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Tuesday 14 July 2015

Coronation Street Blog Interview: Tristan Gemmill

It’s a long time since we last encountered Robert Preston. And while the actor playing him may have changed, his love for Tracy Barlow hasn’t.

I caught up with Tristan Gemmill at ITV in Manchester to hear all about his character’s return.

So what is Robert like now? “He's kind of an easygoing guy” explains Tristan, “he's humorous, and at the same time he's got an edge to him.”

As we know, Robert was a carpet fitter, but has retrained as a chef, and is now co-owner of a restaurant in Alderley Edge with wife Joanie (Sarah Harding). Robert hasn’t quite gotten over Tracy though. “That's definitely the feeling you get from when I first come in” explains Tristan, “Robert's had other relationships, but for one reason or other they haven't worked out. Part of the reason for that is that no one has been able to replace Tracy in his affections.”

Despite being away for so long, Robert appears to have been following her life from afar. While he knows about her prison past and "tendency to get involved in tricky situations", he doesn't know about the fire and won’t know every detail of what has happened since they last met.

I asked Tristan who has been keeping Robert informed. He explained that he has been following Tracy’s misdemeanors in the press and as his restaurant is in Manchester, he’s been hearing things on the grapevine. Tristan revealed that there was initially an indication that his mum had been keeping him up to date, but that idea didn’t make it into the scripts.

Asked how Robert would react if he discovered Tracy started the fire, Tristan replied, “That's a very good question, and it's something that we address at some stage, that's about all I can say”.

So why does Robert come back? Tristan explains that his love of Tracy has stopped him moving on in life and making successes of other relationships. “I think he partly goes there to get closure, to see her and try to end that once and for all. Of course the exact opposite thing happens” he continues, “all those old feelings start to bubble up to the surface and cause problems.” While he doesn’t intend keeping his marriage to Joanie a secret from Tracy, she finds out before he's ready to tell her. “It's not like Robert has led her on, circumstances have acted against him a little bit, but then it all comes out and it's not the way he wanted it to” he reveals.

It sounds like Joanie and Tracy may have more in common than being married to Robert. “There's a certain volatility in Sarah's character too which indicates she's not a million miles away personality-wise from the hot-headedness of Tracy Barlow” Tristan explains. “Maybe Robert is one of those people who is attracted to danger…there's an element of thrill being with some who's unpredictable”.

Tristan reveals that a few sacrifices have to be made in order for him to set up in Weatherfield where he is hired by Leanne to work at the Bistro. He also tells us that they've added a whole new kitchen set, and I managed to catch a glimpse of it myself on the day.

We’re told Robert impresses and flatters Tracy with his persistence. “Aside from Deirdre, Robert is the only person who has ever accepted her for what she is, warts and all” explains Tristan. “She can't pull the wool over his eyes like she can with others. Plus, Robert is saying all the right things to her, it's what she wants to hear.”

So how does Tristan feel about coming into such a long-running drama? “I'm excited. Who wouldn't be? I'm approaching it with an open mind and a sense of adventure. The scale of this is just huge, it's a great thing to be part of it, this sense that you're a cog in this much bigger machine. Everyone has been lovely to me too. I'm really enjoying it. As the stories go out, and the audience start reacting to your character then I'll get a better feel of where I fit in”.

It was interesting to hear that five people were auditioned for the role via a screen test with Kate Ford in the Bistro. Tristan tells us, "she was great and we had a bit of a laugh, which I think is always quite important."

While Tristan didn’t meet on screen wife Sarah Harding until their first scene together, he reveals “working with her was a blast. There were a lot of big scenes to play on our first morning so she was really thrown in at the deep end, but she did brilliantly.”

Tristan has a good awareness of the expectations of the Corrie audience that things will be portrayed accurately. “You have to approach it openly and honestly, it's so embedded in the British cultural landscape, I assume that people pick up on things. If you try to put things in that aren't there, then people will sniff things out rather quickly”. It was a no-brainer for him when he was offered the part, telling us "I was very grateful to grasp it with both hands”.

Robert knew from the age of 12 what he wanted to do, and has lived in Australia and, most recently, America. “In fact”, he reveals, “I was actually in America when I got the call to put myself on tape for this. I must be the only person that's gone to Hollywood and got a job on Coronation Street!”

It will be interesting to see where Robert's return takes Tracy, and what relationships he'll forge with others on the street.

By Emma Hynes
Twitter: @ELHynes

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Anonymous said...

Was it just me or did Robert look really old.

Anonymous said...

It's probably not surprising that he looks older, as he and Tracey were married almost 20 years ago. He would be 43 or 44 now and Tracey is about 40, I believe.

Anonymous said...

What was he working on in America? Thunderbirds? I was looking for the strings!

Anonymous said...

How can Robert accept Tracy for all she is, warts and all, when she did not commit the murders until after they were separated?

Anonymous said...

@Anon 16:52, I think by "warts and all" they mean the general weaknesses in her character - desite the love lavished on her by Deirdre, Tracy is fundamentally insecure, she lashes out at anyone and everyone to make herself the victim, she is selfish and spoilt, and yet, underneath all that, some of us keep hoping that a better Tracy exists, one who is capable of love. Occasionally we catch glimpses of that person, all too briefly.


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