Saturday, 6 October 2018

Let Me Entertain You: Corrie Boss Iain MacLeod Speaks to the Blog

Bloggers Stevie and Sophie travelled to Manchester last week to watch a bunch of upcoming Corrie episodes and interview some of the stars about what lies in store for their characters. They also met new Producer Iain MacLeod and he gave them an insight into his plans for his tenure on the cobbles. 

Iain was quick to assure viewers and fans that they wouldn’t see an immediate change from the tone of storylines under his predecessor Kate Oates, but that as a lifelong Corrie fan himself, he had his own plans for the nation’s favourite soap:


So what are your plans for the Street?

As we’ve seen in the episodes we've just watched, the show is at its best when it’s got comedy in it, low-key, heartbreaking, poignant stuff like the Daniel and Sinead story, some high drama and action-packed sequences – I think that’s a really good microcosm of what Corrie needs to be. It’s all about balance. My background with Corrie is that I like all the funny stuff, but equally I worked on the tram crash, Tyrone’s domestic abuse, Carla’s rape, Peter’s alcoholism, so my preferences are broad and I think that is reflected in the audience really. You can’t please all of the people all of the time, but Corrie’s been very good, since it was conceived at pleasing most of the people most of the time. I’m hoping we can give everybody, under my tenure, a little or a lot of what they like.


Which characters did you want to work with as soon as you got started?

I can say this now the cast have left the room without risk of offending them! When I came back onto the show it was like going into the attic of your house and finding a box of toys that you forgot you had and thinking “Oh my god I’ve got Ken Barlow and Rita!” – again my preferences are quite broad, I like historical characters but I think we’ve got a really talented younger cast as well.

I’m a very story-driven guy, my background is in storylining and the way I run things is if the writers have got a brilliant story I don’t really mind who it’s for if it’s good and it’s engaging and keeps me interested then I will tell it. I’ve never been somebody that pinpoints favourite characters and tries to mould the show around them. Since arriving the story conferences have been brilliant – brimming with great ideas for a whole range of characters and age ranges.

We’ve got a BIG story for Amy Barlow coming up.

Kate (Oates) had a lot of criticism for too many dark storylines. How did you feel watching as a viewer back then and will viewers notice a significant change from her time to you taking over?

Kate’s a friend of mine and she’s extraordinarily talented and a great story teller. In her time on this show she told some massive, really socially important stories that changed people’s lives. That’s not the main reason people tune into Coronation Street but it shouldn’t be sniffed at. The viewing figures speak for themselves, a lot of what she did was challenging but it was massively successful in terms of audience reaction and the social responsibility element of what we do.

Since very early in its life Corrie has always done big “dark” stories, since the early sixties it's visited the darker corners of human existence. I’m a fan of the show first and foremost and something of a student of the show so I’ve thought about this. They dealt with suicide in 1963 for example, Val Barlow was kidnapped and held hostage by a convicted sex offender who used children as leverage to try and get his way with her. They did their first train crash in 1967. Into the seventies Deirdre was sexually assaulted when she was with Ray Langton. So there’s a risk that we look back with this nostalgic view that it's always just been people whittering over the garden fence when in fact it’s always been quite challenging really. The key is to achieve balance. When we do go into those darker areas we will give fans of comedy something to latch on to as well. But I wouldn’t say Kate’s stories we too dark at all.

I don’t think people will see a sea-change in the tone of the show when my name appears on the end of the credits. I am the custodian of Corrie’s DNA and tone and I don’t intend to do anything radically different but I will focus on balancing the dark stuff with lighter stuff and comedy, which is what people first fell in love with about Corrie. Including myself.

What can you tell us about Christmas?

The seeds of the biggest stories for Christmas are in the episodes you’ve just watched (Stevie and Sophie watched all the episodes for the week commencing 8th October – and they are GREAT). I want it to be a Christmassy Christmas. Obviously there’s a history in soap of trying to do the Angie and Den (Eastenders) Christmas where it’s all acrimony and divorce papers and vitriol. That’s not really my preference as you try and digest your stuffing balls and sprouts. You need it to be warm and lighthearted and reek of Christmas. It will have some heartbreaking stories within that, and a big shock at the end. Hopefully a surprising payoff to some of the stories viewers will see next week.

