Corrie star Peter Ash on why historic gay wedding ‘is a beacon of light’
While there have been many same-sex relationships in Coronation Street, none has resulted in a wedding – until now. In 2011, Sophie Webster (Brooke Vincent) made it down the aisle but left Sian Powers (Sacha Parkinson) in the church, and in 2019 poor Rana Nazir (Bhavna Limbachia) died on the day she was supposed to marry Kate Connor (Faye Brookes).
Now, Billy Mayhew (Daniel Brocklebank) and Paul Foreman (Peter Ash) are about to tie the knot. But of course with Paul’s MND diagnosis, the future is still looking bleak for the couple.
“The wedding is a beacon of bright light,” explains actor Peter Ash. “Despite all the negative news that Paul’s had since the diagnosis, getting to marry Billy is just great, it’s perfect, it’s what he wants to do with the time he has left.”
At the wedding, held at the Bistro, Bernie (Jane Hazlegrove) and Gemma Winter (Dolly-Rose Campbell) walk Paul down the aisle where Billy waits for him. The pair exchange vows and are pronounced married. But there is still something that leaves Billy disappointed.
“Paul knows Billy is downplaying his upset about not being able to get married in a church,” explains Peter. “Actually, Shelly Rossington’s death brings out Paul’s faith – at the funeral he had a spiritual moment. And wanting to get married in a church has become a bit more or a priority for Paul.
“He wants a church wedding mainly for Billy, because he’s devoted his life to the church – that’s where he wants to get married. So it’s disappointing, especially when there can’t be any religious music. Billy’s downplaying it, but Paul really is a bit upset he can’t have any of that at their wedding.”
However, Peter says the wedding scenes were great fun to film.
“We’ve had so many scenes of things being devastating and so sad and hopeless. So the filming of the wedding was a breath of fresh air.
“It was so nice and a lovely day. We had a great time. It was great fun. It was a really nice change to do such a joyous occasion amid all the sadness.”
Days of happiness for Paul and Billy are becoming scarcer and scarcer, so one thing they’ve decided to do is a bucket list. First up was skinny dipping in scenes that aired in August.
“It got a bit cold towards the end,” laughs Paul. “We were in flesh coloured pants basically, and that was it, the crew were in wetsuits. The response was amazing, actually – the response since the beginning of Paul’s story has been overwhelming, it’s been really special.”
So what else is on Paul’s bucket list?
“I’d love for Billy and Paul to go away somewhere nice – to the Caribbean!” he says. “They should have a week away. I don’t know if Paul has [travelled abroad] actually. I remember a line I had once where he said, ‘The furthest I’ve ever been is Wales.’ So it’d be nice for them to go abroad.”
However, with Paul’s MND progressing since his diagnosis in May, that might not be possible. The fact his condition is terminal was brought to light by the death of his friend, Shelly.
“It has a big effect on Paul,” agrees Peter. “Through Shelly, he found someone who totally understood his situation and losing Shelly was a big shock for Paul.
“It’s also looking at Paul’s future. Shelly is Paul a bit further down the MND journey, so it was a bit of a wake-up call for him to make the most of what he’s got left and to plan exactly what he wants to do.”
Paul has been looking to the future, and has hinted that when the time comes, he wants to take control and assisted dying is still an option. But so far, he’s kept Billy in the dark and has confided in Todd Grimshaw.
“Paul feels guilt from hiding this from Billy, but he knows how Billy would react,” says Peter. “Obviously they have talked about it when it was brought up earlier, but it was quashed when they decided to get married. Shelly didn’t get to do that, but Paul really, really wants to do that before he can’t speak any more or do little things.
Knowing that Shelly was alone at the end, Paul wants it to be on his terms.
“So far, the reactions to the story have been above and beyond anything I ever imagined. It’s been so lovely. We get messages from people who are living with it, people who have family members living with MND, and saying how the story really resonates with them.
“If we can, through this storyline, raise a bit of awareness and money for the cause, then that’s a job well done as far as I’m concerned.”
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