Thursday, 23 June 2011

Interview with Corrie’s real-life Hayley Cropper

This interview was first published on Coronation Street Blog in August 2010. The woman interviewed has been an advisor to Granada for Hayley Cropper's character to make sure they got it right when dealing with trans gender issues. Reprinted with permission.

Here at the Coronation Street blog, we are privileged to bring you an exclusive interview with the lady who helped bring Corrie’s Hayley Cropper to life.

Working with Press for Change, the lobbying and educational organisation, which campaigns to achieve equal civil rights and liberties for all transsexual people in the UK, she’s been the advisor to Coronation Street since April 1998, three months after Hayley first appeared on screen.

We are absolutely honoured to speak now to the woman whose help and advice has propelled Hayley to become one of Corrie’s best loved female characters.

Q: First off, how did you enjoy Hayley’s wedding tonight on Corrie?
Wonderful! Very happy that Granada have continued to invest in Roy and Hayley as a couple and still occasionally drop in the kind of everyday situations that trans people face, legally and socially, in the wider world. The legal wedding of the Croppers is, in a way, the final step in a 12 year journey. It was all shot on location at the end of June, when we still had a summer, so it all looks beautiful. It was a lovely atmosphere on set for those five days of filming... I got quite emotional!

Q: Most people thought that Roy and Hayley were already married, so why was this second wedding necessary?
When Roy and Hayley first wanted to marry, they were unable to do so because the law at the time refused to acknowledge that Hayley was now a woman, i.e. she was still legally male. The best they could have was a “blessing ceremony”. The change of law brought about by the Gender Recognition Act of 2004 means that persons such as Hayley could now apply for a revised birth certificate, legally allowing her to marry the man of her choice, Roy. Since the law changed, I’d been hoping the story team would “finish the story” as it were, so I was delighted when I was told in March that it would indeed be featured this year.

Q: How did you get involved in bringing Hayley to life?
I was introduced to the story team by campaigning group Press for Change in 1998, just as Hayley was leaving Weatherfield for the first time, because they wanted to bring her back later that year, and really get to grips with her as a person and the subject of transsexuality as a plotline. I had already expressed a desire to do so, because there were very large parallels with Hayley’s life and my own. It was more a consultation exercise about her thoughts, emotions and hopes, than it was about the legalities. Things that only a first-hand experience could relate. The regular advisory role gradually diminished as years went by and ended around 2001, but I have always tried to stay in contact with the office, and offer whatever help I can.  

Q: Are there any of your own experiences that you suggested for Hayley’s storylines on Corrie?
There weren’t that many incidents as such. It was more life experiences, such as her father refusing to acknowledge her as Hayley, the missing photographs of her as a teenager, the fear of discovery and the humiliation felt when insults were thrown. The tax office blunder experienced by Hayley and Mike Baldwin was one of the good ones though. Because the first meeting between myself and the researcher was taped, a lot of my quotes and lines were used by Hayley over the next couple of years. I was often asked what my reaction would be to certain situations.

Q: What’ve you been most proud of in your advisory role with Hayley on Corrie?
Helping to change public perceptions I suppose. Not all trans people are some of the attention-seekers we see occasionally in the press. I’ve also been very happy at the warmth and love shown by the public to this “odd couple” love story, which has had to overcome so many challenges to get to where they are today.

Q: Isn't Julie Hesmondhalgh, who plays Hayley on screen, a patron of Press for Change?
Julie’s patronage is not a duty, nor is she led by Press for Change. She is simply an ambassador for “the cause” as it were. Because of her character, and our personal friendship, she can answer almost any question on the subject with honesty and insight. She has a passion for social justice and equality, and the role of Hayley has allowed her to have her part in changing the world in a very real way. She was the perfect person to cast as Hayley... in every way.

Q: Do you think having such a high-profile transsexual such as Hayley has helped change the public’s understanding and perception of transsexuals in the UK?
It has been very encouraging to see the sensationalist aspect of transsexualism diminish, as the wider public came to know a trans woman face-to-face, albeit a fictional one. The vast majority of transpeople want the same as Hayley; a quiet life with the one they love. For those of us who experienced the conflicts and emotions of being trans from very early childhood, life up to the point of transition was anything but quiet. Life has, in many ways, but not all, been made a little easier for the other transpeople out there, men and women, who want just that.

Q: What would you dearly love to see Hayley achieve in the future on Corrie?
After this wedding, she’s achieved everything I think... certainly in the realm of trans issues. I’ve often suggested to the story team that the issue of Hayley’s mum needs addressing. (She left Hayley and her dad to run off with another man when Hayley was only 12). So technically, she’s out there somewhere.)
Although the storyline about foster child Wayne back in 2001 has prevented the couple fostering or adopting a child officially... I’d like to see them become some kind of parents in the future. Having said that, they almost are, to Fiz and Becky.I’d also like to see Hayley become her own boss somehow since she’s got the skills and drive to do so. Most of all, I just want to see Roy and Hayley happy ever after.

You can read more about Press for Change and their involvement with Coronation Street at the website here


Anonymous said...

I actually met Julie Hesmondhalgh who plays Hayley, many years ago at a couple of parties. She is a very nice lady. And when I went into hospital in 2001, she not only phoned the hospital to make sure I was OK following surgery, but she also sent a get-well card (which I still have). But its not just on trans-issues, politically she's right-on too :)

Tvor said...

She's a lovely woman, i've yet to meet her but i know a few who have.

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