Coronation Street star Daniel Brocklebank responds to Billy's discovery
Coronation Street spoilers follow.
Coronation Street aired emotional scenes for Billy Mayhew in Friday's episode (May 29) as he finally discovered the truth about his partner Paul Foreman's diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease.
After growing suspicious over Paul's recent behaviour, Billy followed him to court and was shocked to learn that he was facing car theft charges.
Billy's entire world changed forever as the judge added that Paul would receive a suspended sentence, out of compassion for his MND diagnosis.
Back at home, Paul opened up to Billy about everything he has been going through over the past few weeks. However, he insisted that he still didn't want his twin sister Gemma or mum Bernie to know the truth yet.
Daniel Brocklebank, who plays Billy, recently chatted to Digital Spy and other media about the ongoing storyline.
Before Billy's discovery, did he have any idea that Paul was hiding something?
"Paul's behaviour had been very abnormal. I don't think Billy was as astute as he could have been. By the end of it, Billy thought Paul was going off him!
"Paul was always out with Dee-Dee and he was constantly not at home, so Billy thought that Paul was going off the idea of being in a relationship and had made a mistake in terms of their reunion."
Is that why Billy went to the court case?
"Yes, because Paul's behaviour had been so shifty. When Billy heard the truth, it really came out of left field and it was a massive shock. Hearing about this diagnosis would be hard at the best of times, but to hear it from the judge meant that it was curt and cold.
"For the scenes afterwards, Peter [Ash, who plays Paul] and I discussed it with Jason Wingard, who was directing the episode. When you get these scenes, you've got the writers' stage directions. But then sometimes when you're rehearsing a scene, you don't necessarily want to play it in the way that they've decided you should.
"The writers decide what we're going to say, but personally it's my job to decide how I say that line, as long as it's sticking to the narrative and telling the story truthfully.
"With the stage directions that we'd been given for this particular scene, Peter and I both felt that they weren't quite helpful and Jason was in agreement. So I'm hoping the writers won't be too pissed off when they see it!
"It's a collaborative process and because we've got such a long way to go with this storyline and it's such an emotional journey, we don't want to burn all of that out too soon. The tears, the anger, the frustration – of course there's going to be those moments, but sometimes we don't want to be crying all the time in scenes. We want to be giving it variation and colour.
"Also, the audiences don't want to just see us sitting crying all the time either. So there's choices to make in terms of how to play these things. That was one of those moments where all three of us felt that actually this scene should be played not necessarily as the stage directions were suggesting."
What was it like to film the scenes back at the flat?
"I came home exhausted after that day. That day, Pete and I had met with [former rugby league star] Rob Burrow as well, which I think added to the intensity of filming those scenes. Having spent the afternoon with somebody with advanced MND – such a huge hero like Rob who has made such big impact on the MND community and the MND Association – I think added to the filming that day.
"The scenes were absolutely heartbreaking, and even during the read-through, Pete and I were welling up. Sometimes you make a choice of how you're going to play it. Other times you don't get a choice – it just gets you and you literally can't choose anything else, because that's how it's making you feel in that moment.
"The scenes were very emotional. Pete and I get on like a house on fire anyway – we enjoy working with each other very much. Even though we know the story isn't real, we know that Pete's time in the show is now coming to an end, so there is a deep sadness in that.
"Jane Hazlegrove, who plays Bernie, she can't keep her bloody eyes dry at all when she sees Pete on set at the moment – she's welling up! We're grieving Peter leaving. Peter's not dying but the emotions are genuine."
How is Billy feeling about what he and Paul are now facing?
"Billy does the research on what the potential outcome is – especially as he hasn't been there through the initial diagnosis and journey with Paul. He's devastated.
"I think it's a difficult thing for Billy as he's going to be in this pastoral role, but also this is a personal journey, so it's not the same as if it were happening to one of his parishioners. Billy is very aware that their time together is coming to an end.
"Of course, the longer it goes on, the less Paul will be able to do – so I think he's trying to live every moment. As we all should, really, through general life! We all get so wrapped up in the bollocks of life that we forget we need to celebrate all of these moments, because none of us know what's around the corner.
"For Billy it's utterly heartbreaking that he feels like he's just got this guy back and they've got things on track. He thought that everything was going well, and then all of a sudden, this thing comes in and literally smashes everything out of the park. It completely dismantles the future that Billy thought they were building."
