Friday, 22 August 2014

He's back, so he is

(This post was originally posted by Ruth Owen on the Coronation Street Blog in July 2014, reposted with permission.)

What a joy to interview Charlie Lawson and how fantastic that he will soon be back on our screens, albeit in jail.  His first appearance is scheduled for August 8th.

I met with ‘Jim’ so I did, at a press event earlier this month at Media City in Salford.  My impression of actor Charlie Lawson was of an easy-going man, who didn’t allow the vagaries of life to trouble him too much and who was very much enjoying himself. He also looked remarkably well and a good bit younger than his 54 years.  As he spoke, I caught myself wondering whether there was a more easily identifiable accent in the whole of UK soap opera than the Northern Irish of Jim. I would welcome your thoughts.  There was no doubt that Charlie was very willing to talk about his return to our favourite soap and was delighted to be doing so.

He did express a little nostalgia for times gone by – Jim joined in 1989 - when there were only 2 episodes a week  -on a Monday and a Friday. (How did we bear it?)   Back then, Charlie told us, there was time to socialise, because the pace of filming was much slower. There was even a Coronation Street cricket team. As with life, so with soaps – the pace has increased dramatically and now that there are five episodes a week, with some of the cast filming as many as 16 scenes a week, the social side of Coronation Street has dwindled as the episode production has increased involving intensive work, so that people now do their work, then go home. Nothing stays the same. Charlie referred to himself as ‘an old dinosaur’ as he much enjoyed what once was.

Charlie has close friends on the cast, past and present. He mentioned the extremely talented Sarah Lancashire, who once played Raquel and Simon Gregson, Steve, to whom he is very close.

Since leaving Coronation Street Charlie has been involved in theatre. One part he particularly enjoyed was the part of Frank, the university lecturer, which was played by Michael Caine in the film of Educating Rita. He was also in a run of Rain Man with Neil Morrissey, probably best known for Men Behaving Badly.  He’s also been to Canada, filming a BBC documentary about The Titanic.  

Charlie also runs a farm shop in Prestbury, Cheshire, with his wife, Debbie, but doesn’t serve customers as he cannot work the till, he volunteered to tell us. He does engage with customers though, doing front of house and talking about his produce. Asked if he feels tempted to give up acting and just work in the shop, he simply replied, ‘Once an actor, always an actor.’ Good news for us then. Jim will be on screen until September and will play about thirty episodes.

Charlie very much enjoys playing the role of Jim. Initially the writers had no idea exactly who they were writing for, so when Jim got the part he added in his Northern Irish dialect, at times telling the writers that Jim wouldn’t say various Mancunian phrases. Charlie told the writers what he would say hence the phrases we know so well from Jim’s repertoire, including ‘Catch yourself on, so you are, so it is, and what about you.’

As we all know, Jim is in prison for his attempt to rob a bank. He is though making the best of his time there and is known as The Landlord - the Mr. Big of the prison. From Jim, prisoners can get virtually anything as no one seems incorruptible. He is well-respected by both prisoners and prison officers, as an ex-soldier.  Peter of course is in prison and is seeking alcohol. Inevitably Peter meets Jim. These two characters have never previously done a scene together.  

It is a mutually beneficial encounter, as through Peter, Jim can have Peter ask Deirdre to ask Liz to visit him. In return Peter can have whatever he wants. Jim is feeling very cut off from his family. Liz promised him she would wait for him, but that promise seems as if it was more for appeasement purposes than anything else.

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