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Monday 15 June 2020

Corrie & Corona - the lockdown lowdown! Press Day Interviews {Part 1 of 3}

As a devout Corrie fan (as I imagine you are, reading this), the last 3 years for me, have been peppered with surreal Corrie moments, when writing for this Blog. As I write this, the world is a funny place, and Corrie has (and has always) remained that mainstay and salve, the constant we all cling on to. 

Having attended a few of these press days in the past, I've had to contain childlike excitement when Audrey Roberts paused for a chat (not to me!) at studio reception, Pat Phelan pounced on us on a private set tour, and I once said a cheery ‘good morning’ to David Neilsen who was in full Roy Cropper costume! So many Corrie moments to cherish and this week was no exception! 

Last Wednesday 10th of June I was invited to my most surreal Corrie press day yet! My first ever zoom call (no pressure, then) with about 30 journalists/entertainment writers, John Whiston (JW) (Managing Director of Continuing Drama and Head of ITV, North), series producer Iain MacLeod (IM) and Corrie cast members Ben Price (Nick Tilsley) and Jane Danson (Leanne Battersby). 

An hour of juicy gossip, Corrie COVID chat, storyline secrets and insider knowledge means that this is a three-part blog post (I could have done six but we are getting used to three now, right?), and believe me, you cannot miss this. In this first part, we interview Corrie head honchos Iain Macleod and John Whiston who give us the lowdown on what lockdown has been like in the world of Weatherfield.

How has Corrie been affected by social distancing? 

JW - "We’re maintaining 2m distance, we have poles going around and have divided our filming units into cohorts – they stay in the same studios, using their own equipment. We also have one way systems through the building which are colour coordinated. We were going to do blue and red but someone pointed out there are too many football tribalisms in Manchester! We have brought in minimal crews so keeping numbers low of people on set. Crews used to be 30-40 in size but now we have 12-15 people on set and that includes cast’’

IM - “How on earth do you make a programme about social interactions, romance, someone punching someone in the Rovers adheres to social distancing? It’s been incredibly challenging. We’ve stripped everything back to what soap originated with – brilliant dialogue played brilliantly by an extremely talented cast. We’ve taken out all essential prop interactions, we’ve taken eating and drinking out. We’re losing kissing, hugging, holding hands which provide challenges. We had a scene in a pre-pandemic universe that required a character to try and kiss another which is now not acceptable. So the writer had to craft it and made the come on verbal – it works equally well. It’s a challenging time for everyone who works on the show but everyone has risen to the challenge"

How has filming on location been affected? 

IM - "All location filming is suspended indefinitely. Essentially, we know the measures we put in place are enforceable and safe. We have it all nailed down here where we feel we have minimised risk. It’s much better to keep things here to make sure everyone is safe"

JW - "If there is something we might have done off site – say if we need a courtroom, which we might need to {that’s not a spoiler by the way} we can just build one."

Will we see any time jumps pre/during/post virus scenes and storylines? 

IM - “Yes – it was a tricky conundrum. Much of it was written and shot before the pandemic – so the remaining scenes will be shot strictly adhering to the new measures and guidelines in place. Fictionally it created a world where people were half acknowledging and half not which would have been weird. In episodes on 24 July, they are the first ones where they acknowledge the pandemic there. It’s just like the flip of a switch, a day/night transition. We agonised over it but I think the audience understands and will go with it. The wrapping paper has changed but its still the gift of corrie. We will also see a lot of washing hands, social distancing conspicuously, people talking about older relatives who are being shielded upstairs in bed or out of the way. A lot of our businesses will be operating as takeaways but it’s possible that Roy’s caf√© can open by the time they air but it was safer to bet on people not being able"

So what do we think so far, Corrie fans? Delighted that Corrie will acknowledge this horrendous world event, they've no choice, right? Or, do we close the curtains and imagine none of this is happening, people drinking in the rovers return bar, lovers masquerading in trysts, and nobody acknowledging the real world, at all? For obvious reasons, the latter couldn't happen anyway, so I think we are getting the best of it all, the only other option being it goes off-air and I cannot imagine that to be honest!

To Be Continued... 

I am @rybazoxo your cobbles connoisseur 

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