Brian Park on ‘shaking up’ Coronation Street

I’ll put it this way. As with all these things, and you learn these things as you go, it’s like, “Oh right Brian, we want you go in and shake it up a bit” and when you start shaking it, they’re like “well we don’t want you to shake it too much though…” So you get this idea that yes, you have to be radical and it needs a good shaking up but then they go, hold on a second! So in some ways it’s likened to, you know… you’ve got this venerable old institution. It’s like running a stately home. You’re only there as a custodian and you’re going to hand it on to future generations, or the next producer, the next sucker that comes on. So you introduce lions, and an adventure park. But at what point does it destroy the original? It’s just one of those things were you make a judgment call. I know that after I left there was talk, “the problem with Brian was that there were too many big stories and they were all coming one after the other” and you go… err, as though you’ve only got a treasure trove of ideas and you can only hand them over to the public. Well, not by that time, I don’t think. The great thing was, we started one story, like say Sally and Kevin’s marriage getting broken up. And then once you’ve stopped that, you know, you brought in Deirdre.

Oh and the other thing – sorry, I should remember – during my time, in the midst of doing all this vamping stuff up and making it relevant to younger people and a southern base. It was the great – “When are we going to have a gay character?” and at that point, I went, oh, God, because at that point EastEnders had had a gay character. We had Brookside, and it just looked as though we’d be slowly sadly filling it… and so we trumped them all by having a transsexual! So Hayley come in and she went on for all those years and when she died, in the really great storyline that they had for her exit, and Julie Hesmondhalgh was a fantastic actress as well. But it was that slight devilment that we had in our day just to go, because… I always remember when, I think it was Ann McManus’ idea – it certainly wasn’t mine – said, we were thinking about it, and should we make a transsexual and I fell off laughing. I always remember the writer, who had introduced Hayley, and she was just introduced as yet another mousy from the garment factory sort of character and there was nothing there. When we announced it to the… What they got at the story conferences was a thing saying the plot of what the next batch of episodes was going to be. I just remember the writer going, her character was X, and we reveal, she’s a transsexual! And she went, “this is a joke, isn’t it?” “No!” So it was interesting. We decided not to go gay, we thought that had been done, so we went transsexual. And it worked.

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