The last time we saw Justin was when he was in the car at the hospital car park, asking for Daisy’s help and trying to explain what he had done before he was arrested. It was such a cowardly side to Justin compared to the self assured Justin which we have seen, particularly when he locked horns with Daniel outside the Rovers or when he turned up for court for Daisy’s Stalking Protection Order hearing.
Yes, in the hospital car park I think we saw a pathetic side to Justin. He was so laser-focused on Daisy and he was completely isolating himself from the outside world so he felt like the acid attack was a rational thing to do. The revenge in him was bubbling away but immediately after the attack that tunnel vision had slightly broken off and he had a chance to look at his actions and think, “What have I done?” But he has an ability to jump through mental hoops to justify his actions so very quickly he ushered those thoughts away and thought of himself as the good guy again. In his head, he is the hero in his own story. When he got to the hospital and he saw Daisy’s reaction, it shone a spotlight on all the wrong stuff that he had done so in that moment when he’s asking Daisy for her help and trying to explain the unexplainable and inexcusable, it is a pathetic, different side to Justin.
Which ‘Justin’ will turn up for his trial; will it be the bravado Justin or the cowardly Justin?
It’s a new Justin that we are going to see. There is a lot going on in his head with the trial underway as he feels backed into a corner so he is willing to go to whatever lengths he has to, to gain the upper hand. He has manipulated his sister and he is lying to anyone and everyone around him. There is a very definite fear of going to prison for a very long time so he is desperate. We will see a slither of the pathetic Justin but this is his big chance to be seen and to be heard, particularly by Daisy, so he is happy to grab that opportunity with both hands. As the trial progresses we are going to see Justin wrestling to stay calm and collected as this inner tension is bubbling under the surface.
As Justin is the hero in his own story, in his head, does he genuinely believe he has done nothing wrong or does he feel remorse towards Ryan for the attack?
Justin is in survival mode. He did realise he had done wrong, moments after the attack took place, but has since decided that he is going to do anything and everything to protect himself so he has almost convinced himself that he has done nothing wrong and decompartmentalised that. Because he is such a truly phenomenal liar, he utterly believes his own lies. Weirdly, I think he does feel remorse for Ryan but it’s not like in an overly sympathetic way to Ryan, he feels remorse that this has led him to where he is and he regrets the situation he has got himself into. He has no appreciation or understanding of the damage he has caused Ryan and he is looking at it through the prism of how it has affected him.
Karen, Justin’s sister, tells Daisy how sorry she is for Justin’s attack and how she hopes he’ll be sent down. But after a row between Ryan and Daisy reveals Daisy’s history of manipulation, Karen passes on what she overhears to Justin’s lawyer. Talk us through Justin’s part in this.
Justin and Karen have been in contact. Justin has been incredibly manipulative and actively working behind the scenes to orchestrate his defence by putting his sister in a position that she feels incredibly uncomfortable about. Justin is guilt-tripping his sister by talking about their mum and really pushing that heavily on her. He’s the only family she has got now so he is using that against her and it just shows his ability to use people to get what he wants. He doesn’t even see his behaviour as using people, it’s a means to an end for him.
Does Justin want Daisy to suffer for rejecting him?
It’s complicated because that antagonistic feeling he had towards Daisy before the attack came from all this pressure from her rejection and the death of his mum. Everything was building up into this boiling point but after the attack he has fallen back into this obsession with her and we saw that during the scenes when he was in the car in the hospital car park. He has already immediately gone into feeling like she is this kind of hope he can hold on to. So no, he isn’t desperate for her to suffer for rejecting him, he is in this cycle of hatred and objectified obsession and depending how the mood takes him or what situation he finds himself in, he will swing from one degree to the other.
How confident does he feel when he takes to the stand to tell his version of the attack? Does he think he can get the jury on his side having painted Daisy in a negative light?
Justin has a well rehearsed speech as he knows this trial is important so he sees this as his golden opportunity to convince the jury to let him go. He is going to put on the full charm offensive and he will use all of his manipulation tactics to win the jury round. He’s not confident that this is going to all pan out for him but he knows that this is make or break and he has to put on the performance of his life to get away with this. It’s a very stakes, high pressure situation for him. We are going to see the most manipulative Justin yet.
Throughout this storyline we have seen Justin manipulate situations to his gain like when he appealed to Daniel’s vulnerabilities when they both talked about losing loved ones to cancer or when he turned up for court in a neck brace for Daisy’s Stalking Protection Order hearing.
