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Sunday 17 October 2021

Sally Ann Matthews interview: Jenny's sinkhole terror!

During super soap week, one resident who finds themselves in grave danger is Jenny Connor, as the ground opens beneath her, and she falls into the sinkhole. Johnny attempts a rescue, but as the water starts to rise, can they get out on time? 

Before this week of nightmares begins, Jenny is perfectly happy as she moves on from her marriage and starts a relationship with sinkhole expert, Leo. “I think it was the last thing on her mind,” Sally tells us. “There’s this handsome young man, so when [Jenny] finds out she is the object of his desire, she doesn’t quite know what to do with that. She has a conversation with Johnny, and he says, not realising she’s thinking about Leo, that life’s too short for waiting, so she decides, why not?

“She wasn’t looking for a relationship, and ultimately, she loves Johnny, and I don’t think finding another partner is on her radar. She has a really lovely friendship with Johnny at the minute and I think if life hadn’t got in the way and caused all of these upsets, that Jenny and Johnny would still be together. They just kind of thought that they’re a bit toxic together and even though they love each other, they actually can’t live together and make each other happy.

“She feels that Johnny will always be a big part of her life and that because they do love each other, there’s no animosity there. They’ve been really grown up about it and they’ve supported each other through it. I think [Jenny] thinks they’re quite together, just not in a romantic sense.”

During this week, Johnny makes the decision to leave Weatherfield and move to Bali where he can be closer to Kate. However, this isn’t good news for Jenny. Sally said: “Where she thought they were at was that they were friends. He was the one that initially told her to go for it with Ronnie, so she thinks that he’s fine with her moving on with her life and that they’re great friends and they will always be in each other’s lives. When she finds out he wants to move away, she’s devastated.” 

On the night of Horrornation Street, Jenny is enjoying a date night with new man Leo, but the night soon takes a nosedive. “[Jenny] goes to check out her rival, Debbie Webster’s House of Horrors evening, and Johnny happens to be there as well in the beer tent. That’s when they have a chat about him moving away and she’d hate for Johnny to feel edged out because that’s not the situation.” 

As the storm closes in on the street, David and Ryan implore Leo to have a look at the sinkhole as they know something is wrong. Soon after, David announces that they must evacuate the area, and Jenny goes searching for Leo. 

“Now it’s torrential rain. [Jenny]’s worried about Leo, what he’s doing and for his safety, so she goes to try and find him, and she can’t find him. She’s stood there in the rain, very late at night, very cold, and suddenly the earth opens up…”

Despite Jenny’s bad luck this week, Sally told us how much she enjoyed filming it. “How many times have I said in interviews: ‘Give me a ten-page monologue, don’t give me anything to do. I don’t like action.’ I thought getting tasered was bad. But, I get there and I do it, and I bloody loved it. I did write to Iain and Verity [MacLeod] after we’d finished the main six-day section and said: ‘Please can I be in a sinkhole every week?’

“The way we worked over the last 18 months is all the lighting department go into studio, then they clear out and so other people go in and clear out before we arrive there, so this was the first time in about 18 months that we saw every other department and we really worked as a team.

“George Siougas, the director, was brilliant. I instantly trusted him; he gave brilliant technical notes, he gave brilliant acting notes. Also, to be able to get close to Richard [Hawley, who plays Johnny] again was just a joy, and to work with other people closely who Jenny doesn’t normally interact with.”

Sally and Richard filmed for six days in the “wet shaft” that they had to swim through to film the scenes in the sinkhole. Sally told us: “We had wetsuits on, and then clothes on top. It was a monumental effort getting to a loo. 

“It was cold, but if you weren’t in the water, the crew were sweating buckets because it’s like when you’re at a swimming pool. We’d have hot water bottles in the pool, and they’d periodically pour the contents of a hot water bottle into my wetsuit to warm that up. The bizarre thing you don’t realise as well is how quickly you dehydrate in that situation. Keeping hydrated was really important.”

As Jenny tries to remain calm in the sinkhole, she’s shocked when Johnny appears to try and rescue her. Sally said: “She is terrified, she’s injured, she’s cold… she knows that Leo is on the case and that people know there is an issue, so I think she’s quietly confident initially that she’s going to be found. When Johnny arrives, she’s like: ‘What the bloody hell are you doing here?’” 

As they await rescue, Jenny and Johnny have plenty of time on their hands, and the topic of conversation soon drifts towards their relationship. “They’re forced to discuss how they feel,” Sally said. “When you’re in a situation like that, you have to work together. 

“You’ve got to keep each other’s spirits up until you’re rescued and within those conversations, maybe things are said, and real feelings are exposed.”

If Jenny and Johnny escape in time, could this be a new chapter in their relationship? 

Sophie Williams

Find me on Twitter @sophie_writer1

All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License

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