Tuesday, 29 July 2014

He's back, so he is, Jim McDonald returns

What a joy to interview Charlie Lawson and how fantastic that he will soon be back on our screens, albeit in jail.  His first appearance is scheduled for August 8th.

I met with ‘Jim’ so I did, at a press event earlier this month at Media City in Salford.  My impression of actor Charlie Lawson was of an easy-going man, who didn’t allow the vagaries of life to trouble him too much and who was very much enjoying himself. He also looked remarkably well and a good bit younger than his 54 years.  As he spoke, I caught myself wondering whether there was a more easily identifiable accent in the whole of UK soap opera than the Northern Irish of Jim. I would welcome your thoughts.  There was no doubt that Charlie was very willing to talk about his return to our favourite soap and was delighted to be doing so.

He did express a little nostalgia for times gone by – Jim joined in 1989 - when there were only 2 episodes a week  -on a Monday and a Friday. (How did we bear it?)   Back then, Charlie told us, there was time to socialise, because the pace of filming was much slower. There was even a Coronation Street cricket team. As with life, so with soaps – the pace has increased dramatically and now that there are five episodes a week, with some of the cast filming as many as 16 scenes a week, the social side of Coronation Street has dwindled as the episode production has increased involving intensive work, so that people now do their work, then go home. Nothing stays the same. Charlie referred to himself as ‘an old dinosaur’ as he much enjoyed what once was.

Charlie has close friends on the cast, past and present. He mentioned the extremely talented Sarah Lancashire, who once played Raquel and Simon Gregson, Steve, to whom he is very close.

Since leaving Coronation Street Charlie has been involved in theatre. One part he particularly enjoyed was the part of Frank, the university lecturer, which was played by Michael Caine in the film of Educating Rita. He was also in a run of Rain Man with Neil Morrissey, probably best known for Men Behaving Badly.  He’s also been to Canada, filming a BBC documentary about The Titanic.  

Charlie also runs a farm shop in Prestbury, Cheshire, with his wife, Debbie, but doesn’t serve customers as he cannot work the till, he volunteered to tell us. He does engage with customers though, doing front of house and talking about his produce. Asked if he feels tempted to give up acting and just work in the shop, he simply replied, ‘Once an actor, always an actor.’ Good news for us then. Jim will be on screen until September and will play about thirty episodes.

Charlie very much enjoys playing the role of Jim. Initially the writers had no idea exactly who they were writing for, so when Jim got the part he added in his Northern Irish dialect, at times telling the writers that Jim wouldn’t say various Mancunian phrases. Charlie told the writers what he would say hence the phrases we know so well from Jim’s repertoire, including ‘Catch yourself on, so you are, so it is, and what about you.’

As we all know, Jim is in prison for his attempt to rob a bank. He is though making the best of his time there and is known as The Landlord - the Mr. Big of the prison. From Jim, prisoners can get virtually anything as no one seems incorruptible. He is well-respected by both prisoners and prison officers, as an ex-soldier.  Peter of course is in prison and is seeking alcohol. Inevitably Peter meets Jim. These two characters have never previously done a scene together.  

It is a mutually beneficial encounter, as through Peter, Jim can have Peter ask Deirdre to ask Liz to visit him. In return Peter can have whatever he wants. Jim is feeling very cut off from his family. Liz promised him she would wait for him, but that promise seems as if it was more for appeasement purposes than anything else.

In fact as the story develops, it is Jim who saves Peter’s life. Peter has found out where the ‘drop zone’ is for all manner of illicit goods and as miserable as it is possible to be, Peter knocks back a huge amount of alcohol. Jim comes to his rescue and Peter is saved. Redemption for Jim? Maybe…

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8 comments:

Tvor said...

I don't think it's so much that his accent is so familiar as it is his catch phrases which is part of what we all like so much about Jim! (so we do!) Great post!

Llifon said...

Great post Ruth. Actually, the McDonalds were introduced into the show when three episodes were introduced. Love Jim and a touch of irony is that at the moment I'm watching Corrie eps from 2000 on YouTube when Jim is on the brink of going into prison.

Anonymous said...

I was never a fan of the character, but I met Charlie Lawson when he came to London, Ontario and he is a wonderfully entertaining speaker. He comes across as a true entertainer and someone who really enjoys engaging with an audience. His affection for Simon Gregson really came through and Steve is one of my favourite characters in the show, so that really made me warm to Charlie. Now that I have a liking for Charlie, I will certainly be more interested in his character and hope the writers don't let us down.

ruth owen said...

Thank you Llifon and Tvor. It was great fun meeting him.

Humpty Dumpty said...

I'll be pleased to see Jim back. He was larger than life like Fred with his catch-phrases and they didn't need explosive storylines to make them interesting. In fact, that's when they spoilt Jim's character by giving him a ridiculous robbery. The characters are so bland now that I bet Les Dennis would have a hard time impersonating any of them. Except Audrey with her 'Hmms'. People do have their favourite expressions and that's what gives them uniqueness. I miss the little quirks that characters used to have.

Beth said...

Great article, thank you! I was getting so excited and thinking of switching back on. He's only on for 30 episodes, I wonder if this will be extended to a more permanent role with him being released? Hope so!

Anonymous said...

It was good of them back in 1989 to introduce a character from Northern Ireland sand show them in a positive light.

Anonymous said...

How will they explain that it took Peter being in prison before Jim can get in touch with Liz and Steve?

Anon.

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