Corrie fans were left distraught this weekend after Friday's dramatic episode showed the final living moments of former Rovers Return landlord, Johnny Connor, before he tragically drowned.

Bradford-born Actor Richard Hawley, 66, who has played the Connor family patriarch since arriving on the Cobbles in 2015, spoke in an exclusive interview with ITV's Loose Women today about how tricky it was not to let the cat out of the bag that his character would be leaving the show.

"I've been waiting for this moment to be shown, and for me to enjoy it as well I've really wanted to get to this point where I can actually speak about it because it was an incredible experience.

"We filmed it two months ago, but of course I knew before that. I did tell a couple of people if I'm perfectly honest - just my mum and my sister - but it was okay!"

Richard Hawley on Friday's episode: "It's been really strange waiting to see it. It was kind of like an opening night!"
Richard Hawley on Friday's episode: "It's been really strange waiting to see it. It was kind of like an opening night!"

Richard's character Johnny was swept away by a forceful current of water after he became trapped in an underground chamber when trying to save his estranged wife Jenny [Sally Ann Matthews], who had fallen through the sinkhole in Gail Platt's back garden.

All of last week's heart-breaking episodes were directed by George C. Siougas.

After being asked by today's Loose Women, Coleen Nolan, Katie Piper, Jane Moore and Kéllé Bryan, about his experience filming the tense underwater scenes, Richard revealed: "We loved it! We'd done 18 months of social distancing and not being able to film closely so, as well as the water, all that was over!

"Working with George [C. Siougas] was fantastic - to be able to get up and work out the scenes closely and be with him closely.

"Backstage in the swimming pool was just like being in a comedy club - the safety divers, the guys making the bubbles, the guys making the current - were incredibly funny.

Richard's character Johnny leaves behind two daughters, Carla and Kate.
Richard's character Johnny leaves behind two daughters, Carla and Kate.

"It was an enormous pleasure doing the whole thing and just lovely to be able to do a story that was really deep and profound for the pair of us, as well as all the exciting stuff with the stunts."

Richard's character Johnny Connor will be leaving behind his two daughters, Carla (Alison King) and Kate (Faye Brookes). His on-screen son Aidan (played by Shayne Ward) took his own life on the show in 2018.

The Loose Women panellists then asked Richard why exactly it was that he decided to bow out of the show, to which he replied: "I live a long way from Manchester, in Brighton, and it was getting quite difficult travelling up and down, and to be honest, I felt that in seven years I'd had a good set of stories."

Viewers of Friday's episode will have witnessed Johnny's wife Jenny's distress and grief as she realised that her husband was not to make it out of the underground chamber alive.

Jenny, who has been played by Sally Ann Matthews on an on-and-off basis since 1986, married Johnny Connor in 2017.

Since then, both of their storylines have mostly revolved around their turbulent relationship.

"Sally Ann and I had always wanted to do what was originally a really great love story and to be perfectly honest, if you want to do a really great love story, somebody has to die. It has to be over.

"That's what we wanted, and so that's why I stepped up and said I was ready to go."

Richard also discussed his upcoming plans now that he has left the Cobbles. He hopes to retrain and volunteer at a Forest School, a unique and primarily outdoor teaching institution that centres on learning skills that are hard to teach in the classroom.

"I've also just got a part in a play!

"So, come the Spring, I'm going to be out and about doing a nationwide tour of a show called Dead Lies by Hilary Bonner. It's a really good play!"