Does Billy support Paul's decision to keep his diagnosis secret from the family?
"I'm not sure that Billy supports it, but he understands why. Obviously, Gemma's wedding is coming up and Paul wants her day to be about the wedding, not the fact that he is ill.
"Billy understands why Paul doesn't want to share it at that moment. But also, Billy knows that Paul's not going to be able to keep it from them for that much longer anyway, if the symptoms continue to develop in the way that they are."
Will it be hard for Billy to keep the truth secret at the wedding?
"It's another one of those things where it's about enjoying the moment. I think for Billy, seeing Paul walk Gemma down the aisle is hugely emotional because it's going to be one of those memories after Paul has gone.
"It's a big secret for Billy to keep and he's terrible at keeping secrets. I've been playing him now for getting on for nine years, and honestly, I am astounded sometimes that Billy can't keep his mouth shut. It's unreal for an archdeacon!
"In this situation, Billy only finds out just before the wedding. He doesn't really have much time to process it prior to the ceremony. Then there's the question of Paul – is he going to go to the wedding, isn't he going to go to the wedding? It's a very tense episode in that respect.
"Billy's quite an emotional character and he's not very good at hiding anything at all. But he's very aware that he has to try and hold it together for Gemma and for Paul.
"Realistically, it's not about Billy and it's not his place to tell anyone. So, he has to respect it. He doesn't necessarily agree with it, but he understands why and he has to respect that choice."
You've previously spoken about being an ambassador for the MND Association as your late grandfather died from MND. What has been the reaction to the story since it was announced?
"I've been working with the MND Association for a very long time. People have contacted me personally through the MND Association and on Twitter, saying that they're thrilled that we are telling this story.
"Obviously they're very sad to see Peter leaving, but they're thrilled that we are highlighting MND and showing somebody's journey through the illness. So, it's been very positive.
"Only a couple of weeks ago I was in a bar and a girl came up, asking if I would have a selfie with her. A family member of hers was with her, who is living with MND, and I ended up stood chatting to them for quite a while.
"It's interesting – some people don't want to watch it, because they don't want to see it too much. But then other people are really pleased that we're telling the story. It's obviously always going to be a mixed bag of emotions."
How are your family feeling about you having to explore this on screen?
"It's 21 years since my grandfather died, so we've put a lot of that to bed in some respects, but I think it is dredging things up.
"There was a scene we filmed a couple of weeks ago and Paul's physical debilitation is very visible. In the scene, we're telling the whole family what's going on. I very much remember that in our family too.
"In the scene, Paul gets up and walks out the room and I remember my grandfather doing the same thing. All of us were just sat together, not being able to really comprehend what we were going to have to face as a family.
"When Paul got up and left the room, I just burst into tears. It worked in the scene for Billy, but there are definitely going to be points where it's triggering.
"It's going to be hard watching Paul go through what we've already been through. But in some respects, it may be cathartic. I think it's going to be hard for my family to watch it. I think they're pleased that it's me, weirdly – it's very strange that this storyline has landed on my lap. It's going to be a hard watch for sure."
Can you talk any more about what's ahead?
"I think it's going to be a really lovely blend. There's going to be some really nice moments – Billy and Paul ticking things off bucket lists of adventures together and trying to find that happiness in every moment that they can.
"There will be differences along the way. But I think there's going to be some really fun moments as well. It's not all going to be doom and gloom.
"Even in the bleakest of moments, there is a huge amount of humour to be had and I'm sure we'll find it. I think we've tried to find it even when it's not in there, as it's bloody exhausting crying for 12 hours a day. Then you've got to come home and look at your lines for the next day, which is again, 12 hours of crying.
"We have such a giggle at work anyway, it's a joyous place to work. So,when we get these really heavy storylines, there are moments where somebody chips in with an idea: 'What if they played it this way?' All of a sudden it might spin the scene into a different energy. The writers are already putting that stuff in there anyway, but there are other moments where you are workshopping it as you go."
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm on ITV1 and streams on ITVX.
Read more Coronation Street spoilers on our dedicated homepage
Coronation Street has been working on Paul's storyline with support from the MND Association, which focuses on improving access to care, research and campaigning for people affected by motor neurone disease.
The charity's helpline MND Connect (0808 802 6262) is available Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm, and 7pm to 10.30pm. Calls are free.
You Might Also Like