Jennifer James and Lee Boardman (Corrie's Geena and ex-Jez) visited Halifax, Nova Scotia on the way to an appearance at the Brit show in Toronto (this weekend). The visit and public appearance was a dream come true for organizer Mike Shacklock who is the "Ping master" here in Halifax. He found out at the end of January that they could be here for Feb. 26 and he had to put it all together in three weeks. Personally I think he "pulled a blinder"... in other words, he pulled off a miracle. He's been liasing with the fellow in Toronto who organizes the appearances for the Brit show. This man, Brian, is the one who acts as the Canadian agent I think as most of our arrangements had to be approved by him.
Mike always hoped someday to have one of the Corrie stars visit Halifax on the way to or from the Toronto British Exhibition show. The local pings (fan gatherings) have charged an admission of a pound or $2 admission for a few years now, going towards a fund that will help pay for such a visit which costs quite a lot of money when you add in the appearance fee, travel expenses and cost of the venue. Black Cabs London Taxis, a local firm that offers city tours of Halifax in an authentic black London cab provided the transportation for free and both newspapers had entertainment columnists mention the visit. The Halifax Herald also publicized the visit with an article and in local "What's happening" listings.
Mike recruited a dozen or so volunteers to help out and decided a charge of $12 would be the cost. Jenny and Lee were to sign autographs until 9:00, have a break then have a question and answer session until 10. The crowd numbered nearly 300, about half of the numbers we had hoped for. Even so, the fans had quite a wait as Jenny and Lee both took the time to autograph photos and books, posed for a photo and chatted a little with each person. Unfortunately this took more time so only about half of the people were able to get autographs and a handshake. There were a few people disappointed but the ones that stayed were treated to a lively Q&A session. Jenny and Lee signed and posed until almost 9:30 to get a few dozen more fans accomodated and only took a short break before the chat session. They then answered questions until about 10:30 after which they were presented with a small carriage clock made by Nova Scotia Crystal company. They really loved it.
They really put themselves out far beyond the call of duty because they really could have insisted on sticking to the schedule. The entrance fee was not a guarantee that you would get through the reception line and also included the chat, something that fans at the Brit show don't get. Not when I was there at least. In Toronto they put in 3 2-hour appearances at the show each day to sign autographs and have photos taken. That's it. They were really delightful, cheerful and friendly. They were very surprised at how popular Corrie is in Canada and it was the first visit to Canada for them both. They both said they would highly recommend it to her co-castmembers.
Details... you want details. We volunteers got to meet them first before the crowds were let in. They arrived promptly at the Sheraton ballroom at 6:15 to our applause. Jenny smiled and waved and said "Hi everyone, y'all right?" For those of you aching to know, yes her stomach was bared and her belly button ring was shining! She wore a long sleeve sweater with a high neck but it buttoned down only half way and cut away to the sides reavealing a triangle of her tummy. Lee was in black and wore his black leather "Jez" trenchcoat that he bought off the wardrobe department when he left the show. She is so beautiful in real life and her skin and perfect complexion just glows!!! He's really nice too, and, well, I think he's gorgeous but a lot of the fans still saw him as the evil Jez LOL
Jenny got the job on Corrie just a few months after she finished her degree at Acting college but Lee's been a jobbing actor for about 10 years, starting on stage and then doing tv and film. He wanted to leave Corrie because he didn't want to be typecast. He said he'd probably never be able to work in anything else again if that happened. He'd never played a bad guy before so had fun with it. When asked if they ever get to change their lines they admitted sometimes they did. Lee then confided that for awhile there the writers were doing such a poor job that Jez was really becoming a 2 dimensional character and he did change a lot of his dialogue to at least attempt for him not to come over so cartoonish. They both assured the crowd that there are some new writers now and will be utilizing the older actors more. Lee said a good actor needs a great storyline but also really good writing. They also said the new regime hopes to have actors on screen more, perhaps not leaving them "absent without leave" for more than a few weeks at a time. This all depends on contracted appearances too. When you're on contract to Granada, you aren't allowed to do other work and if you're off screen for 2 or more months, you get bored and you don't get paid when you aren't filming! Lee says Corrie was the best job he's ever had!
