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Friday 22 October 2021

Richard Hawley On Johnny's Shock Exit! - Coronation Street Blog Cast Interview

Johnny Connor is a gonna! As Horror Nation Street concludes tonight, shocked viewers became saddened when ex-Rovers landlord, Underworld boss, and Carla's Dad, Johnn Connor, was swept away to his death, after failing to rescue ex-wife Jenny Bradley in the sinkhole sewer drama. As actor Richard Hawley bows out of the show after six years, Coronation Street Blog had a quick chat with the man himself, about finding out Johnny was to die, fondly remembering his time on the show, and reveals he is swapping the cobbles for the forest! 

When did you first discover that Johnny was going to die in this big week?

Iain (the producer) had known for some time that I was ready to go. I talked to him about it previously, then all the plans and arrangements got stymied because of Covid, and I was happy to be working through that year. I was very fortunate. It could have been then that I stayed, but I live a long way from Coronation Street. I have done over six years, and all the travelling back and forth was getting a bit much for me.

How did you feel about the fact Johnny was going to die?

He explained that the death in the big stunt was going to be Johnny, he outlined the story and I was overjoyed and knocked back by what he was planning. Because for me, it is the completion of a great love story, which is what Sally Ann and I had wanted. You can’t get a truly great love story until it is over until someone dies. 

At the start of the week it looked as though you might leave in a taxi - do you prefer the more tragic ending? 

The one thing that soap doesn’t give you is a beginning, middle and end. By its very nature, it is continuous. Only when you get the end put into place that everything else falls into place. The rest of Johnny’s story now makes sense. There is a strong run of almost seven years of his story. A man trying to redress some of the past, create a future, love, settle down, atone for past mistakes, and change and live well. One of the things that were always important to me was that I wanted to explore the love and humanity of the character. I have been able to do that and particularly with this ending. It completes a journey - a tough journey in many ways. In itself, it is a real story - action, humour, love, thrills and spills. I have been incredibly fortunate on the show, I've done big difficult stories, some tragic stories. I have worked in Underworld and The Rovers - now I have this exit. To come back would have been an anticlimax - leave them wanting more!

Was it good to be able to work closely with Sally Ann again?

It was fantastic and was a complete delight to be able to work closely. It's been a difficult 18 months - constantly having to work at a distance and get that connection. Even not being able to work closely with the director. This week was very different to the daily process, much more like a film. The whole aspect of the stunt was such an experience. There was so much creativity and talent around us - it was quite a shock to work in that way again, but a good shock. I am glad now (that by leaving) I won't have to go back to working the old way again. I would have found that hard after being given that freedom for that short time.

Tell us about filming the stunts, how are you going underwater?

I loved it, I'm a pretty good swimmer. In my career, I have done water-based stunts before. I did a theatre production once that took place in waist-high black water. When I was on The Vet years ago, I had to rescue a donkey from way down in a pit trap in a cornish coal mine full of water and now this, so I am becoming a bit of an expert in the old water stunts. I blew up a monastery once with Rutger Hauer. One of the great things about being an actor is the incredible things you get to do, like filming in the mountains of Transylvania and shooting up restaurants in St Petersburg. So I have done quite a lot, to be honest, this is a crowning element, and despite it being a stunt it was all about the characters, too. It was great to be at the centre of it. It isn't just the stunt, the whole thing has felt like a small film. 

Do you think Johnny just lost his fight at the end, mentally as well as physically?

I did have to try and think about how he would feel at that moment. I don't know that he would give up. I think the utter exhaustion got him. When the voice of Aidan cropped up in the darkness, there was an acceptance of where he is going and he just feels that he has done his best and been honourable. He has made mistakes in his life - he has lost a lot. There is a balancing out of the rights and wrongs of his life, and he accepts it. 

You can feel that Johnny and Jenny love each other. What was it like filming those scenes?

It's important to get across their love for each other. For some reason, it just didn't quite work out for them. They are two wounded people but they were each too wounded to help the other one. They would have loved to have been able to help each other in their relationship but ultimately, they couldn’t. Those final scenes resolve that in some way and give them that love story and that eternity.

What are your highlights of working on the show?

I have had quite a lot of big and important stories, that were challenging to do, so there is a lot to choose from. Getting the job and starting with Faye and Shane was fantastic, getting to work in Underworld, and working in the pub also meant I got to work with so many different people. Aidan’s suicide was a hugely important story to tell and I am so proud of being a part of that. Carla’s mental health issues, Johnny’s struggles with his health, his secrets from the past and trying to make amends affected his mental health. There is an element of mental health issues running through that family. It's something that has always been close to my heart and something that I will be taking on in the future. I am also working with Esme’s Umbrella who raise funds and awareness for Charles Bonnet Syndrome, following Johnny’s story. The show has given me an awful lot. On the lighter side, I loved filming Johnny and Jenny’s wedding and arriving on a Harley Davidson!!

What will you miss most?

I will miss the team. Leaving is very emotional, but I will keep in touch with lots of people. As an actor, you get used to treating everything as just a job but, after almost seven years, it’s not just a job, it is a job where you work closely with the same people every day and I will miss them. But, that is the actor life!

What is next?

I am going to train and volunteer in a Forest School in Lymley Woods near where I live. We are fundraising and creating a pilot project around play, mental health and nature, primarily for children (to start with). I hope to make a documentary about that, and we are going to spend a year getting it all set up. It is something I'm looking forward to immensely. I will be doing some acting work, but the Forest School Association is something I am very passionate about, particularly getting kids out and about again after the past 18 months!


All the best to Richard Hawley. I wonder if Jenny will keep that J & J picture up in The Rovers backroom, as a tribute? 

@rybazoxo  Your Cobbles Connossiuer 

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Louby said...

A sad end for the character,but I'm not totally sorry to see him go. Nothing against Richard who is a great actor, but when I look back on his time in the street it's mostly miserable!

Anonymous said...

You could say that about the majority of characters when they leave, not just Johnny

Anonymous said...

I knew it would be Johnny who dies. I think only female Connors get to live, all other male died. Paul, Liam, Aidan and now Johnny!

Abercrombie said...

I liked the actor a lot but agree that his lot as Johnny was not a happy one. With the exception of his marriage to Jenny.


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