We’re the only soap to have it? Denton reveals what it was like playing Lola Fowler’s lover
IT’S HARD to find actors who have copped the whole Hallmark genre. And if they do, they’re almost definitely aged out. With soaps selling sex at a pinch and Hallmark films being made specifically for Valentine’s Day, have soap actors really got the hots for romantic comedy? Does it really make sense for Coronation Street and Hollyoaks to appear in such a franchise? Not according to James Denton, the actor who plays hunky mechanic Ryan Connor in the both.
“I don’t think so,” laughs James. “But I think that’s part of the reason they’re doing it. How could you go against Hallmark? It’s just the perfect movie genre. Soaps have always got girls running up and down the cobbles in hot pants, but they can turn it up and up a notch. It’s the newest thing for soap actors to explore.” Yes, soap movies do draw on its soap roots a lot, but it is also their modern take on love that makes the hallmarks of the original romance seem so dated. Whether it’s Robson Green and Nina Wadia in Love Coach or Ray Quinn and Melanie Sykes in Campus or Sophie Ellis-Bextor and James Corden in Back To Christmas, the impetus in each film has always been a love story at its heart.
“We know how long a soap can run and we know how an hour-long drama can run, so soap writers can’t go on forever,” says Denton. “There are always plots that come to a close. If something’s taking too long, then it just wouldn’t feel right to keep doing it.
“But we’re not making them [the soap movies] to hold up our name like they might if we were acting in a play. The soap version of those films is nothing like our version and nowhere near as sexual and full of innuendo and jokey lines. It’s not to pretend it’s what our show is. “You’ve got to remember that we are making these things for our younger audience,” he adds. “The Hallmark films probably don’t get a huge old-school soap-comic audience, so they may have a wide reach. They just happen to be the film medium we both prefer to get our work across.”
It is that same younger audience who Denton hopes will come away enjoying a film that is cheesy and mucky but true to the characters. Although he is quick to point out that a highlight from the Hallmark movie-making process is when he has a scene that stays with him for the rest of the day. “The scene with Kimberly Wynter [Penny, who Denton plays in Channel 4’s Mr Selfridge] was an absolute highlight of my life,” he remembers. “When we did it, I could see the screen lit up and I was genuinely trying to get Kimberly’s attention, trying to look at her in the right way. But that’s my job, so I did it. I thought, ‘I’ve hit my mark’.” Speaking more generally about soap storylines and villains, Denton admits that when he sees someone like Bad Boys’ bad boy Miles Freeman – who marries Bonita Celaya’s Edith in Couple On A Date (Hallmark) – cast in this role, he can only despair.