Belfast Telegraph

Playing character with MS has been life-changing - Corrie actor Richard Hawley

Acting out the devastating diagnosis has made the actor reconsider his own life.

Coronation Street actor Richard Hawley has said the experience of playing a character with multiple sclerosis (MS) has been life-changing for him.

Richard plays Johnny Connor in the ITV soap, a character who recently discovered he has been living with the symptoms of MS for 20 years but is trying to keep his diagnosis from friends and family.

Johnny has called off his wedding to Jenny Bradley (Sally Ann Matthews) and this week will finally reveal his illness to his daughter Kate (Faye Brookes), explaining he does not want to ruin Jenny’s life by forcing her to become his carer.

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The actor told the Daily Mirror of his new storyline: “Yes, it has changed me, I take lessons from what I have learned.

“I feel really enriched by the whole experience.

“Once you are through the diagnosis, you get on with your life and in some ways it feels like life but slightly supercharged.”

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He continued: “There is an end for all of us and there is probably some illness and pain.

“As you get older, various bits and bobs go wrong.

“My dad had Alzheimer’s and dementia, and there is something out there waiting for us all.”

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Talking about how he had prepared for his character’s story, he said: “From speaking with the MS Society, I have learned you should try to get on with building creatively and positively, and try to be courageous.

“I have tried to do a bit more and enjoy where I am and be engaged with life.

“We are in a time where life is about hope, not fear, and caring for one another.

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“MS is not a great thing but it helps people to treasure the preciousness of life and trying to keep going forward.”

Despite the tough news for Johnny, Richard has reassured fans it does not signal the end of his time on the cobbles.

He said: “The first thing (producer) Kate (Oates) said was it is not an exit story, which I sort of knew because it is not that rapid unless it is a severe case.

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“Johnny’s type is relapsing and remitting. He has had it actually for at least two decades, he realises.”

He added: “It is a good, deep, honest and nurtured story.”

MS Society chief executive Michelle Mitchell encouraged Corrie viewers affected by Johnny’s storyline to get in touch for support.

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She said: “Finding out you have multiple sclerosis (MS) can be really difficult – not just for the person diagnosed, but also family and friends.

“Many people affected by MS will be able to relate to the issues Johnny is facing and it’s great to see Coronation Street raising awareness about MS through this new storyline.

“More than 100,000 people live with MS in the UK and it’s a really unpredictable and challenging condition.

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“We’d encourage anyone affected by the issues raised in this storyline to contact our free and confidential helpline – 0808 800 8000.”

Johnny can be seen telling Kate about his MS diagnosis in Wednesday’s episode of Coronation Street on ITV at 7.30pm.

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