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Monday 25 October 2021

Corrie Blog interviews writer Jonathan Harvey on Barlow's AA meeting, Gail's monologue, and advice from Tony Warren

Hi Jonathan, Congrats on ‘Our Lady Of Blundellsands’ return to the stage. How did it feel to have the play on again and watch your Corrie colleague (TV director, Mickey Jones) act in a part you created?  

It’s been so exciting having the play return – after a brief 18-month hiatus! I’ve known Mickey for years. I saw him being brilliant in a play at the National Theatre when we were in our twenties and always thought he was fabulous. When we did the 'Our Lady' originally, Tony Maudsley played the part. But this time he wasn’t available - he now plays George Shuttleworth in Corrie. He said ‘Who’s going to play my part?’ I said ‘If he still acted I’d love Mickey Jones'. Tony encouraged me to phone him up and ask him. Mickey has been directing for ages and he jumped at the chance to act again when he read the script. I’m chuffed that audiences are getting to see him perform again.

The part of ‘Mickey-Joe in ‘Our Lady…’ is played by Mickey Jones and he told me that you've known each other a long time. Is it just a coincidence that the actor’s name and the character’s name are very similar?

It is a coincidence! to be honest. I still think of Mickey as Mickey Poppins, the name he used when we were younger, and the acting name he had when he was in Brookside.

90's comedy 'Gimme, Gimme, Gimme' was written by Jonathan Harvey 

As a Playwright, How did you get into Writing for Television? 

One of my plays, Beautiful Thing, was made into a film - it did well around the world. That opened lots of doors for me. It was quite a funny film, so I got lots of offers initially to do a sitcom. That’s how I ended up writing Gimme Gimme Gimme -  all my telly work followed from that. Kathy Burke is a dear friend, she was doing brilliantly at the time, and the BBC were keen for her to have her show. And that’s what we came up with it. Pure filth!

Gail's Monologue was written by Jonathan Harvey

As a Corrie fan of 24 years, one of my all-time favourite scenes of the show’s history is Gail’s monologue (following the news of Aidan’s suicide) which you wrote. Did you envisage that scene being that emotive? How did you feel watching it and receiving the praise that followed? 

I remember it was in the storyline they gave me. It said there should be a silent montage of scenes of the various characters discovering Aidan had taken his own life. With my background in the theatre, I instinctively thought it would work better with someone doing a monologue over it. And then I thought it might be iconic to have one of the well-established characters speaking. I love Gail, so I chose her. Helen performed it beautifully. We then won a Writers Guild Award for that episode, some soap awards, and a Bafta nomination for Bafta TV Moment of the Year.

Jonathan Harvey (R) with Damon Rochefort (L) and Corrie Creator Tony Warren (M)

You have written over 200 episodes of Coronation Street. Do you have a particularly favourite scene, character, or memorable episode you have written? 

I adored Blanche and loved writing anything for her. My favourite was when she went to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting with Peter and the Barlows. It was written quickly. They asked me to write five scenes for the Barlows to shoot the next day, a self-contained story that never needed to be mentioned again, as it would just be slotted into the existing episode. I said ‘What if Blanche goes to an AA meeting and the Barlows kick off?’ I wrote it, sent it in, they filmed it the next day. 

As well as being a successful playwright, you’re also a successful novelist. Do you have any more books in the pipeline?

Not at the moment. Writing plays uses the same part of my brain as writing novels and I love the communal experience of theatre so I am sticking with those for now. 

Do you have any more plays or musicals written, planned, or in production? 

My play Swan Song is on for a week at the Turbine Theatre in London, starring Andrew Lancel (formerly Frank Foster in Corrie). A few theatre projects are coming up next year, I hope we also get to revive my musical adaptation of My Best Friend’s Wedding, featuring Alexandra Burke. We had to cancel that because of the pandemic. Hopefully, one day it will see the light of day!

Do you have any particular influences when writing episodes of Corrie, and do you watch the episodes you’ve written when they air on TV? 

I adored Tony Warren’s episodes at the beginning. They are the blueprint for the show today. Tony once took me aside and gave me a great piece of advice. He said ‘When you write two women fighting you tend to use flowery language and head a bit down the East Lancs Road’ – I’m assuming he meant they go a bit Scouse! – ‘People don’t do that. They shout then get on with the fight’. I try to remember that all the time. And yes, I watch all the episodes of the show, including mine!


Thank you, Jonathan, for taking the time to chat. As a long time Corrie fan, and fan of his plays - it was an absolute treat! If you get the chance, do check out 'Guiding Star' -  it's an incredible piece of writing.  

I am @rybazoxo your Cobbles Connossieur

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1 comment:

C in Canada said...

That scene at Peter's AA meeting is still one of my favorites!


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