formally legalises this. Here, I'll quote the explanatory notes to the Act:

Gender reassignment: paragraph 28

749. This paragraph replaces a similar provision in the Sex Discrimination Act
1975.
Example
A group counselling session is provided for female victims of sexual assault. The organisers do not allow transsexual people to attend as they judge that the clients who attend the group session are unlikely to do so if a male-to-female transsexual person was also there. This would be lawful.


*SIGH* That's Reality.

No further comment necessary.

Annie said...

Some people remain more equal than others, sadly. However it does refer to group counselling. One-to-one counselling and help would still be available.

Anyway, the rest of the women would not necessarily know someone's gender past.

PS: Men suffer sexual and physical assault also, and it's hardly a level playing field for them either.

gadgee said...

Good interview, really interesting.

"Most of all, I just want to see Roy and Hayley happy ever after."

Hear hear!

Mary Prankster said...

I too am very sorry to learn of Ms. Hesmondhalgh's plan to leave, although I understand her wish to expand her repertoire.
The advisor suggested that the writers do something involving Hayley's mum. Perhaps Hayley could be contacted to tell her that her mum has been located and needs nursing care. Hayley would feel obliged to take this on, which could last several years, giving Julie Hesmondhalgh the option of returning if she wants to in future.

The one thing that has always saddened me about the characters of Hayley and Roy is that the powers that be decided to make them the most stable, loving couple on the program. They are the most "decent" people on the street. It's as though we're being told that in order to be caring, compassionate and honourable, you have to have experienced something as major as a sex change, or to have a condition such as Aspberger's Syndrome (although that's never been acknowledged). What does this say about our society? So-called "normal people" can't manage to be faithful, caring, loyal? And even more concerning; characters who are transsexual or have a mental condition have to be drawn as altruistic, almost saintly, in order for us to love and accept them. I'll know things have truly changed when a trans character can be written as a jerk!

Anonymous said...

It is terrible to think of another great character and actress leaving the Street but not surprised, given the total lack of use of Hayley over the past while. She's been on screen less than the extras and I hope it's because the Julie has been busy in her personal life. If Hayley goes, I'm betting Roy is not far behind her. After all, we see other characters behind the counter at Roy's Rolls as much or more than Roy himself!

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest the possiblity of Haley re-locating to a 3rd world country in order to persue her dream of working as a missionary or some such. She was a great character and will be sorely missed I'm sure, but I do think the producers would make a great mistake in killing her off. I also hope they don't try to pair Roy off with anyone else because it just wouldn't seem right somehow.
IMO anyway.

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