LINUS ROACHE FEATURE
Dig deeper and you‘ll discover he is the son of William Roache. better known to the nation‘s soap addicts as Coronation Street‘s Ken Barlow. or the tnan who sued The Sun newspaper for calling him boring. Used to being labelled the son of Ken. Roache began his acting career as
just that. appearing in four episodes of Coronation Street when he was eleven. His mother. actress Anna Cropper. and his father had divorced a year earlier. ‘I didn’t spend a lot of time with my dad after that.‘
On screen. Roache Jnr has a presence that is difficult to ignore. His portrayal in Priest of a tortured. idealistic preacher trapped between his moral code and his passion for another man is powerful stuff. That other man is played by Glasgow‘s own Robert Carlyle. the star of Riff Raﬂ'who recentlyjoined McGovern’s ranks as a skinhead psychopath in Cracker. Together. he and Roache generate enough electricity to put the Church‘s debate on sexuality up in lights. From the moment they swap furtive looks across at Liverpool gay bar. to the tender scene when they literally press flesh — lots of it — their angst- ridden relationship is moving. funny and entirely believable.
Before filming. Roache spent time speaking to priests. learning about the vocation which almost drives his character to suicide. ‘It was interesting to talk to different people in the Church who contradicted each other.‘ he says. ‘Some priests wouldn‘t speak to me. probably because of what had got out about the nature of the tilm.’ He is
coy about the sensual bedroom scene in which Greg and Graham consummate their lust and sow the seeds of what could just he love: ‘lt was cold and there were a lot of people about.’
‘It was interesting to talk to different people in the Church who contradicted each other. Some priests wouldn’t speak to me, probably because of what had got out about the nature of the film.’
Scripted by McGovern as a one-night stand. Greg and Graham‘s liaison was developed by Bird into a more complex and loving relationship — the focus of Greg’s agonising over the Church's unyielding doctrines. ‘Originally in the script my character went off and had a lay.‘ says Roache. ‘There was a conscious decision to make the relationship tender. bttt there was another option — it could’ve just gone for sex. You can always argue whether sex is valid in films and most ofthe time it‘s not. In this case. it‘s good to see it and not be ashamed of it.‘
He recognises the poignancy of Priest. as the Catholic Church struggles with issues such as incest and homosexuality in the priesthood. One of the film‘s tnost moving scenes is when a young incest victim accepts communion from Father Greg while the rest of the congregation shuns him. The actor is adamant that McGovern has no rigid agenda. ‘Priest is not like a
Father Greg (Linus Roache), Charlie (Paul Barber) and Graham (Robert Carlyle)
polemic.‘ he says. ‘lt really asks intelligent and relevant questions. These issues have been simmering in the public eye for a long time. They need to be dealt with.‘ Referring to the sex scene between Greg and Graham. he says: ‘Hopefully anyone with any sense of humanity will not be too upset. It might hurt a few people's pride. but it’s a good catalyst.‘
Quietly passionate about Priest. Roache’s ambition is to continue working on material he truly believes in. but his reaction to the attention Seafort/z won him is mixed. It appears the actor who carved his reputation in RSC stage productions took a bite at mainstream television and found his gut was not strong enough to swallow it. It is hardly surprising — a week after completing Priest. he had begun more than nine months‘ gruelling filming for .S'eaforth.
Priest gave Roache the kick he was looking for — then Seaﬁrrt/t kicked him back. ‘My heart was with it to begin with. but I found it very difficult to continue.‘ he says. ‘It was hard and I got a bit of overkill. You want something. then you get it. then you get lots of it . . .’ The result — the trip to India. a journey of self-discovery and had some doubts about his chosen vocation. ‘I don’t really know if I'll be an actor forever.’ he says.
Asked what he plans to do next. he pauses before saying: ‘l’m reading scripts. hoping I‘m going to go “Yes”. like I did to the Jimmy McGovern one.’ Ll Priest opens at the Cameo, Edinburgh on Friday 17 and the Glasgow Film Theatre on Friday 31.
The List l0-23 Mar l99517