Lawson 'delighted' to be back in Corrie

Lawson 'delighted' to be back in Corrie

Northern Irish actor Charlie Lawson returns to Coronation Street next week as viewers get a glimpse of Jim McDonald's life behind bars.

The formidable Jim returns to the soap as Peter Barlow, who is currently awaiting trial for the murder of Tina McIntyre, comes across him in prison.

Jim was last seen in the soap in 2011 when he was arrested for attempting to rob a Building Society in order to give ex-wife Liz McDonald money to buy the Rovers Return. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Happy to be back, Charlie reveals what has changed in Corrie since he first appeared in the soap in the late 80s.

How did you feel about being asked to come back?

I was absolutely delighted, I love playing Jim and when I was told about the storyline I was really pleased with the idea that they had. If you are going to use a character you may as well use him properly, I don't think I would have been as interested in coming back for a one episode prison visit for example.

Is it odd to be back but not actually working on the Street itself?

Not at all because they have built a prison set above Roy's Rolls so it does feel like I am on the street. We have filmed at a real prison in the past but it is much easier to have the purpose built set here on site. It also means I get to work on the new set, which is fantastic.

How has Coronation Street changed since you started in the late 80s?

When we first started it was a lot slower, there were far less people and we only did two episodes a week. The atmosphere was different, we worked hard and played hard. We had a Coronation Street Cricket team but there's not time for any of that now.

The pace is much quicker, more episodes, more cast. People tend to go home to learn their lines, but the whole industry is like that now. We can have four units working, so you can be here and not see people who are in working on the same day.

Can you remember your early days on the show joining as a family?

It was very funny because people had their own chairs and you had to be careful where you sat! I didn't know anyone in the show, but I knew how enormous the show was.

It was a different animal in those days, people were huge stars, they had come through the 60s and 70s as the first big TV celebrities. We were very lucky to come in together, I was cast first and had an input in choosing Beverly (Liz McDonald) and then we both helped choose the boys.

You are starting from the right premise and you know it is going to work when it is done in that way. We were always very close and we came in on a year's contract and right from the word go it was clear that they were writing for us.

People got used to the new kids on the block very quickly. They felt different and had some amazing storylines.

Presumably Jim has changed a little bit because he has been inside for so long - how has that experience changed him?

I don't think he has changed that much at all, he loves his wife and he misses his son. As they say in Belfast 'his only crime was loyalty'. I don't think he has changed because of the nature of the beast, he is a daddy in there, he was in the army for six years, so its a piece of cake for him really.

Is he quite feared in prison?

He is respected. He's an old soldier and anyone inside will tell you that ex-squaddies tend to do okay. Jim is making his life as bearable as possible and by making himself The Landlord in there that is what he is doing.

How much does Jim know about Peter's situation?

I thought about that when I first started and I chatted to Chris Gascoyne (Peter) about it. Although we have been in the programme at the same time, we have never had a scene together.

Jim would be totally unfamiliar with the fact that Peter has a serious drink problem. He's not stupid and he realises fairly quickly, but he doesn't know the background or the extent of it. To Jim, Peter is Ken Barlow's son.

What defines Jim?

It is his monumental love for Liz. It is a huge part of his raison d'etre. It's a good job that his path doesn't cross with Tony - Liz is his woman!

Under it all Liz will still love Jim and vice versa. They are the Burton and Taylor of Weatherfield.

Would you like to come back for a longer period in the future, once Jim is out of jail?

Oh absolutely! If the writing is there and the characters are there that connect him to the Street then absolutely.
Do people still see you as Jim even when you aren't in the show?

Some people do bless them, but that is the power of the thing. He is such a significant character that will never go away, but that's okay as long as people call me Charlie not Jim.


Jim and Liz McDonald are the "Burton and Taylor of Weatherfield". Rex Features


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