Coronation Street aired a big surprise for Billy Mayhew in Monday's episode, as he discovered that his partner Paul Foreman had secretly arranged for them to get married in a church.
The couple started their day by exchanging wedding vows at the Bistro, surrounded by family and friends. Once they'd been announced as husband and husband, Paul privately told Billy that they'd also be taking part in an unofficial church ceremony.
Paul had managed to convince one of Billy's friends to conduct the service, granting the archdeacon's big wish of tying the knot in the eyes of God.
Sadly, Billy's rule-breaking now looks set to land him in major trouble, as a photograph from the ceremony was carelessly left behind in the church.
Daniel Brocklebank, who plays Billy, recently caught up with Digital Spy and other press to chat about the storyline.
Was Billy disappointed when he thought that he was only getting married in the Bistro?
"Yes, of course – Billy was a bit disappointed because he's a religious character. If you go back through his journey in Corrie, there were lines where he was very much insistent on not getting married because he didn't want to do it in a secular service. He wanted to do it in a religious service.
"But of course, the Church of England rules don't allow same sex couples to get married in a religious setting. I am old enough to remember when we couldn't get married at all, so we are moving in the right direction.
"Billy would have always preferred to have got married in a church. Obviously, Paul's illness has given Billy reasoning to maybe hurry things along because time is not on their side, which has probably helped sway his decision to do this.
"On the other side of things, I think Billy has been very conscious not to show Paul any form of disappointment, even though it's not an ideal situation. He wouldn't want Paul to feel that the Bistro ceremony was in any way second best or not good enough. So he's done his very best not to allow that to be shown."
How did Billy feel when Paul revealed that he'd arranged the church wedding?
"Billy didn't really have a huge amount of time to make a decision one way or the other. Of course, he's aware of the potential ramifications of doing it, but Paul has organised it and he knows it's going to be a 'quick in and out job'. There's no fanfare, there's no dressing on the church, so Billy thinks they can probably get away with it.
"I suppose it's because Billy is all giddy from just being married anyway. I think if he'd have had time to think about it, he probably wouldn't have gone through with it because he can be quite uptight. Had he had more time, he may have decided this wasn't a very sensible thing."
How was it to film the wedding scenes in the church?
"It was a beautiful moment. I've been in Corrie for the best part of a decade and I have stood at the front of that church watching people walk down the aisle towards me, as I've done the services for their weddings throughout the time I've been here.
"To suddenly be the person walking down that aisle, it was incredibly emotional actually. The scenes are beautifully written. It was emotional for me, but obviously for Billy too.
"Billy would never have imagined that he would have been doing this, as he says, in his church in front of his God. He's been very pragmatic about the wedding in the Bistro and said he's realised that God is not in a building, God is everywhere. But of course, there's going to be a different energy to getting married in that place."
It's a milestone moment for the show, as it's the first gay male wedding, and the first overall gay wedding that actually went ahead. How do you feel about that?
"I'm thrilled. It amazes me that this is the first one, to be perfectly honest. Corrie has always been such a trailblazer in terms of LGBTQ+ characters. I mean, with Hayley, how long ago was that? There's Sean and Todd and all of these historical characters in the show, so I'm amazed that this is the first one.
"I'm thrilled to be part of it. What an honour to be part of Corrie's first ever not just male gay wedding, but successful one. One that actually happened!"
We've seen that a photograph of the wedding has been accidentally dropped and left behind at the church. Can you tease the ramifications of that?
"Well, it's all to do with Reg, who we never actually meet. Reg the verger is a character that has been spoken about and he stirs things. He obviously finds the Polaroid on the floor.
"At first, the Bishop is willing to turn a bit of a blind eye. But naughty Reg decides that he is going to share the photograph on various forms of social media, which causes a bit of a stir.
"The Bishop then says that this is not necessarily his point of view, but he does have to be seen to be doing something about it because Billy and Paul have broken church rules. They have gone against what they are allowed to do. Billy is an archdeacon, so realistically he should have been a little more responsible.
"But I do like the fact that Billy went: 'Well, you know what? This is my personal journey, these are our choices and Paul is obviously unwell. These were the reasons that we did it, and time is not on our side'. The Bishop suspends Billy."
Billy speaks publicly about his decision on Radio Weatherfield, doesn't he?
