Tuesday, 17 June 2014

EXCLUSIVE: Rob Kills Tina! Interview with Marc Baylis and Stuart Blackburn

(This post was originally posted by Emma Hynes on the Coronation Street Blog in May 2014.)

After weeks of speculation and anticipation, Tina McIntyre’s killer is finally revealed as none other than Rob Donovan, in what was a truly sensational and gripping episode.

Having kept his identity a secret since last Monday when I attended a screening and interview session with Michelle Keegan and Stuart Blackburn, I’m now excited to reveal that we were also joined by Marc Baylis on the day.

After entering to some playful boos, he spoke of the “massive relief” that a handful of people now knew, revealing that the storyline has been talked about since the end of October, and that a lot of work and personal embargo has gone into keeping the huge secret. Marc was thoroughly engaging, interesting and passionate about the character of Rob, and I could have listened to him for hours.

Stuart Blackburn revealed that having identified a dark edge to Rob’s character shortly after taking over at Coronation Street, he has spent a long time looking for a story where he could back him into a corner to see what he would do. Marc added that this is when Rob will either lash out or do something that may appear pretty callous to others, but is a means of protection in his eyes.

I’m told Rob will cover his tracks in many different ways over the coming months. “He’s not a stupid man”, explains Marc, “he knows where to point the finger, where to play the innocent, where to play different parts that will protect him, to maybe cast shadows on to other characters as well. This is the beginning of a massive new chapter for Rob so there are a lot of changes.”

Rob isn’t your stereotypical cold blooded killer and it was never his intention to kill Tina, but rather to protect Carla from finding out about Peter’s affair. Marc reveals that the accidental and unplanned murder has a massive effect on him, and pulls him closer to his roots and family. “We go through that with Rob,” he explains, “it’s not just ‘Oh, he’s a killer now, he’s a murderer!’ we actually see the through line of how he deals with it psychologically.” He also promises a number of twists along the way.

Considering Rob’s good heartedness which has been increasingly revealed in recent times, Stuart Blackburn tells us, “I would love it if people have sympathy for the character of Rob”. He is against making simple judgements that fail to take into account a person’s motivations, background or circumstances, and observes “I suspect most people who end up killing people aren’t evil tyrants without a conscience or morality, it’s much more interesting if for a few seconds on screen you’re really with him and think, ‘no, no, no it can’t be’.”

It follows that Stuart impresses the importance of remembering Rob and Carla’s tough upbringing at the hands of an alcoholic mother and a succession of step-fathers. “They’ve come from a world of violence”, he tells us “we can’t forget that behind the glamour.”

Both Stuart and Marc describe Rob as a man with a conscience whose situation is far from straightforward. “This is not a black and white storyline that takes us through to the end,” Marc tells us, “there are a lot of grey areas which is why there are moments when hopefully from an audience point of view they see Rob as a person not as a murderer.” What adds a tragic dimension is that where Rob’s personal life is concerned, he’s probably never been happier. I certainly felt a twinge of sadness that it was him, as he has really come out of his shell in recent times, and I find him both endearing and immensely likeable.

We’re assured that Rob does everything possible to avoid being caught. But would he kill again to cover his tracks? Stuart reveals, “It would depend entirely on the circumstances. I think he’d do an awful lot to defend his sister and increasingly, anything to defend Tracy.” How about letting someone else go to trial? Marc tells us that “In order to protect the people that are foremost to him, maybe he would do that, yeah, which does bring out a callous side to him.”

He added, “It depends on who that person is, and it depends on what they’ve done to him.” He talked of the theme of history repeating itself, noting that the first time Rob went to prison involved an incident in which he tried to help support his mother, and this time, his crime is committed in an attempt to protect his sister.

Both Marc and Stuart agreed that Rob would never betray Tracy, but neither would go as far as to say whether or not he would confess to her. Marc explained how Rob has seen a side of her that the audience haven’t necessarily seen. “In their quiet time, in their downtime, she’s got a very loving side with him,” he reveals, “It’s a genuine relationship and I think that’s the key to why it works.”

While the notorious soap-killer is guaranteed to be remembered, their continued presence in the programme is generally short lived. Marc confesses that playing one did make him anxious for his future on the show, but acknowledges that there is always going to be trepidation, and it’s not something an actor should focus on. The character of Rob is the longest part he’s played in 15 years of acting, and he feels very privileged to be chosen from the cast to be such a huge part of this storyline.

Asked how he will react to potential negative reactions from the public following the big reveal, he joked, “I think I’ll even swim into work across the canal so no one can see me.” On a serious note, he observed, “I can’t think about that too much, I think I’m going to have to take it on the chin. I live a pretty low profile life anyway so I’ll just have to find new techniques to hide away.” When it was pointed out that Tony appeared a popular choice for Tina's killer, Marc joked, “I’m still wishing it was Tony.”

We’re assured that a massive twist lies in store tomorrow night, and if the quality of tonight’s episode is anything to go by, it promises to be similarly unmissable.

By Emma Hynes
Twitter: @ELHynes

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