Coronation Street airs some of its most emotional episodes ever next week as Hayley Cropper goes ahead with her plan to end her own life.
Recent weeks have seen Hayley (Julie Hesmondhalgh) slowly deteriorating after being told that her pancreatic cancer is terminal.
Fearful of the effects that medication is having on her, Hayley says her goodbyes before taking a lethal cocktail and passing away with husband Roy by her side.
Here, Coronation Street's producer Stuart Blackburn reveals more about Hayley's exit and the future for Roy.
What was your reaction when you watched Hayley's final episodes back? "I'm really, really proud of them. They're so emotional to watch and I've seen them three or four times now. That's down to all of the actors involved in the story - their performances have just been brilliant. I must admit, my reaction when I first saw the episodes was to step outside and ask, 'What have we done?' Even being so close to the story, it was so powerful to watch but I think the audience will go with it as we really love these characters."
Were you nervous about making the decision to kill Hayley? "It sounds callous and it isn't meant to be, but it was the easiest decision I've ever had to make. I tried to persuade Julie to stay and suggested that maybe she could have a year or two off. We would have left the door open for that, but she was so determined to embark on a new part of her career.
"Once I knew she was gone and gone for good, there was only one way of Hayley going and that was her dying. I couldn't ever imagine or want to see Roy and Hayley breaking up. I wouldn't have believed it. The thought of seeing those two arguing and bickering or having an affair was hideous, so killing her was a really easy decision."
Were you watching on set for Hayley's final scenes? "No, we didn't want people going down there because the actors needed as much silence as possible. The last thing an actor needs is a producer standing over them! But as we film out of sequence, the very last scene Julie filmed was Roy going off to the shop and Hayley looking out of the window. There were about 70 or 80 people who came down for that to say goodbye.
"Cast and crew came along who weren't even due in that day - it was cold, raining and it was seven at night. The tears from Julie and from all of her colleagues were genuine as she's a lovely woman, so professional, gifted and funny. I hope now we're not working together I can consider her a true friend."
Roy asks Hayley to reconsider in her final episode
What will the consequences of Hayley's death be for Roy? "The consequences are going to be massive and mixed, as Roy has got so much to deal with. There was a line in one of the episodes where Roy said, 'You took a wreck of a life and turned it into something meaningful'. That's what Hayley did for him, so he's got to deal with the loss of the one and only person that he's loved.
"In the run-up to the funeral, Roy is also saying, 'How can I grieve for her when I'm so angry with her?' He never agreed with Hayley's decision to end her own life. He accepted it and would never have left her side, but there's an anger that will stay with him for a long time. Roy knows on the day of the funeral that Hayley could have still been alive.
"There's also a guilt that he didn't stop her. He's going to struggle and it will be a long journey. The temptation is to see Roy happy again, but the reality is that it's going to take weeks and months."
There have been rumours that Roy disappears for a while after Hayley's funeral… "Roy's journey is unique to him - the way he deals with his grief is the way that only Roy could, so there's some great stuff coming up. I've seen the episode where he takes himself away for a little bit, just to have a breather, although I won't give away what he's doing.
"I've also seen an episode three weeks after the funeral where Roy first steps back into the flat and the first thing he sees is Hayley's red coat. I just thought, 'I thought we'd stopped crying with this story!'"
What else can we expect from the aftermath? "The episode after Hayley's death is probably my favourite one. In the first half of the episode, David Neilson is in almost every scene but Roy doesn't say a single word until just before the ad break. We also see Fiz, Carla, Sinead and Chesney learn of the death and there's a real fear for Roy that's been there for months - how's he going to cope?"
How does the 'right to die' debate continue to be explored? "We're not advocates of Hayley's decision in any way, shape or form. Roy's ongoing story demonstrates that on one level she was wrong. She was supposed to love Roy, but she's left behind a man who's so full of guilt, anger and recriminations. It may have been the right decision for her in the short-term, but it was wrong for those around her.
"Fiz feels anger and grief when she finds out what Hayley has done, while Anna feels guilt that she could have done or said more. But the story was always about Hayley as a transgender individual. She'd spent a lifetime fighting to become a woman and the absolute fear for her was that the painkillers would lead to periods of confusion. She was determined to leave life as Hayley."
Did you ever worry that Roy as a character wouldn't work without Hayley? "No, because he did before. He's such a unique character and he's made a promise to Hayley to carry on, which he's not going to break."
Would you put Roy in another relationship? "I've been in this job for a year now and what tends to happen is that you stay as producer for three years if everything goes okay! At the moment, my instinct says that while I'm still producing, it would be unseemly for Roy to find love again. There are other stories and journeys that we could take him on, like we did with Roy and Becky when Julie took a year out.
"Roy is a very powerful man on the quiet. We saw that with Tony Gordon and the developers, when he really took a stand against what he saw as an injustice. For the next year or two, I hope we can find other journeys for Roy which don't involve romance. I don't think our audience would buy it if it happened too quickly.
"Roy has got his business, friends and Fiz is essentially an adopted daughter to him. There are people who need him, whether he knows it or not. His relationship with Anna has also changed, as she's been an incredible support. Anna was the one person Roy told about Hayley's plans to end her life, and she never betrayed that trust."
As Corrie has been at the top of the soap ratings for so long, do you ever worry that it has to take a dip at some point? "Of course. I've got every confidence in the stories we have coming up, but I'm not psychic - I haven't seen them shot, so I can't tell what's working. If something doesn't quite work as you imagined, it can be difficult to turn things round because everything is storylined six months in advance, written three months in advance and shot six weeks in advance.
"It's not that I'm worried about it, but I abhor complacency. Hayley's death episode on January 20 is for me pitch perfect. It's the proudest I've ever been, but on January 21, who gives a toss? It's gone. The only thing that matters on January 21 is the episode that's going out on January 22. It's just reminding everyone without being a sour-faced git that yes you have done brilliantly, but the Roy and Hayley story has set different standards."
Coronation Street airs Hayley's final episodes on Monday, January 20 at 7.30pm and 8.30pm on ITV.
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