Yes, we have seen little hints of him being able to manipulate people; he has done it to Daisy, he has done it to Daniel, and they have worked him out and pushed him away. But the jury doesn’t know anything about the situation or what Justin is like and for most people, when they meet him for the first time, they are won over by his act. He can be quite unassuming but this is the be all and end all so he is going to pull out all the stops.
The court scenes were all filmed on location in Bolton. What was that like?
The trial scenes were filmed over a course of a week and obviously because Justin is on trial, he is inside a big glass case defendant box in the court. It was the court that they used when they filmed Happy Valley, so the defendant box is the one that James North’s character, Tommy Lee Royce, climbed out of! There’s so much history in that court too like there are old, Victorian cells underneath the court so I was going straight from there up into the box which was weird. The days were long and the very last scene we filmed was when Justin takes the stand and I had like a three page monologue to say so it was quite nerve-racking! I remember waiting all week for this one big scene! I felt a lot of nervous energy going into that scene which was good because that’s exactly how Justin would feel too because it’s his last big gamble. It was definitely the longest speech that I have had, being in Coronation Street, and it was quite cathartic to get it all out there.
When you first read the scripts of Justin taking the stand, what were your thoughts?
I was like, “Okay, this is the time for him to put everything on the table!” I knew this was going to be the most difficult scene I’ve ever played as Justin because it’s his chance to manipulate the jury and give everything he has got. It felt like the entire six months run that I have done on Coronation Street was distilled into that one monologue because it’s very rare in television that you’re going to have a big monologue like that. It also felt quite theatrical as it was in the courtroom so I really wanted to make the most out of the scene. It felt like a challenge and because of how Coronation Street is filmed, I only had one or two chances to get it right but I feel happy with how it went and we will see what the viewers make of it when it comes out on TV!
Have you enjoyed playing such a sinister character? Is it difficult to play a character you can’t sympathise with?
Yes, it’s always fun to play a bad guy. I do usually play troubled characters and Justin is definitely troubled. I have had to try and find the truth and the realism in him otherwise it just comes across as an inauthentic villain. I know this sounds crazy but as an actor, you have to try and find that sympathy in the character and relate to them on a human level. So I thought about his mum passing away, his isolation and loneliness and the fact that he doesn’t have anyone and that he’s latched on to Daisy due to a really tenuous connection that he feels is something more, in his head. I’ve just had to try and play that all believably and make it all feel real.
What’s been the hardest scene of the storyline to film?
There have been loads because the really great thing about this character is that he has developed and changed as the storyline has gone on and I’ve been really lucky to have been given such well written, engaging scenes to perform. The scenes when Justin turns up at the wedding fair were difficult because I was trying to play it as believable as possible because I think the less creepy I played it, the more creepy Justin came off! Justin’s monologue during the trial scenes was difficult because it was just me talking for a long time so I had to find a way to keep people engaged and take the audience on a journey.
What reaction have you had from viewers?
I’ve had a fair few people come up to me in pubs and they are like “Are you the boy off Coronation Street?” and asking for a photo. Everyone has been really nice and they know it’s not real life but I did have one guy come up to me and he was like, “You’re really scary!” and he did actually seem a wee bit scared of me! I was like, “Honestly mate, that’s not who I am!”
What can you tease about the outcome of the trial?
It’s a bold play by Justin! Viewers are really not going to know until the end which side the coin is going to fall on.
You’ve been involved with the stalking storyline and now the acid attack storyline, two very hard hitting issues. Have you enjoyed working on storylines that have sparked public conversation?
Yes, it’s been great to be involved in storylines that make a point and have weight to them but also have the drama. As an actor, that is something that you really want to play so I’ve enjoyed sinking my teeth into this role.
What has been your most memorable moment being at Coronation Street?
Definitely meeting Princess Anne. When else are you going to have the chance to say that you’ve met a royal in the Rovers Returns – it’s pretty mad! That’s like ‘tell your grandkids’ type of thing! She took a great interest in the acid attack storyline so I got a chance to talk to her which I hadn’t really expected. She was very knowledgeable and knew what was going on in the storyline.
Do you think it’s important for Coronation Street to show that Justin will get his comeuppance whether that’s at the trial or in other ways?
Yes, definitely. When I have been a viewer of a show and watched a character do terrible things, I can’t help but hope that it’s going to come back to bite them and I think that Justin certainly deserves justice to be served because what he has done has been horrendous. I definitely think he should get his comeuppance.
Coronation Street airs from Monday to Friday at 7:30pm on ITV1 from Monday May 29.