Saturday, 18 January 2014

Julie Hesmondhalgh on Hayley Cropper's suicide

There's an absolutely fantastic interview in today's Guardian with Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays the soon-to-be-departed Hayley Cropper.

Julie talks about Hayley's right to die storyline and how she got the job as pre-op transsexual Hayley back in 1998.

Julie says: "I remember going to the audition in a leopardskin coat because I thought she was going to be another Bet Lynch. When I got to the office, everybody was laughing. The idea was that Roy was going on a series of disastrous dates and I would be the third, a pre-op transsexual. But I didn't laugh. I thought: 'This isn't a joke, Hayley won't be a funny character.'"

She got the part and went off to Manchester's leftwing Front Line Books for remedial reading on transgender issues. But, when Hayley finally hit our screens, transgender pressure groups complained. "They said: 'How could a young upstart who isn't transgender play the part seriously?'"

Hesmondhalgh's sympathetic portrayal of Hayley silenced those objections because she revolutionised attitudes to transgender people – and not just among Corrie's viewers. The upstart became the hero: significantly, she is now a patron of two transgender pressure groups, Trans Media Watch and Press for Change. 

Read our exclusive blog interview with the Press for Change consultant who helped Coronation Street develop the role of Hayley Cropper.

Julie denies Hayley's death will promote or normalise suicide. "The idea that it will promote copycat suicides pisses me off more than anything. Hundreds of murders are shown every day on TV and nobody's saying that normalises murder. But this story – that has been seeded for months and everybody knows is going to happen – is supposed to make people in Hayley's condition commit suicide? Rubbish! Nobody's going to be tuning in on Monday night to copy her. It's insulting to those who are in Hayley's predicament to say otherwise."

The Samaritans gave guidance to Coronation Street on the Hayley storyline. "Our role was to help them to cover this as safely as possible, not to approve their decision to run the story at all," says Rachel Kirby-Rider, director of fundraising and communications.

A major concern for the Samaritans was that Coronation Street did not give details of how Hayley obtained the drugs to kill herself, or what they were. "There is extensive research that demonstrates that inappropriate portrayal, or reporting, of suicide can lead to imitative or 'copycat' behaviour among vulnerable people," adds Kirby-Rider.

Julie is now preparing to appear in two plays at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre. She says; "I got a text from David (Neilson) today saying he's just going back to work, and part of me envies him because I loved working on Coronation Street. I'm so proud of what we achieved."

Read the full interview here.

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Anonymous said...

Interesting that Rachel Kirby-Rider's comments would seem to contradict those of Julie H's. Whether we like it or not, television and films do influence people's behaviour.

Tvor said...

That was a very good interview

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