Once again, the Downeast Streeters have hosted a Coronation Street actor in Halifax, and once again I've volunteered to help out. I always look forward to hearing and meeting an actor from my favourite show and this year's event was every bit as good as all the others. The show was held at the Westin Hotel for over 400 excited Corrie fans and was hosted by Dawn Sloane, a former city councilor. She's a big Coronation Street fan and was thrilled to be asked to host the show. We also had a great introduction from Amy Smith and Tom Murphy from CBC News Halifax. Marc spent a couple of hours wowing the Halifax fans with his charm, humour and killer smile!
Marc Baylis has played Rob Donovan for just over a year and a half but has been causing nothing but trouble ever since he arrived on the cobbles. He grew up in the Worcestershire area of England and has lived in London since he attended Mountview Drama school, working extensively in theatre as well as some film, tv and commercial ads. He still lives there and commutes to Manchester to work on Corrie. He has family in southern New Brunswick, a sister and her family, so combined this tour (Halifax and Toronto) with a family visit. His ability to tie in the tour with a visit to family added to his incentive to come and he said he also loves to talk to the fans and hear their reaction to the show.
Marc has been in a few films in addition to quite a bit of theatre. One film was brought to his attention, with a slide show of photos of him in it. It was called Strippers vs Werewolves and we were treated to photos of Marc done up as a werewolf. Very bizarre! He told us all it was a terrible film, a "horror of a comedy" and that it took 7 hours to get the makeup on and 2.5 to take it off! He also described a great little indie British film called Wounded that was very low budget but which they were all quite proud of. As for dream roles, he'd love to play Shakespeare's Iago or Macbeth and would love to do Stanley Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire. Cue lots of jokes about him screaming "STELLLAAAA!!!"
When discussing his life before Corrie, he always mentions how close he is with his Nan and when he asked her what part she'd love to see him play, she'd said she would like to see him on Coronation Street someday. He promised that he'd go for it if he ever had the chance. He got the part in Corrie within a year though it came out of the blue. He also quipped to his girlfriend on New Year's Day, 2012 that this was the year he would be on Corrie. And four months later, he was! He said getting the role on Corrie was a "massive score!" He was lucky with the audition for Rob. There were a number of actors auditioning and he only got his scripts the day before traveling up to Manchester. The day he heard about the job, he was actually having a job interview for a day job as he had been between acting gigs. When he came out of the interview, he checked his phone messages and when he heard he got the Corrie job, he went back in and told the interviewers that he wouldn't be taking the job if they'd been thinking of offering it to him! Then, he says, he went to the pub!
On his first day on the set, he was "bricking" it, (very nervous) but it was a big energy rush, almost adrenaline overload. His first scene was in the factory with Peter and Carla. Lucky for him, he'd always wanted to work with both actors (Alison King and Peter Gascoyne) as well as David Neilson who plays Roy Cropper of whom he's a big fan. He admits that Corrie certainly has changed his life. Having a regular job is nice, of course, but the recognition takes some getting used to. He finds that moreso in Manchester whereas in London he can be fairly unknown. The fast turnaround in how they film the show also took getting used to as it's different than how he'd had to work before and definitely different than stage work where, once you step out on the boards, there's no going back!
He was asked quite a lot of questions about his character, Rob and Rob's relationship with Carla and Tracy. He did say that he thinks Rob is too arrogant to think history will repeat itself with Tracy (i.e. her bashing Charlie Stubbs' head in) and that part of the attraction between them stems from both of them having prison in common and feeling like an outsider. He feels Rob is changing and developing more dimensions. He tries to make Rob more ambiguous, keeping the viewers guessing and he hopes that inspires the writers to continue to build the character. He thinks that if Rob and Carla hadn't fallen out over the stolen silk incident, and all that back history between them hadn't come out and in their faces, showing the layers there, that Rob might not have lasted this long. He and Ali had been waiting for that kind of storyline for a long time and were excited about playing it out. He thinks there's a lot more to be uncovered there and hopes that the writers and producers will continue with it because it's up to them whether a character stays or goes. He thinks the world of Alison King and they are like brother and sister off set as well.
When chatting about other cast members he had a lot of praise for David Neilson and Julie Hesmondhalgh. Julie is the heart and soul, she's an Equity liaison and keeps everyone up to date. She has beautiful energy and he thinks that's why Hayley is who she is. Kate Ford is quite the loveliest woman, not at all like Tracy. Chris Gascoyne (Peter) became something of a mentor to him in his early days at Corrie and has become a good friend. Annie Kirkbride (Deirdre) can be a lot of fun, you never know what she'll say and he still gets shocked sometimes.
Marc was asked how much, if any, influence that actors have on their characters' storylines. Not a lot really, but they can interpret the script and add their own nuances as they play the scenes and put their own tilt on it, a look or a tone of voice and that way they hope that they can sow a few seeds with the writers for future development. They don't do much ad libbing though if they do, and go too far off script, there are "shadows" on the set that nudge them back in line. Sometimes they do if there's just some little thing they feel is missing, like in an upcoming scene where he enters the Rovers on Christmas Day and felt it would work better if he called out "Happy Christmas" as it would be the normal thing to expect. Storylines are mapped out in short and long term planning and he said that the pairing with Tracy was unexpected for he and Kate. The running joke from here on was that Rob and Liz should have a fling and he admitted that he and Bev Callard even discussed it not that long ago though he thinks Rob probably would meet his match with Liz and she might just eat him alive. Then he added, Rob might like that! He joked that a Rob/Liz pairing could be brilliant, classic Corrie fun and he'd rather Liz than Deirdre! All in jest, of course.
If not Tracy, then who does he see that Rob could make a match with? He guessed that Tina or Kylie might be good, Kylie being quite a spark herself. If he could play any other part, he thought it would be fun to play Kirk, especially as Lisa George (Beth) has become quite a good friend though they'd probably joke and laugh so much they couldn't settle down to any filming! And when asked how much of Rob is in Marc or vice versa, his thoughtful answer was that it would be difficult for any actor to play a part if there wasn't some similarities though he doesn't think he's nearly as brash or cocky as Rob Donovan. He certainly showed no evidence of that type of attitude.
On a personal level: He doesn't drive a car, hasn't had a car in 13 years and reckons that it would be as "useful as a bra" for him! No tattoos. He's an Aston Villa football supporter but says Rob is a Manchester City man. When he's got time off he has lots of hobbies, such as fishing, attending the theatre, guitar and he's just bought a DSLR Camera that does HD video and thinks he'd like to get into making some films. He seems close to his parents and his Nan and talks about them glowingly, even described a text his mother sent him while he's been here to tell him she's proud of him. He thanks a former English Tutor in school for pushing him towards drama when his knees packed it in. He would probably have had a chance to make a career in football prior to that.
Marc was nervous before the show but he said it's been brilliant and thanked the fans for their hospitality. He doesn't really enjoy being the focal point but having supportive fans really made his job easy. He thanked the Downeast Streeters and all the volunteers as well. Marc Baylis came across as very charming, funny, personable, well spoken, professional, genuine and humble. He's also handsome, with beautiful eyes and a big, wide smile. I was privileged to hang out with the organizing committee and Marc after the show for a bit and he was every bit the same when relaxed and not "on". He's a lovely man, and he'd be welcome back in Halifax any time!