The big Corrie bus has rolled into Canada: McDonald father and son and the Peacocks. Charles Lawson (Jim McDonald), Nicholas Cochrane (Andy McDonald), Stephen Arnold (Ashley Peacock) and Julia Howarth (Claire Peacock) started a tour of Ontario and Alberta last weekend. They come to my area – Southwestern Ontario – at the end of March. Yippee!
While none of the four are on the show now, Stephen is the only one for whom the door is closed with Ashley having died in the tram crash. So we can hope we’ll see the others on the cobbles again.
I had the pleasure of meeting Nicholas Cochrane years ago when I was researching Other Worlds. His character, Andy, was still a student and we talked at the school then used as Weatherfield Comp. Nicholas got the part of Andy right out of school and had no training other than high school drama class. Working on Coronation Street every day with actors who had a wide range of experience, he said, provided a great education.
Nicholas worked closely with Charles Lawson. Jim McDonald is maybe my favourite Corrie character and that is due to his portrayal by Charles Lawson. When you look at the parts of Jim, there really isn’t much to like. He isn’t a great father, you can hardly call him a good husband, he probably was a good soldier but he never found success or happiness in any other endeavour. He’s quick-tempered, even violent. But. He’s also witty, warm-hearted, generous with his time and love, and a guy you’d like as a friend. Charles Lawson plays the whole man, in all his complexity. Jim is kind of a Janus, so he is, and you see his good face and his bad face, sometimes at the same time.
The Jim and Liz story I have never forgotten is when she told him about a long-ago affair she had with his Army buddy. He exploded, hauled her out of the car, hit her and left her on the pavement. It was shocking, as was the aftermath when she and he continued to deal with it. The violence was delved into, with his sons confronting him and also examining their own relationship with him, pre- and post-beating. It also showed Jim’s examination of himself and his relationship with his family.
I had those episodes on tape. I showed scenes to my Popular Culture class to illustrate how a “social issue” story can be presented effectively. I contrasted it to a wife abuse story on the soap The Young and The Restless. Y&R’s involved a character, back after many years away, and her husband and daughter who hadn’t been seen before. It said the right things and gave information about what a woman should do in a situation of domestic violence. But, while you were horrified, it didn’t really connect. These weren’t people you knew. And then they disappeared so you didn’t have to think about them, or the issue, again. With the McDonalds, all aspects of family violence were looked at without preaching, through the vehicle of a family you knew well and continued to see. You couldn’t help but care.