Thursday, 10 May 2018

Corrie writer Jonathan Harvey talks about 'honest' suicide storyline

Last night's Coronation Street hour-long special was written by Jonathan Harvey, who has been talking to BBC News today, saying that he felt "a responsibility to try and be as honest as possible".

"It never started out as 'let's do this issue,'" Jonathan tells BBC News. "It was organic, about character and things like that. But it did turn into, 'This could be a very important story for us and it could help people and change people's lives.'"

Harvey says he was keen to show the full range of realistic reactions to an unexpected death - especially the feeling of disbelief.

"The biggest thing I drew on was that my best friend died very suddenly about two or three years ago, of a heart attack," he says. "I know that's not the same as suicide, but I'd been out with him all day the day before, and when my partner got a phone call and told me, I was so incredulous.

"So I drew on a lot of what we went through then because I spent a lot of time with his family and everybody's got different reactions - anger, disbelief. I was really able to draw on all those experiences and put that into the script."

"Usually as a soap writer your job is to make the preposterous believable - when someone gets knocked on the head and bundled into the boot of a car and tied up for the third week on the trot.... really? Your job is to make the audience believe it.

"With this one, what was really nice was I believed every bit of it. So it was just a lovely episode to get because you could just be truthful. Rather than spinning a yarn, or spinning a conceit, there was a responsibility to just try and be as honest as possible."

The emotional centrepiece of the episode was a monologue delivered by one of the street's veterans Gail, played by Helen Worth.

But Jonatthan says: "It felt like it needed the gravitas of one of our longest-running characters to pass comment on the community that, when the programme started, was close-knit, looked out for each other and knew everybody's business. That's the cliche of what soaps are.

"And yet [she was saying], if you did know everybody's business then you would have seen this coming. It was a weird one to write because I thought, this could be really dreadful and flippant. But fortunately we all pulled it off."

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