Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Revenants On The Street

(This post was originally posted by Rachel Stevenson on the Coronation Street Blog in January 2016.)

With the news that Richie O'Driscoll will be back in a new storyline, I thought I'd write a blogpost about recurring actors. When Richie turned up at the climax of the rather ridiculous ping pong tournament story, I thought: Hang on, we've seen him before - didn't he investigate Liam Connor's death way back when? A post on this very site confirmed my suspicions. You're bang to rights, James Midgeley! Despite “Richie” having three different names, it is conceivable that he would be the police officer on three different cases, but it's a bit weird that he would be an underwear buyer as well.

Thinking about whether Tony Gordon killed Liam Connor

Thinking very seriously about table tennis
The practical reasons for this are obvious: if a previously cast actor is available, then there's no need for auditions. However, re-using the same actor in a different role takes away from Corrie's reality - the reality that the set designer, writers, actors, directors and producer strive so hard to create. In the same way that we love the continuity points (Bistro customers are still eating those olives that Gail (Lewis) over-ordered) and decry it when the soap is inconsistent (the writers forgetting that Kevin had a child who died), we love it when actors return to play the same character – Jenny Reece, the curly haired registrar, who must surely groan when she sees the address of the bride and groom, knowing that she won't get an early lunch, or the sardonic, bald desk sergeant at Weatherfield police station, or the undergarments buyer in a wheelchair who likes to flirt with Carla at their Bistro business meetings. It would be rather odd if Jenny rocked up as (e.g.) new character Ava Baraclough, Trainee Assistant Manager at Freshco's, for example. What makes it fine for one guest actor to be the same character but others to play several?

"I bet £10 the bride doesn't turn up."

It works well sometimes: Alison King played a bored housewife who seduced the young(er) Jason before she strutted onto the cobbles as Carla C. Joe Duttine (Tim) was a police officer before Fay(e) found him on the internet. The current Robert Preston was Leanne's drug counsellor back in 2000, and Antony Cotton's first appearance was as a nurse at a staff party, at which Gail's ex, and current cheesemonger, Martin and Katy (not dancing Katie or current Connor Kate - the previous Katy, who killed her dad, then died, then married Tyone in real life) snogged. When he turned up the following year as fully formed character Sean Tully, his stint in the NHS was never mentioned and he didn't even say hello to his pal Martin, before the latter left for Liverpool, never to return, even when his granddaughter was born. And of course, there's Dave Dutton, the man of a million parts. 
Photo from
The worst re-use of an actor was Colin Fishwick. Although I loved the character, actor and storyline, David Crellin was immediately recognisable as Steve's former girlfriend Ronnie Clayton's gangster husband, Jimmy, and was, to my mind, dead. Perhaps John Stape knew that when he took Colin's identity; Colin had one to spare.

Colin Fishwick, or is it Jimmy Clayton?

Perhaps I'm being overly fussy. After all, we believe it when a character moves from Emmerdale to Corrie or when an ex-reality pop star turn up. We understand when Nicky Tilsley returns three inches taller and seven years older. I wonder how beloved a character has to be before they can be replaced with another actor? It's unlikely that Emily will return from Peru looking like, e.g., Patricia Routledge. But would they replace Chris Gascoyne, given that Peter's already been played by a few different actors? What about, say, Kylie Platt, Luke Britton, or former characters Graham Proctor or Andy MacDonald? Could they come back, played by someone else? Who do you think is too iconic to return with a different head?

Deirdre: A Life on Coronation Street - official ITV tribute to a soap icon. Available here.

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