“I couldn’t wait to admit killing Tina”
But Corrie’s Rob Donovan fears backlash from the public
After six long months, Marc Baylis can finally confirm to the world it his character Rob Donovan who killed Coronation Street's gutsy and glamorous barmaid Tina McIntyre.
But one thing he won't be doing now that it's out in the open, is appearing in public places! Michelle Keegan, who has played Tina for six years — and who was recently named Sexiest Female at the British Soap Awards for the sixth time — has far too many fans for that to happen.
“I think I'll even swim to work [along Salford's ship canal] so no-one can see me,” says 37-year-old Baylis. “I'm just going to have to take it on the chin.”
When it was announced that Keegan's character was being killed off, a few faces emerged as potential suspects. There was Peter Barlow, who had an affair with Tina; his pregnant wife Carla; Tina's long-standing nemesis Tracy Barlow and her fiance (and Carla's brother) Rob.
So keen were the cast and crew to keep it a secret that four alternative endings were shot. No wonder Baylis is relieved that the big reveal has now happened.
“I've just been looking forward to getting it out there because we haven't been able to speak about it for over six months,” says Baylis, who joined the soap in 2012.
As viewers saw on May 27, Rob went to Tina's flat to confront her about the affair she'd been having with his brother-in-law.
“He's had his suspicions about Tina and Peter and, when he discovered the truth about their affair, was determined to make sure Tina didn't tell Carla,” explains Baylis.
“As much as Rob doesn't think Peter is good enough for his sister, now that she's pregnant, he wants her to be happy.”
But Tina's never been one to shy away from confrontation, and aside from the fact that she wouldn't keep quiet about the adultery, she told Rob that she knew all about his and Tracy's dodgy dealings.
Rob's already been in prison, somewhere he has no desire to return to, and it wasn't long before the argument escalated and the pair ended up in a tussle, which saw Tina plunge from the balcony to the cobbles.
The final scene might only have lasted a few minutes, but it took three nights to shoot — partly because of the technicalities involved, but also as Keegan suffers from vertigo.
“Not at the end of that scene, she didn't!” quips Baylis. “But when you're up that high, safety has to come first and we had a great team on that shoot.”
The killing is merely the start of the drama, however. In the scenes before the push, Peter was spotted visiting Tina's flat, Tracy had left her own engagement party (to oversee a drop-off of suspect goods, though the residents won't know this), and after Peter had confessed his wrongdoing to Carla she'd stormed off to the flat, which means there are a few guilty-looking people on the street.
“Rob's not a stupid man, he knows how to play different cards that will protect him and cast shades on other characters,” says Baylis.
“This is the beginning of massive new chapter for Rob. It's not just a case of ‘he's a killer', we see how he deals with it and there are a lot of twists.”
Viewers were introduced to Carla's estranged brother after he was released from Strangeways Prison, where he'd spent time for armed robbery.
“From what we've heard about Rob and Carla's background, it was brutal, harsh, they had an alcoholic mother and a succession of stepdads. They've come from a world of poverty and violence. You kind of forget that behind the glamour they came from the gutter,” notes producer Stuart Blackburn.
“There's a tougher edge to him and I've been waiting a long time for a story where we can back him into a corner and go, ‘let's see what he really can do'.”
Baylis agrees: “He's trying to protect his family, protect Carla from finding out about the affair. It's that thing of being a family man. It's history repeating itself. The first time he was in prison, it was for an incident he did to help support his mother. In order to protect people that are foremost to him, he'll either lash out or do an act that in his eyes is one of protection, but in other people's eyes is pretty callous.”
Although Rob has charmed a few women on the street since his arrival, it's Tracy |Barlow who stole his heart.
“How many people can say they've been in the most successful relationship with Tracy Barlow?” says the actor, grinning.
He and Kate Ford, who plays Tracy, have “an absolute riot” on set, though he admits it's difficult to keep a straight face when she has such fantastic one-liners.
“She's very gobby, but he [Rob] just tells her to shut up, he takes her with a pinch of salt and she does actually amuse him.”
He describes the pair as Corrie's answer to Bonnie and Clyde.
“I think that's where we're at, absolutely. It's something we've discussed in the workplace. We love working together.”
As to whether Rob will confess his crime to the love of his life remains to be seen, but Baylis stresses that “it's a long storyline”.
Fair enough, but it's soap tradition that the killer gets his comeuppance, so Baylis's Corrie days might be numbered.
“I won't deny I've thought about that. There's always going to be trepidation, but from an acting point of view this is the longest job I've had in 15 years,” says Baylis, who's also previously appeared in |Hollyoaks, EastEnders and The Bill.
“We've got about 60 characters on the street, and to be the one picked out to be a massive part of this storyline is amazing.”
Coronation Street, ITV, Monday, 7.30pm