"Yes, Billy feels that there is ultimately a responsibility – not just to defend his actions, but to explain them. He feels that because people on social media are reading through the comments from the parishioners, most of which are defamatory and unpleasant.
"Billy doesn't seek Weatherfield Radio out, they come to him. Initially he says no but then he thinks: 'Actually, no, I think this would be a good opportunity to be able to explain why we've done this'.
"Billy explains why he feels it's wrong that same sex couples are not allowed a religious union because ultimately, it's about two people who are in love with each other.
"If those people are religious, then why should they be excluded from having a religious ceremony? That's what the Bishop hears and that's where it all goes slightly awry for Billy."
How will Billy feel when he becomes unemployed as a result?
"Luckily, for now, Billy is still being paid, so that's good! He's only suspended, he's not fired, so he still has an income coming in. Had they stopped his income, that would have been a whole other layer of stress added on to it.
"Billy is quite resolute about the fact that: 'This is where we're at for now'. He's got no other skill sets. He doesn't know what the hell he's going to do! I don't know what else he could do, either. Maybe he'd be a good therapist, I don't know. Billy would certainly have to retrain.
"Billy and Paul know their time together is finite. They don't know when that is going to be, but I think they just make the best of it.
"Paul's debilitation is changing all the time and getting worse all the time. So Billy is just trying to be there for him to help him with the physical depletions, his capability, the emotional changes and everything else that comes with that. So I think actually, they just hunker down and get on with it."
What kind of reaction are you expecting to the church wedding?
"There's always going to be a mixture of reactions and that's fine. Everybody's allowed an opinion and that's totally cool – that's a democratic society. Everybody is allowed to share their opinions. You don't have to agree with each other. That's also cool.
"I would say in the time that I've been playing Billy, I've seen quite a change. I don't get nearly half as much homophobic stuff as I did when Billy first arrived on the street.
"It's now much more positive – like the recent lake scene. Of course there were odd comments that it was too lewd. Somebody said it was Brokeback Mountain. I don't remember them being in a lake and we certainly weren't wearing cowboy hats!
"I think it's always going to cause a reaction. That's good because it causes conversations to be had. I'm preparing myself, of course, for an inevitable bit of a fallout about the gays getting married in the church, because Billy does break the rules.
"Just because there are rules in place, it doesn't mean those rules are correct. Let's not forget that the people that hid Anne Frank were doing something wrong in the eyes of the law.
"I know this is a different thing, but the principle is the same. Just because a law or a rule says something is right, it doesn't mean it is principally and I think that's where Billy is going with it.
"With the public reaction, some people are going to love it. Some people are going to be really excited that we've taken that step. Some people are going to absolutely hate it. As a society we can grow, we can learn from each other, always. So if it causes a conversation, great."
We know this storyline is close to your heart after your late grandfather's experiences with MND. How are you finding filming the progression of Paul's illness?
"It's very multi-layered, really. I am so impressed with our team and how they are writing this storyline. There have been many occasions where I'm at home reading a script and it is so reminiscent of what we went through as a family.
"It's also not just my family – because I've been working with the MND Association now for 23 years, I've known many, many people living with MND and their families. Our team have been really accurate and sensitive, but truthful with it.
"They're not shying away from the difficult issues that people living with MND and their carers face. That does mean that my Monday to Friday can be quite an emotional rollercoaster.
"Luckily Pete [Ash, who plays Paul] and I get on like a house on fire and we have a lot of giggles. We do try to find as many light moments in scenes, even if they're tragic. We try to keep it as buoyant as possible.
"If you are somebody living with MND, or any terminal illness, there are still going to be moments in your life that are colourful and bright. It's not all doom and gloom.
"It's interesting because obviously we're quite a way ahead of what's on screen – what I've been filming today, for example, won't be on until November. When I'm watching it at home, the difference between what I've been filming that day and what's on screen, there's a huge difference.
"That's obviously down to the brilliant writing but also to Pete's bloody marvellous performance. His portrayal of somebody with MND is beautifully painfully accurate, and he's doing a wonderful job. It's an absolute privilege to be sharing this journey with him."
Check out more of our Coronation Street coverage:
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm on ITV1 and streams on ITVX.
You Might Also Like