Billy Mayhew isn’t set to have the most festive of Christmases – as Peter Barlow drives Todd Grimshaw and Summer out of Coronation Street before then targeting the guilty vicar as revenge for being involved in the death of Susan all of those years ago.
Peter forces two bottles of vodka down Billy’s neck before then bundling him into a car boot and driving him to a cliff edge – and the subsequent showdown leaves Billy in a coma, fighting for his life.
Dan Brocklebank joined us for a chat about his unfortunate alter ego’s horrific Yuletide and we asked what they were like to film.
‘I’ve never been bundled into the boot of a car before, it was surprisingly comfortable!,’ he says.
‘This particular storyline, predominately during my time here it’s been dialogue-led performance, whereas this is much more physical.
‘I’ve done other things in the past, movies and series where I’ve had to do things like this, but for Billy to be in those situations was completely different. Bringing out those different aspects of the character and being able to explore emotions I’ve not had to play through Billy, it’s been brilliant and I’ve come out feeling like I know him a lot better.’
Assuring us that he and Chris Gascoyne were able to joke and mess around when the cameras weren’t rolling, Dan was keen to get across that he would consider the scenes more dramatic than overly dark.
He smiled: ‘We have had such a laugh – we have pissed ourselves laughing constantly. It’s not dark – I think it’s more dramatic and emotion led. It’s certainly not anywhere near in terms of the darkness we have seen recently with Phelan and Andy’s story. It’s not going anywhere in that direction.
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‘I don’t think Billy knows what the hell is going on. Once that car is reversed up to the edge of the cliff, then in that moment, possibly he starts to realise that this could be the end. He does say a little prayer. You would, though, wouldn’t you!?’
And Dan was keen to do his own stunts for the dramatic sequence too. He shared: ‘We did have a stunt double but we didn’t use him – I did all of them myself. It was brilliant, it was such a fun few days.
‘If I actually was hanging off the edge of a cliff, I’d be shitting myself but because I knew that I was attached to wires that meant I couldn’t fall, it felt a lot safer.
‘The speed which we shoot at normally is fast but I come from a drama and film background where I’m used to shooting four or five pages of dialogue a day whereas on this, I can be shooting 30 a day. It was lovely to spend a couple of days with that time to really put in all of those extra bits – the drones, the special effects, the stunts – it was a lot of fun.’
On paper, playing the role of a vicar in soap can mean just endless weddings and funerals so Dan couldn’t be more thrilled to explore Billy’s shady past and see so many sides to his alter ego.
He enthused: ‘It’s fantastic because as an actor, normally if you’re doing a drama or a play, you’ve got a character’s entire arc. You know where they’ve come from and where they’re going – you’ve got the beginning, the middle and the end. Whereas with this, you’re constantly playing middle.
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‘So to be playing a character for three and a half years, there were about 20 years where I didn’t know what Billy was up to. So it was great to fill in those blanks.
‘I also had this burning question as to why was he was a vicar, how did it come about? Why would a gay guy of my generation choose to join an institution that is inherently against them? That’s really what this storyline is explaining, it’s not changing who Billy is now, it’s explaining why he is the way he is now.’
He added: ‘There were a few people in my personal past that I’ve met who had become Christians due to incidents that had happened in the past and they’d used religion to get themselves out of those situations. I just thought that was a really interesting journey for somebody to have. It was always something I was keen to explore – and we’ve really gone for it!’
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