Coronation Street and soap’s best character: Mr Roy Cropper

A true love story (Picture: ITV)

Take Roy Cropper out of Coronation Street and is it even Coronation Street anymore?

Our hearts would hurt less if they closed down the Rovers, ripped away all the cobbles or brought back Reg Holdsworth.

The man is the heart of the community in an era when the word community has lost more meaning than ever.

Right now, hate flows through society, through bigotry and lack of acceptance of diversity.

And while we all are outraged at behaviours we see on social media and the news in relation to racism, homophobia, hate crimes and abuse, we would be reluctant to admit the truth that perhaps, more of us than most have micro-behaviours towards those different to us.

A loner wearing an overcoat with socially awkward behaviours, a fascination with train sets and a penchant for chess would draw many a raised eyebrow, even from some who think they are the most accepting people in the world.

But over in Coronation Street, the man behind these non conforming factors lies the warmest personality and fullest heart in the whole of soap.

Despite him having the fashion, nature and mannerisms that have often left him as the victim of ridicule, Roy is a man who spits in the face of discrimination.

It’s hard to believe that Roy was a little unsettling at first, introduced as the over familiar neighbour who took a shine to Deirdre.

But any plans to turn Roy into a creepy stalker soon went awry due to the warm performances of the unreal David Neilson, one of British television’s most underrated and understated actors of all time in the UK.

When you meet David as I have (hashtag namedrop), you will know he is worlds away from the character he plays. He is massively approachable, has a fantastic sense of humour and is a real character.

And that’s what makes him such a good actor. He can laugh and exude confidence off camera but as soon as that beige anorak goes on, he Roys up and finds himself in the world of the most fascinating of characters.

Roy has changed a lot from the early days (Picture: ITV)

This is a character who can make the most mundane of scenes on paper, glue eyes to screens.

Sharing an ice cream with his beloved Hayley, chewing the fat with best mate Carla and playing a game of chess with Mary were as close as you can get to some of the most endearing and fun moments that only Coronation Street can do.

Even in scenes when is is simply shuffling over with a breakfast and missing the point of someone’s quip about the price of a bacon roll, David steals the scene.

There may be an armed siege, an explosion or a crashed UFO, or even worse, a Trump rally, outside and the best scene of the episode would belong to Roy.

But it’s far beyond his mannerisms and the spot on physical and stuttering performances that characterise Roy.

Basically, watching Roy with his many, many saved lost souls make us all pine for a Roy in our lives. Yet if we SAW a Roy, would we approach them, would we want them in our circle of friends? Would we even judge them?

We like to think no, but in the real world, guys like Roy finish last.

In the comfortingly warm world of Corrie though, Roy is everyone’s hero.

He has a long list of people he has taken under his wing, many of whom have flourished from their troubled lives and are still here because of Roy.

Let’s not forget that decades ago, Roy fostered Fiz, who was a very different character to what we find today. Other notable Roy stans have been Becky, Kylie, Shona, Carla and Anna.

He will take the most damaged people in, give them a chance and give them a safety blanket. At the same time, he won’t take any crap either and when tough love is required, Roy will be straight down the line with his guidance and advice, even if it’s not necessarily what the person wants to hear.

One of his most enduring relationships is his friendship with Carla; the glam wine drinking businesswoman and the oddball cafe owner are not what most people would consider a double act made in heaven.

Carla is both a daughter and a best mate to Roy and Carla has the father, brother and BFF she always needed.

The trust formed between these characters, the element of overcoming all of Carla’s flaws to help her beyond judging her and to support her through terrible ordeals such as rape and mental breakdowns makes me sure that Carla only survived because of Roy.

The same can now be said of Roy and his niece Nina. Nina and Roy have a connection, formed not just because of blood responsibility but because they have both lived a life where they do not fit into society’s norms.

Nina was initially wary of Roy but their playful relationship has given both of them insights into worlds they didn’t need previously understand or have a stake in.

We say a more youthful side to Roy and a huge growth in maturity for Nina and the pride he has for her could crack even the hardest of hearts.

So when Nina went through the worst ordeal of her life, who was there? Guardian angel Roy as ever, who was her knight and also the passionate spokesperson against hate and ignorance and violence.

Because, out of all of the villains, vagabonds and schemers in the world of soap, Roy is pure.

Roy doesn’t discriminate.

The best relationship he ever had and one of TV’s best ever love stories kicked off in 1997 when Roy met Hayley Patterson and, through both of their shy and quirky ways, they fell in love very quickly.

Transphobia is rampant now, so back in 1997, you just have to say ‘Les Battersby’ to think about what kind of response Hayley faced when she came out as trans.

Roy was very quick to adjust to the bombshell – she was his Hayley. And she was right until the end of their marriage.

When Julie Hesmondhalgh decided to step away from her role, there was only ever one way her story could end.

Because Roy and Hayley, like Jack and Vera, were one of those couples you could never, ever convincingly break up. They brought love, hope and a positive deviance and pride to the Street.

The scenes of Les and others calling her names and others dead naming her turned the audience on them, not Hayley.

And it’s perhaps the first big step on TV to the improvement of attitudes of trans representation.

There’s a long way to go but the chemistry between Roy and Hayley is unforgettable and is a huge part of the show’s history. Can it ever be replicated? I doubt it. In the same way that couples are pitched as the new ‘Jack and Vera’ or witty battleaxes are meant to be the new ‘Blanche’, Roy and Hayley are irreplaceable.

The beauty of Roy is the nuanced performances of David, who could create chemistry in his sleep.

Every character he is paired with; no matter the background, identity, gender, age or behaviours, he finds a relatable bond with and we just believe.

They can never be replaced (Picture: ITV)

But Roy isn’t a soft touch either. When he was bullied by a group of builders, he stood up to them. When Gray Windass broke in, he got the cricket batting of a lifetime from Royston. And Roy was one of the few to stand up to killer Tony Gordon and live to tell the tale.

Roy is an icon. A soap legend.

We will never get a person so pure in our real lives. So how lucky are we to have a character like Roy in our lives three days a week?

Our comfort blanket, long live Roy. He is the soul of Corrie and of Corrie’s audience.

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