Corrie’s Julie: ‘I was inconsolable reading the scripts’

Coronation Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh talks to TV Times magazine about Hayley Cropper’s devastating cancer diagnosis…

Everyone loves Hayley, and we were devastated to find out she has terminal cancer. How have you felt about the storyline?
“There are moments where it is heartbreaking and I remember reading the scripts for the first time and being inconsolable. I was heartbroken reading every single page and it felt strange. She’s not me, but she is a massive part of me.”

We’re in tears already!
“It’s not all weepy though – for the most part it’s just Roy and Hayley dealing with it in a very Roy and Hayley way.”

Why did you decide to leave the soap after 15 years?
“Doing the play Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester last year made me realise that there’s life in the old dog yet, and there are other things I want to try.”

Are you proud of playing Hayley?
“Whatever happens next, I’ll always be proudest of lovely Mrs Cropper and in particular, what we achieved in changing attitudes to transgender.”

What did you make of your exit storyline?
“I knew that ultimately I would have to be written out of the show because the story would have to honour Roy and Hayley’s relationship. She couldn’t just get up and leave. I feel honoured to be given this kind of storyline because it is a chance to go through something that has pretty much touched everyone in one way or another.”

How does she find telling Roy?
“She knew that telling him was going to be the worst part of it. He becomes an immediate nightmare. He goes into full research mode and makes her drink herbal tea and eat broccoli. She gets really fed up with him, but it’s his way of coping.”

What research did you do for the storyline?
“From speaking to people who have been given this type of news, your initial reaction is not always what you’d imagine. You think that you would immediately burst into tears, but a lot of people say they feel a sense of euphoria when they are told. I guess you start thinking ‘Will I be a survivor, can I do this?'”

Did you find you took the story home with you?
“To play a part well, you sometimes have to trick your body into thinking that is how you are feeling. I remember walking up the stairs one night slightly stooped and I had to remind myself that I wasn’t really ill!”