In terms of comedy, which characters amuse you the most and which would you like to develop?

We’ve got so many! I could watch Mary Taylor til the cows come home. Kate Ford is brilliant at being that crazy, pillar to post emotional mess of Tracy Barlow, particularly when paired with Steve. Dev is another favourite of mine in terms of his eccentricity and his waistcoats. Rita is also capable of a comic turn particularly when she’s paired with the formidable Malcolm Hebden. Nobody in the show can’t do it. That’s one of the things I like most about Corrie.

There’s some really funny stuff coming up with Ken Barlow.



Will anybody be leaving or “making space” for any new characters?

I don’t tend to subscribe to the producer cull. Over the years on Corrie there have been producers who on day three of their tenure have been in the papers with a photo-shopped picture of them as the Grim Reaper alongside a list of people they are planning to kill. That’s never been my style. As I said I’m quite story-driven so there will be characters that go. But I haven’t got a hit list.

As a fan are there any characters you’d like to bring back?

This is a tricky one. All my favourite characters are still in Corrie. All the ones that might have given me a little frisson of excitement are all dead. I’d have liked to have had a go on Pat Phelan for a bit!

On Emmerdale you made quite a few “experimental” episodes. Will you do the same on Corrie?

By experimental you mean weird. I’m sure the channel would get behind anything we wanted to do. But my gut feeling is that Corrie’s not the right place to do that. I describe it like this – if Corrie wrote the original melody for soap, it’s alright for the other soaps to riff on that and go a bit jazzy, but as soon as the person playing the bass melody starts to wander of and go a bit weird then the whole ensemble falls to pieces. Which is a massively strained metaphor! But what I’m trying to say is that Corrie originated this genre and I think we have to stay true to that DNA. That doesn’t mean being conservative, we can still push boundaries, but we won’t be doing flashbacks or hallucinatory excursions into people’s mental inner landscape. Corrie needs to keep one foot on the ground and remember the show that Tony Warren designed.

Did you feel nervous about taking over from Kate?

I’ve done it before! No not really, I think it’s exciting. Corrie has such history, it’s a show that I’ve loved for decades, it’s where I cut my TV teeth. It’s a dream come true really. It may come to be scary as the months roll by!

Kate’s now at Eastenders…

Yes I sent her a text saying “the gloves are off!” – there’s always been a healthy rivalry between soaps, arguably more between Corrie and Eastenders. But we plough our own furrow. I don’t see the shows as being particularly similar in terms of their style and the types of story they tell. So I don’t think there’s too much overlap. There’s room in people’s lives for both! And there will be a bit of friendly banter between me and Kate. Her credits for Corrie will finish on screen about three weeks before Christmas.

What are the first scenes that you worked on?

It’s a mixed bag working on some of the stories I’ve inherited from Kate, building up to the big Christmas day extravaganza. There’ll be some romance, some comedy, there’s a brilliantly comedic episode built around a school nativity. I wanted to show as much of the broad church of Coronation Street as I could.


Are you hoping to mould Sinead’s storyline into something that raises awareness of her condition, like Coronation Street has done with other issues?

To an extent yes. But you focus on the social responsibility angle over the story at your peril. First and foremost it needs to be about those two young people facing the hardest challenge of their life. But we all want good drama karma so at the end of it all I do want to impart some positivity into the world via that story. We’ve got another story coming up next year that I think would broadly fall into the socially responsible storytelling bracket. But it started as a story about a character and then developed.

First and foremost we are storytellers and performers and writers and we want to entertain people.

@StevieDawson

More on next week's episodes of Coronation Street here.






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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I fear for Corrie not MacLeod has taken over. It's no coincidence that Emmerdale has improved exponentially since he left. MacLeod doesn't seem to bother with character drive plots and will change anyone to suit his storylines.

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