Belfast Telegraph

"My dark secret is coming back to bite me on our big day"

Corrie's Peter Barlow is banged up, but it looks like on-the-run Rob Donovan won't be getting away with murder after all

By Susan Griffin

Weddings should be joyous occasions - unless you're in soapland, of course, where the only custom anyone adheres to is high drama.

So why should Coronation Street break with tradition and allow Tracy Barlow and Rob Donovan's nuptials go without a hitch?

Marc Baylis, who's played Rob for the last two-and-a-half years, couldn't wait to film the dramatic scenes, which see Rob fleeing his wedding to go on the run from the police.

"It was great fun, to be honest, and nice to be able to have something physical, as opposed to being in the studio. I love working out on location and quite enjoy night shoots, that's the sadist in me," says the 37-year-old.

"How many times in your life can you say you ran away from a manor house in your wedding suit?"

The reason for Rob's sudden departure is his sister Carla's decision to expose him as Tina McIntyre's killer, after he admits what he's done on the eve of the wedding.

"He's being a goodie, and refused to go out on the town, because he wants to enjoy the wedding day and cherish the moment. He never thought he'd find himself in the situation of settling down and he's the happiest he's been. That's the tragedy of the whole situation," says Baylis.

As viewers have known for a while, Peter Barlow was wrongly found guilty of the crime and it looked like Rob might have got away with murder. But ever since, Carla, played by Ali King, was convinced that her estranged husband was innocent, and was determined to get to the truth.

So when Rob and Tracy's stories about where they were on the night of the murder don't match up, she assumes her brother's covering for his fiancee.

"She just keeps pressing and his back's up against the wall; he can't lie to her, it's impossible," explains Baylis, of how Rob finally cracks. "All of a sudden, it's checkmate, by the person who knows you best."

The confession scenes were shot over a day-and-a-half and, in Baylis' own words, were "full-on".

"The build-up to the wedding was very busy, so the amount of time we had to learn all the material was pretty limited. You're just running off adrenaline," he notes.

Tears were required, of course, something he's found impossible to conjure on other jobs. This time though, he didn't find it too hard - "because of the way we shot everything in sequence, and the fact it was just me and Ali", he says.

Baylis will bow out of the soap on Wednesday, after asking Tracy to go on the run with him.

The actor first found out about the storyline a year ago, and admits he was expecting "a whole world of abuse" when it was revealed that Rob was Tina's killer - but the reaction has been surprisingly sympathetic.

"I think it was only a fortnight after it [the revelation], when someone came up to me and said, 'I really feel sorry for Rob'," he recalls.

"That was the instigation to go down this avenue [of not making Rob a straight-up baddie]," Baylis adds. "It's has been my primary goal not to do anything two-dimensional and I've been quite honest with directors not to be pulling too many guilty looks in the background of scenes.

"Maybe that's going against the grain of how it's been done before, but because Tina [who was played by Michelle Keegan for six years] was such a massive character, it needed more justice, and not to become farcical."

Although keen to not to venture down the panto villain path during his time in Corrie, his first job after the soap will, in fact, be a pantomime. He'll be playing Prince Charming in a production of Sleeping Beauty - and the irony isn't lost on him.

"I got booked on the job a week before it was aired that Rob was the killer and, being a true professional, I wouldn't reveal exactly what was going on," he recalls, laughing. "I imagine there will be some balcony, or metal pole, gag in there somewhere."

The only person who was aware of the secret storyline was his girlfriend, a fellow actor, and only then because he had to rehearse his lines at home.

She and a friend run a performing arts academy in London, and Baylis is a patron. "We run various workshops for four to 16-year-olds and I'm always busy teaching. There's no point in gaining the skills if you can't share it with people."

He insists it's not about creating child stars but instilling them with confidence, something he benefited from as a youngster. "I was really shy and my English teacher pulled me to one side and said drama would be a good way of spending my time."

He and his girlfriend contemplated heading over to LA for pilot season next year, but decided against it.

"There's so much good writing going on over here that we've opted to stay in the UK. Plus, we're trying to buy a property and bed down here," he says.

"It's weird for me to have that conversation. Before Corrie, I was a jobbing actor, and now that's what I'm going back to being. That's weird after two-and-a-half years."

He wouldn't rule out returning to the Street in the future. "I adore playing Rob, so I would be very interested if that happened, but only under the right circumstances."


Death on the Street: more Corrie killings

Back in 1988, Brian Tilsley was stabbed in the stomach after trying to protect a woman outside a club. The news was a shock to actor Christopher Quinten, who was hoping to have the door kept open.

The soap's most prolific murderer was serial killer Richard Hillman, played by Brian Capron between 2001 and 2003. He drowned after a failed attempt to kill the Platts.

There were five suspects, including Kevin and Sally Webster, for the death of Frank Foster in 2012 - until it was revealed that his own mother had committed the crime.

After finding out about his affair, Tracy Barlow killed her boyfriend Charlie Stubbs in 2007. She tried to make it look like self-defence, but was found guilty and jailed, only to return to the street in 2010.

In 2008, businessman Tony Gordon (Gray O'Brien) ordered a henchman to kill Liam Connor, after finding out about an affair with his fiancee. He later gave himself up to the police.

Coronation Street, ITV, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 7.30pm

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