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Monday 18 October 2021

Will Mellor interview: Harvey's out for revenge!

There’s more danger to worry about than sinkholes for the Battersbys this super soap week as Harvey Gaskell makes his explosive return to carry out his revenge. We chatted to Will Mellor about the process behind creating this terrifying character and how Harvey plans to make Leanne pay. 

“I thought Harvey had been arrested a bit too soon,” Will said about Harvey’s comeuppance the last time. “More devilment, I think, needed to come out of the character. I was a bit gutted, actually. I thought it’s ending a bit quick. 

“When I got the call and they told me the idea for the storyline, they said: ‘Would you be interested?’ and I said, one hundred percent. That sounds exactly what I wanted to do with it. These super soap weeks as well, they go above and beyond what Corrie usually is about. I’m always up for that, so I was buzzing. I’m glad I came back because I think Harvey has a lot more to offer.”

Harvey certainly makes his presence known before he even arrives on the street, and Will said that he was excited about being involved in all the stunts. “If I’m doing it, I want it to be real, I want it to look scary. If we’re going to do it, we’ve got to go for it because you can’t cheapen it. 

“At the beginning, they said it’s a bit like Cape Fear, and if you remember Robert de Niro in Cape Fear in the rain, in the water and his menacing looks, and I thought, I love that idea. But the difference is when you’re filming in that torrential rainfall on night shoots for twelve hours… wow. Everyone kept saying: ‘It looks great!’ Me and Jane Danson [Leanne] were shaking constantly in the freezing cold, soaking wet, but apparently it looks great, so that’s what’s important.”

Harvey’s story this week starts in prison. After being told by Sabeen that Toyah, of all people, has ruined his appeal, the gangster knows he must get out another way. “Harvey’s under a lot of pressure in prison,” Will said. “There’s a lot of people after him. He knows it’s a Battersby who’s been involved again, and it’s like they’re coming back to haunt him, like they’re doing it on purpose.

“When he finds out his appeal’s gone up the swanny, he thinks: ‘Right, desperate measures, I’ve got to get out of here. A) There’s people after me in here, but B) now I’ve found out it’s a Battersby that’s messed my appeal up, I want revenge.’

“There’s unfinished business between Harvey and Leanne, and also Sharon. One of the last things Sharon did was wave at him and she’s gone and taken over his empire on the outside, so Harvey’s got a lot of T’s to cross and I’s to dot.”

Desperate to get out, Harvey concocts a plan to escape. To do so, he goes to drastic and gruesome lengths to ensure a trip to the hospital. “He’s a street guy you know. The one thing I wanted to do with Harvey is make him a real person.

“I’ve seen these cop shows where you see these people who do what he does and they’re ruthless. They don’t care about anyone else, they care about themselves. I want [Harvey] to be really ruthless, like he’s prepared to do anything. 

“If anyone’s going down, it isn’t him. He’s going to be the last man standing at all costs. That’s how I wanted to play Harvey. To get out of jail, he had to find a way of getting to the hospital, but with something you can’t fake. He does something, he’s desperate, but he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get in that van so he can find a way to get out.”

Succeeding in getting to a prison van, Harvey’s plan accelerates dramatically when the van crashes into the back of the Alahan’s car. With only one thing in mind, Harvey eventually arrives on Coronation Street, but just what is he planning? 

“He’s come to finish them off,” warns Will. “There’s no doubt in my mind. There’s Sharon on his list, Leanne, Toyah especially, and if he can get away with it, anybody else who was involved. He’s thinking: ‘I’ve got a period of time here where I can go and do my business and then hopefully get on a plane out of here.’ He’s making phone calls when he gets out saying: ‘Make sure that plane doesn’t leave without me,’ so that’s his plan.

“But things don’t always go to plan. Everything goes wrong from the start; it doesn’t go smoothly. That just winds him up even more. The thing is with Harvey, he goes from nought to a hundred in a second.

“He’s a scary character. People like him who don’t have any fear and you know he’s willing to do whatever, and there’s always a threat of other things he could do to you as well. That’s the threat Harvey always has with Leanne that I tried to put into the scenes as well when they’re together.”

As the storm in Weatherfield gets worse, it’s not just the Battersby’s lives in danger as Harvey may also find himself in some trouble. “From the start, the police van incident, his life’s in jeopardy there.

“When he gets to the street, who’s going to prepare for a sinkhole? The storm itself causes so many problems. The electrics are going everywhere, there’s things sparking, there’s things falling down. 

“He didn’t prepare for any of that. Who could? Harvey’s a tough nut, he’s hard to keep down, so when you think he’s out, think again.”

Like many others during this week, Will was in a Covid bubble with ramped up testing so that he could film in close contact for these special episodes. “It made all the difference,” he said. “There’s so much more of a threat when you can get up close and personal with somebody. 

“I had to do a lot of shouting, and I try not to do that as much because I think sometimes shouting weakens the character. Sometimes, it’s a lot scarier when you get really close and you whisper to them. 

“When you can physically touch somebody, the threat of other things is there, and we explored that as well… filling the gaps between the dialogue of Harvey stroking her face or just touching her hair. Every time she flinches, she doesn’t know if he’s going to strangle her. 

“You don’t know what’s going through Harvey’s mind at any moment, and he likes to play with the emotions. That’s the kind of narcissist he is. We had these Covid bubbles, so me and Jane were both tested so we could get close and physical, and we definitely do that as soon as Harvey gets hold of Leanne. It’s not very nice, it’s quite nasty.”

Many people will know that Harvey isn’t Will’s usual type of character, but he told us how much he enjoys playing the villain. “When I started out acting, I was about 13 or 14, I wondered if I’d ever do the show. 

“I’m glad I’m playing a baddie, just because I think going in and doing it, especially for a short period of time, you want to make a bit of a splash and Harvey’s character, I don’t think we’ve seen many that are as properly street-evil as he is. I want to go down as a good Corrie baddie, if there is a thing. I want Corrie fans to go: ‘He was horrible,’ and that’s what I want because it’d mean I did my job.”

While Harvey is busy terrorising Coronation Street, people may get a glimpse of him if they see Will outside of the studio! “People, even though they do shout at me, it’s a bit of tongue and cheek, it’s not serious. A lot of times, people are saying to me: ‘What are you doing out here? You’re supposed to be in prison!’ and every time I go: ‘I’m on day release, good behaviour, keep your mouth shut.’

“I just nip into character for five minutes and they love it. I try to play along with it for a bit. I enjoy it. I think people do believe the character, but they know there is a difference between me and the character.”

It’s going to be one hell of a week for Hurricane Harvey, and for whoever gets in his way. Will assured us: “Watch this and go along for the ride, because it’s a bumpy one.”

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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