Lee also came out in defence of Jane McNaught, having got on really well with her and benefited from a good storyline. She was the force behind the live episode which he thinks was a brilliant move. They both agreed that the way Corrie has been over the last few years with the more sensational storylines was a result from a decision that came down from higher up even than Granada. It was orders from the ITV Network! Now we'll see a distinct shift to the older style Corrie where there can be scenes about nothing more than discussing a magazine or cake but there will still be "big" storyines as well.
They don't get a lot of privacy in Manchester if they go out so they entertain a lot at their home in Cheshire. Simon Gregson (Steve) is a really good friend and is round there a lot. Some of Jenny's closest mates are Suranne (Karen), Sally (the one that plays Shelly), Samia (Maria), Jane Danson (Leanne). So what's it like to kiss "Dev"? She says, "I don't know, he's just Jimmy, he's me mate!" She says kissing Jimmy (Dev) is as businesslike as serving a pint, because it's so technical with a camera practically up your nose and a sound boom over your head and surrounded by crew. She's 24 and Lee is nearly 30, by the way.
Lee also modeled Jez's trenchcoat for the crowd, mugging and posting menacingly to our delight! One of the funniest stories was from Lee who said one of the more difficult "actors" is the dog that they have for Monica!! She just does what she wants half the time! He was in the room that they have set aside for the kids because the computer is in there and saw the dog. He sat there petting it for about 15 minutes and realized it wasn't moving at all and looked down only to discover it was the plastic replica of the dog! Yes, they actually have a fake Monica that they use in backgrounds, as if she's curled up on the floor or sofa!
I asked if the two actors that play Peter Barlow and Les Battersby were much nicer than their characters and of course they are. Jenny said Chris (Peter) is really sweet and Bruce Jones (Les) has a huge big heart.
When asked what their favourite thing so far in Canada was they both agreed it had to be the people. They were overwhelmed at how friendly everyone was, even the press! There was a reporter that interviewed them and never asked one personal or probing question other than how long they had been married. They couldn't get over it! And they are really enjoying the food. They've gorged on pancakes and maple syrup and had lobster to die for, Jenny said. Well Nova Scotia is famous for it's friendly citizens and for our lobster after all!
Another cute story. Jenny was asked if she was ever going to get any new clothes as she's always wearing that sparkly blue top. This sparked her off saying that it was annoying to her too. She has even complained to the wardrobe people! Lee comes on and gets new clothes and not one but two leather coats of which Michael LeVell (Kevin) was very jealous. He'd had his leather jacket for 17 years! Jenny joked it was because the wardrobe man fancied Lee! Michael has finally got a new jacket but she's still in that "minging old blue top" Hopefully she'll get some new clothes soon!
Lee talked about the famous beating of Steve scene with the rottweillers. He said the dogs were really brutal and one nearly bit Simon in the face. He thought the scene was too brutal for the time slot it's shown in and was actually edited quite a bit as a result. Simon would have to be in makeup for 3 hours to get all his burns and bruises and cuts done up. There were these two dogs and they wanted Lee to have hold of them but he wouldn't! He was actually quite wary of them and rightly so it sounds like!
I took lots of pictures but they are in black and white. Mike took a few with his digital and promised to give me copies on a cd. I'll upload them to an Ofoto album along with mine when they're ready and let you all know when that's done. It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening and they really are lovely people!!! Any of you that get to meet Jenny at the Brit show will be thrilled. I'm not sure if Lee will be there as well, that subject didn't come up and I smacked myself afterwards because when I got the chance to ask a question, I didn't ask if they were online and got to read any of the boards. Mike did say that Lee is on the net and mentioned the Visual Update site. Mike got to spend lots of time escorting them around so he'll have some wonderful memories! Thanks again Mike!!!!
My Coronation Street page with links to the write ups for previous star visits.