For over two months now, the Baileys have been settling into their new home in Weatherfield. While their tenure thus far as not been without its hiccups – Ken and Claudia didn’t bank on sharing a house with them via a hole in the wall, for instance – for the most part, their presence on the street has been fun and upbeat. No family on Corrie is without their secrets however, and we’re about to find out more about this seemingly tight knit family.
My fellow blogger Ryan Oxley and I travelled to Coronation Street studios in Manchester on behalf of the Coronation Street Blog to catch up with Lorna Laidlaw who plays Aggie Bailey, wife to Edison and mother to Michael and James. Those not wishing to encounter any spoilers should look away now.
The first thing that struck me when the Baileys arrived on the street was the authenticity of the family. The unit was entirely believable as a father, mother and two sons excited about making a fresh start in a new neighbourhood, and there was great chemistry between the four. What we didn’t know however, was their reason for moving to Weatherfield. A mystery, Lorna tells us, which is about to be revealed.
“This storyline is absolutely the explanation,” she says. “Edison’s got a gambling problem. He has gambled before, and they have spoken about it and he’s promised he’d never gamble again.” Despite Aggie being aware of previous transgressions, however, she has no idea that he lost the previous family home on foot of it. She believes that it was son Michael who accrued the debt which saw them having to downsize, but it turns out he was simply shouldering the blame for his father. “It’s a lovely thing for a son to do really, to take that massive thing on,” says Lorna, “because he does not want his Mum and Dad to split up, which is so sweet.”
We’re told that this gets revealed quite gradually, starting with Aggie’s card being declined in an episode next week. But after that, it starts to escalate. “You see the signs, but you go, ‘You promised me!'” says Lorna. “And when he says it’s going to be alright, I have to believe him. But, when it’s revealed, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.”
Given that Edison has allowed their son to take the blame for his actions, on learning of this double betrayal, Lorna says, “There’s a massive scene with crying, and she does leave, and everybody’s panicking about whether she’ll come back again. It’s that thing of having space just to compute everything and just to make it clear about what you want. What do we need to do to make this right again? And I don’t think you can do that when you’re in the home situation. You need to get yourself out.”
Given Michael’s penchant for money making schemes, Lorna says Aggie falsely believed a culmination of such things resulted in her son racking up enough debt to lose the house. But, as a parent, she wanted to get him out of it. “Young people are constantly offered money that there’s no way they could pay back,” observes Lorna. “So, I would absolutely believe that of him, wanting to do something fantastic with all this.”
Asked if the Baileys would not sit Michael down and tell him to get a ‘real job’ and stop messing about, Lorna laughs. “I know, but they say that about actors all the time,” she cries. “You’ve got to have a dream, my friend!” She adds, “I’d love it for him to one day make a discovery and patent it and it’s absolutely brilliant, people want it, he’s making loads of money. He’s like Del Boy. It’s that rags to riches sort of thing. I quite like it that he’s still trying. I think young people nowadays, they don’t find themselves as early. They take a while to get to know who they are and where they are in the world, and I think he’s doing that. And also, parents give them space to do that.”
If the latest spoiler is anything to go by, the Baileys may be waiting a while for the pounds to come rolling in. So, in the absence of any schemes of the prayer answering kind, we’re told that Aggie goes to work in Roy’s. This means that, together with her existing job in the pharmacy, she’s now holding down two jobs. In terms of who she goes to stay with when she moves out, Lorna tells me, “A friend of hers who she works with who she doesn’t really like. That’s how bad it is. I don’t want to give too much away about that, but it’s brilliant.”
With regard to the lasting impact of Edison’s gambling in the event that they can find a way to move forward, Lorna says of her character, “I think she’d be frightened if he had his phone, she’d be frightened if he didn’t come home, and she’d be frightened if he didn’t turn up for work. So there’s the fear factor, and not trusting somebody, you know? Wanting to taking cards away from them, I think it’s looking at that. And also the support for the family because it’s a very traumatic thing. Your whole existence, that you thought was your existence, has been taken away from one person’s actions. I think it’s a massive thing for a family to go through as well.”
Lorna also reveals that she and Trevor Michael Georges, who plays Edison, have worked to cultivate a close relationship between the couple to ensure that we empathise and understand that it is not an easy thing for Aggie to simply leave him. “What [we] have really tried to do is absolutely set up how in love they are, and how much they love their kids,” she says. “How they work together, you know, cuddling, kissing, all of that’s there before it starts to fall apart, and I thought that was really important that we showed that.”
With regard to her long career in acting, which included eight years in the role of Mrs Tembe on BBC’s Doctors, Lorna is asked where this role on Coronation Street ranks. “It’s really difficult,” she says, “because telly wise, and theatre wise, it’s a very different beast, and I work lots in the community. This is amazing in telly world, but when you’re working with a group of people on a community piece about Rosa Parks, who’ve never acted before, who get a standing ovation, that is incredible. I’m going to see a school on Friday in Birmingham, because I work loads with kids doing drama. I work with the Rudolph Walker Foundation, I work with community groups, I go to schools. So all of that stuff does not stop. It’s a very different thing, but both are amazing.”
In terms of why she decided to become an actor, Lorna says, “I had to do a skill for my Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award when I was really young, and my friend was auditioning for the Birmingham Rep and she asked me to come with her and they said you can’t just sit and watch, you have to do it. And I did it, and then got into the youth theatre. It was meant to be. It’s a true story. And I’ve worked at the Birmingham Rep writing, directing, producing shows for well over thirty odd years.”
Asked what particularly clicked with her about acting, she says, “I think it’s that thing about being a different person. Every actor wants that, it’s why you go into it don’t you, to be somebody else.” With roles including Queen Victoria and Misery’s Annie Wilkes to her credit, she says, “You make sure that there’s enough levels for that character to be absolutely engaging and absolutely brilliant to watch, and that’s what the buzz is.”
With Coronation Street’s sixtieth anniversary approaching in December 2020, Lorna is asked how she would feel about taking part in a live episode, if there was to be one. “I would absolutely love to do that,” is her enthusiastic response. “That’s theatre, isn’t it. That’s like doing a stage show. So I would absolutely be buzzing to do something like that.”
Lorna has such a lovely energy about her, and chatting with her was not only insightful, but great fun. In terms of the show, it will be interesting to see another layer to the Baileys emerge as they negotiate this troubling episode in their family life.