It has been nearly two years since Peter Barlow was a permanent fixture on Coronation Street, and three months since I was almost a not so permanent fixture on my chair after glimpsing his return at a Corrie press screening. Actor Chris Gascoyne now feels ready to reprise the role for a number of interesting reasons which I was privileged to hear about in person when I met him in Manchester this week. And while he is cagey concerning what Peter might be hiding, his excitement about returning to the show is certainly no secret.
With a new producer at the helm since his departure, Chris gave an insight into his meeting with Kate Oates and his thoughts on where she’s taking the programme. “It’s early days yet, but I think she’s really bright and she’s got a great vision for the show. The way she talks about it, and the characters, is on a deeper level, using history for drama and all that, and I thought it was brilliant. So, I genuinely feel like I’m lucky to come back at a very good time.”
It seems the manner in which the unfinished business between Peter and Leanne might be dealt with may offer a good example of this depth. “They never talked about what happened” notes Chris, “but again, with the new producer and the writers, we’re finding out the conversation that me and Jane [Danson] always wanted them to have and they never did. But now we’re actually seeing those things, which is quite satisfying from the characters’ point of view, and from mine and Jane’s. And it’s not high drama, it’s human drama, which is nice.”
Chris is certainly looking forward to seeing what lies ahead. “It’s just really exciting to see where these stories are going to develop and, as an actor, what I can bring to it” he enthuses. “I’ve moved on a lot – two years older, two years of different experiences – and I’m excited finding out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to do it.”
With Peter set to be joined by Adam and Daniel, creating something of a male Barlow dynasty, Chris offered a great take on how this is an interesting twist on Corrie tradition. “Initially Coronation Street was about the families, it was a very family oriented show, one family against the other, like Romeo and Juliet. I think that’s what Kate is bringing back and I think she’s going to do it brilliantly.” He continues, “like I said, it’s early days, but there is so much subtext under the five main Barlows in that family. It was the women that were very dominant in the past and now it’s become dominated by the Barlow men, which again is very different.”
But what of Tracy? “Of course Tracy’s always there” Chris notes, “and she’s always very heard and present, but all that’s good because there’s so much history, there’s so many things to be sorted out with all those characters and it genuinely is exciting.”
So, can we expect to see Peter mature? “Sometimes when he goes to Ken or Leanne on his own, he sulks, he’s like a baby” Chris laughs, adding “but I think he’s getting better and I can see it kind of progressing more and that’s what’s interesting. Were not just staying with the same – of course, he’s fundamentally the same character, but then these new experiences he’s going to have will change him.”
Chris’s enthusiasm and how he analyses his character makes for a fascinating interview, and it’s interesting to hear of his hopes for Peter. “I would hate him to get boring, I would hate him to be sensible, but to have more profound experiences and learn more” he reveals. “If he was boring, if he were just ordering a half and going in the pub and being dead nice to everybody, then it would be really, really dull, so I don’t want him to change that much. But, what I am saying is, I enjoy his progression, finding out about him or what he thinks.”
We’ve learned that Peter is sober, and Chris has similarly interesting views on his character’s relationship with alcohol and how he might like it to be represented. “He’s struggling to now face these people in his life head-on without drink involved; he can’t do it, he doesn’t know how to do it” he notes. “The thing is, if Peter did drink, he’ll die now. All the audience know that if he drinks again, he’s going to die. So, if he does drink again, we’ve gotta play that out. It’s got to be finished” he explains, adding, “I kind of hope that we don’t keep using that as a device, when he says ‘aw, I can’t deal with life’ and he gets the bottle; I don’t think we need that anymore.
I think it would be more interesting if he went into an AA group and everybody’s sat round and he says ‘listen this is what my day’s been like’, and then we hear these things that you wouldn’t hear on the street and when he goes back we see him having to deal with it. I think that’s a better way of attacking the drinking story – it gets a bit old that, looking at it, and smashing the glass in the sink.”
Having seen Chris in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame at Home, Manchester in March of this year, I had to take the opportunity to tell him that I thought he was fantastic and I asked him if there was a character he’d played on his break that helped him bring anything new to Peter.
“Definitely that, definitely Samuel Beckett” he told me. “David [Neilson] would say the same. It changes your whole being to be privileged enough to do 60 performances of a Samuel Beckett play every night and rehearse it. So, yes, all that, everything feeds something else so that’s why I’m quite hyper at the moment because I really am enjoying doing it, and exploring and finding it and I’m privileged to work every day on something that I love.”
There is no doubt sitting in front of Chris Gascoyne and listening to him that he means this most sincerely. His love for and knowledge of his craft is so endearing and intriguing, and it’s inspiring to hear him express it so ardently.
It will be no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I am thrilled at Peter’s return to the cobbles, and I am very much looking forward to enjoying the quality performances we’ve had the pleasure of witnessing from Chris over the years in this brilliant role.
Read more about Peter’s return.
This interview was conducted on behalf of the Coronation Street Blog.