Poor Liz McDonald. I’ll bet she’d never have guessed that sleeping with Johnny Connor earlier in the year would lead to her being the victim of a hit and run on Christmas Day. Yes, Jenny’s downward spiral has involved tracking, an escort site, copious amounts of alcohol, bruises, broken ribs, and now accidentally running over, while drunk, the newly sacked barmaid she suspects of continuing to cheat with her husband.
It is Christmas after all, and when better for any sorry mess to come out? But, things may get a whole lot worse with Johnny having now taken the rap for Jenny’s crime. I travelled to Manchester with fellow blogger Martin Leay, on behalf of the Coronation Street Blog, for a chat with Richard Hawley to get the low down on his character’s actions and what might happen next. If you don’t want any spoilers, it’s best to look away now.
So, why does Johnny risk everything by lying to the police and taking the rap? “Because he’s her hero,” says Richard, laughing. “Well, he’s got to, that’s how it feels, because she doesn’t stand a chance because there’s a lot of drink issues and so on.”
I asked Richard if the decision is a no brainer for Johnny, or if he is conflicted in any way. “It’s a no brainer,” he replies. “The consequences for her, because she’s drunk I guess, would be worse.” He adds, “It’s about love and protection of the people closest to you.” Richard also confirms that it’s a split second decision that Johnny makes. “I don’t think he’s thought it through,” he says.
Asked if he thinks it might it be because Johnny still feels guilty for cheating on Jenny, Richard replies, “Honestly, not really, no. I don’t think so anymore. I think that’s been the problem. I think that came out of a particular situation. He’s gone through it, I think he understands it, and the problem is, Jenny can’t leave it alone.” He continues, “Once all the drama is over, then you’re left with the sediment of it, and I just think she can’t get rid of it, and he doesn’t really know what’s going on. But he’s apologised a million times, and yeah, he just wants it all to be good and tight and start again.” While he may no longer feel guilty for his infidelity, is there a part of Johnny that blames himself for Jenny’s actions? “I think there’s an element of that. He takes responsibility for it, for sure,” Richard says. “He knows that she’s in this state because of what he did.”
Speaking of Johnny’s reaction on Christmas Day, having learned what Jenny has been up to, Richard says that while he adds it all to the list of “mayhem and madness” going on around them, “I think that there’s an incredibly protective element in their relationship. It’s taken a real wobble over this whole year. Out of this comes a huge amount of truth. It’s only borne of love, isn’t it.” He adds, “It’s mind boggling really, what she’s been up to. But, the drinking has been an issue, that’s been kind of difficult, so that’s something that’s worrying him. But in a way, as soon as you find out why, then even that’s kind of understandable. With all of this, we can start again, we can draw a line under all of it. Unfortunately, what happens is, we keep drawing lines, and then it turns out Jenny’s taken a couple of stumbles forward again, and there’s another line to be drawn.”
Asked if he feels Johnny can forgive Jenny for her actions, Richard says, “Yeah. They are growing stronger; if they could just work through this one. I think it was bound to come up. I don’t think you can go through those kinds of traumas and expect someone to just draw a line and it’s all nice and clean. She’s incredibly human and she’s been incredibly hurt, and for both of them, trust is obviously really important, and he’s broken it. What do you do except start again.” He adds, “Understand and forgive but be amazed and bewildered at the extent of it as well.”
Richard offers some interesting insights into how he sees this story. “I think it produces really interesting ideas about love, and how many people you can love and in what way we love,” he says. “There’s a really great moment where Jenny says ‘oh, so it was just meaningless’ and he goes, ‘no it wasn’t actually, it really wasn’t, it was actually quite deep, the whole thing was full of depth and love and friendship, and it was complex, and I’m not going to say it meant nothing, because it didn’t.’ So that’s where we are with it and she’s got that to face. But I chose her, and I kind of love that, ‘cos that’s the truth.”Might all of this have been avoided if Liz hadn’t returned to work at the Rovers? “Well, it would have been swept under the carpet maybe,” says Richard. “I think it would have been a lot better if either Jenny had sacked her or that she’d chosen to go and you’ve got a kind of clarity about that and I wasn’t left in the middle of quite an intense stand off going on. It’s quite fun actually, being a ping pong ball between those two, because they’re both amazing actresses. So, it’s just been enormous fun. But yeah, it would have been easier, but then it wouldn’t have been resolved, it wouldn’t have come out and at some point it all has to come out. These are fears that, for Jenny, come out of a context, but they also come out of her context. She’s always had a vulnerability about her, and I’ve always felt that’s partly where the attraction is. There’s a bit of support going on.”
Asked if he thinks Johnny copped out of taking action himself, Richard laughs. “Listen, the pub’s a matriarchy, right? That’s how it is. Yes, perhaps, but he makes that decision eventually.” While Johnny did sack Liz on Christmas Day, we know, of course, that Jenny initially left it to Liz to decide whether or not to return to work. “She could have sacked her,” Richard says, “So she takes that territory. It’s between them, I feel. I mean, alright, there’s an action in there, there’s a trigger event,” he adds, “I’d like to say it’s nothing to do with Johnny, but it obviously is.”
Given the strong friendship between them that Richard acknowledges throughout the interview, he’s asked if he worries about Liz in the aftermath of her collapse. “Yeah, absolutely. He worries about Liz a lot,” he says, adding, “it was tough. The relationship, and the mistake, with Liz belongs to both of them, belongs to a time, belongs to a certain context of events. But in the end, someone has to go. These are two women who are frankly at war with each other and I’ve got to go with one or the other. So, I think he’s quite hard on Liz, but not from the heart, just because he’s just practical, getting the boundaries clear, so Johnny and Jenny can just crack on and start again.”
Asked if Jenny’s and Johnny’s actions in terms of the hit and run might put the pub at risk, Richard replies, “It absolutely puts the pub at risk. I mean, there’s an awful lot going on here, and we could both be taken out of the frame.” He adds, “I’ve got some good strong women who could run that pub though. I’ve got the Connors.” When it’s pointed out to him that they’re all rather busy, he grins, adding “ah they’ll pull a pint for me.”
So, no matter the outcome, can Johnny and Jenny save their marriage? “Absolutely, yeah, I think they’ll save it,” he says, “because I think they want to work hard on it. The question is, what are you saving? Are you saving something that’s honest, or are you saving something that’s still got all that unresolved stuff to be dealt with? And I think what’s happening is that that’s all coming out, and we know where we are with it. So we’re saving something that’s less burdened than before.”While we’ll have to wait and see how all this pans out for the trio, it was a pleasure to chat with Richard, and I hope he enjoyed what he described as his best part of Christmas – “that bit where you just sit down, and you can get stuck into the big round tin of chocolates, when it’s all over, and you’re just left with the love and wrapping paper.”
By Emma Hynes