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Sunday 5 December 2021

7 years of Billy Mayhew!

Today marks 7 years since the arrival of Reverend Billy Mayhew onto the cobbles, played by Dan Brocklebank. Since then, Billy has been a calming influence on the street, as well as causing a few serious shockwaves. In celebration, I have compiled 7 (of my) highlights of Billy’s time on the street. 

1. Reverend Mayhew arrives in Weatherfield

How would one predict the introduction of a vicar? A series of weddings and funerals that phases the vicar in slowly? A long-lost relative who turns up out of the blue? No. We first met Reverend William Mayhew in a Manchester night club where he chatted up Sean Tully. Off the bat, we knew Billy wasn’t going to be an average clergyman. Billy’s introduction to the actual street was perfect- a frankly chaotic dinner party with Sean, Eileen, Todd, and Julie. From Julie’s ramblings to Todd’s cynicism, Billy took it all in his stride and very quickly became a great addition to the No.11 dynamic. 

2. Making friends

With the introduction of any new character, they must fit in with our regular cast. As viewers, we are innately protective over existing characters, so it was important where the show placed Billy in his early episodes. In a simple yet effective way, Billy found himself befriending street stalwart Emily Bishop. Since Emily told Billy his first sermon in Weatherfield was “shoddy”, they were a helping hand to each other within the parish and a port of call for each other until Emily shipped off to Peru (which Billy helped organise). It wasn’t high drama, but it felt like Corrie. Two characters having real conversations about their everyday lives. Billy’s friendship with Emily also integrated him with the likes of Norris and Mary, which cemented him as a light-hearted, breath of fresh air character. 

3. Rescuing Marta

It wasn’t until early 2016 that Billy got given his first major storyline. Eva had her suspicions that Marta Zarek was being kept as a slave, and so she acquired the help of Billy to put a stop to it. First of all, this started a wonderful friendship between Billy and Eva that continued until Eva’s exit. Despite the serious nature of the story, we had some comedic scenes between Billy and Eva, including Eva going through the random crap Billy had in his car while on a stakeout. Natural, everyday conversations are the backbone of British soap, and it’s something that Billy has always been a great fit for. 

Given this was Billy’s first big story, it gave us the chance to finally see how Billy held his own, away from the comforts of the street. Billy was the perfect character to place into that story. His compassion, determination and level head counteracted Eva, keeping her on an even keel when she got carried away, but supporting her whenever she had another idea on how to help Marta. Dan and Catherine Tyldesley also had fantastic onscreen chemistry, making them a much-loved duo. 

4. Billy’s relationship with Todd

In the summer of 2016, Billy packed Sean in when he realised his feelings for Todd ran deeper than deep. To the surprise of probably everyone, this was a turning point for Todd’s character as their relationship became something very loving and pure. It was a breath of fresh air to be honest in the world of soap relationships. There was no backstabbing, no cheating, no point scoring. Billy and Todd gradually got closer during the storyline of Callum’s murder and so their impending feelings for each other was a very natural conclusion. With their personalities so vastly different, they mixed surprisingly well, and each character brought out different sides of each other which was very pleasing and refreshing to watch. 

In 2016, Corrie received 170 Ofcom complaints after a rather saucy scene involving a hotel bed. These complaints were swiftly rejected, but it started huge conversations around the basis of the complaints and it boils down to one thing: Corrie dared to show two men kissing at 8 o'clock in the evening. Ridiculous, isn't it? Nevertheless, after a torrent of bigotry on social media, I was very pleased to see Corrie continue Billy and Todd as they were. They didn't dial down any aspects of their relationship in response to the complaints, and the two characters eventually moved in together and became the street's first same-sex parents- a huge milestone which was a great step forwards in terms of representation on British soap. 

5. Fighting the church

By the end of 2016, one thing about Billy was abundantly clear: the church was one of the most important things in his life. He is utterly devoted to his job and his faith, and it’s part of what makes Billy Billy. Over the years, Billy’s relationship with the church has been strained a couple of times, but none more so than when Billy actually quit the church after they proclaimed he could not live with Todd. This story went on for quite a while as Billy started a long and drawn-out fight for his basic rights, and it includes a wonderful scene between Billy and his bishop. In an impassioned speech, Billy talks about how the church doesn’t tolerate discrimination, yet he is unable to bring his male partner home and is frustrated by the church’s unwillingness to budge on the subject. It’s moments like these where you remember that sometimes, Corrie is so much more than a soap. It pushes on real-life, emotional topics, ones that start conversations in living rooms across the country and sometimes, it just might make a change. To some people, myself included, just to see Billy, a fictional vicar on telly fighting for his rights, it gives you hope that this change is on the horizon. 

Ultimately, Billy went back to the church after deciding he couldn’t live without it. But did Billy stop fighting? Did he ‘eck. He worked it out so he could go on living with Todd as well as serving his community as their vicar. These issues with the church have kind of been forgotten about now. Especially with Billy’s engagement to Todd last year, I was hoping we’d see Billy once more fight for his right to get married in the church, after he has made several comments over the years about not being able to get married in his line of work. Perhaps we would’ve seen this if Todd wasn’t such a scheming so and so, or perhaps it’s in the pipeline for Billy’s future. 

6. Taking Summer in

In 2017, Billy’s next challenge came in the form of his 12-year-old goddaughter, Summer Spellman. It took a little while for Billy and Summer to bond after the death of Drew, but now they have such a lovely relationship. They are undoubtedly there for each other, and Billy always does his best to be a supportive father figure. I’ll skip over the part where Billy gave her up to Geraldine when he got addicted to heroin if you don’t mind, please and thank you. Earlier this year, after kicking Todd out, Billy proclaimed to Summer that: “From now on, it’s just you and me, kid.” I hope Billy keeps this promise. They’ve always been a good team, and it’s something I want to see lots more of. 

7. A Calming Voice 

Rounding up everything I’ve just talked about, one of Billy’s best highlights is the calming voice he has been to many residents over the last seven years. It doesn’t happen as much anymore which is a real shame, but Billy has offered an ear and sound words of advice to anyone who needed it. During the story of Callums’s murder, Billy was a pillar of support to Sarah, offering her advice or just listening to her, as well as offering a friendly ear to Todd. Billy tried to help Jason grieve for his dad, and he had wonderful scenes with Sinead in her final days. Billy also has a large tendency to stick his nose in where it’s not wanted, but we’ve all got flaws, right?

As part and parcel of being a vicar, Billy has also conducted many a service, including Deirdre, Kylie and Norris’s funerals, Michelle and Robert’s (abandoned) wedding, and Jenny and Johnny’s hospital bedside wedding. Billy conducts each one with grace and poise, which I’m sure is mostly down to Dan's nuances as an actor, and it culminates into something warm and inviting, which just feels like Corrie.

Before I finally end this blog, I must also say that the casting director got it spot on when casting Dan Brocklebank as Billy. He brings so much life to the character and plays every single scene, every emotion, every story, with such heart, passion, and conviction. 

That’s it! I could’ve rambled for a lot longer, but I hope you’ve enjoyed reliving Billy’s highlights from his time on the street so far. As for Billy’s future, there’s a lot I want, so I hope the Corrie gods are listening. I want to know where Billy’s religious epiphany came from that made him want to be a vicar. I want to see him gain a friend or two, nothing too crazy. Or maybe, his mum could come and find him? I also want to see him back in a bring and buy sale, back in the community. It’s what drew me to the character in the first place and I’d like to see a bit more of it, please. 

Billy’s done a heck of a lot of stuff over the last seven years, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Weatherfield’s very own Archdeacon. 

Sophie Williams

Find me on Twitter @sophie_writer1

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

1 comment:

C in Canada said...

That is a great post! I can't believe it's been 7 years since he's joined the show.
Your last point I feel, makes it for me - the voice. He does have a lovely warm, poised voice, and I find with me that wins me over better than anything else.
More Billy please!


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