|Coronation Street character|
|Portrayed by||Malcolm Hebden|
|First appearance||11 March 1994|
|Introduced by||Sue Pritchard (1994)
Jane MacNaught (1999)
|Coronation Street: A Knights Tale (2010)|
|Home||3 Coronation Street|
Norris Benjamin Cole is a fictional character from the British television soap opera Coronation Street, played by Malcolm Hebden. He made his first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 11 March 1994. Hebden had previously played the role of Carlos, Mavis Riley's (Thelma Barlow) Spanish lover, in 1974. Norris appeared on a recurring basis, until he was axed in April 1997 by Brian Park. However two years later, the character was reintroduced on a regular basis. He has lived for several years with fellow character, Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) at 3 Coronation Street, first as a lodger, and more recently as the house owner.
Norris was born in March 1940. When he was twenty, his half-brother, Ramsay, turned up after tracking down his mother. This shocked Eunice and Norris as Eunice had not told anyone that she had another child. After their mother died, Norris and Ramsay had a fight at the funeral and his brother left. Norris became a salesman and married a woman called Myrtle.
Norris first appears in Coronation Street when he picks up Derek Wilton (Peter Baldwin), whose car has broken down, and gives him a lift home. Norris subsequently leaves his wife and moves in with Derek and Mavis, much to Mavis's horror. Norris reappears in Derek's life and later marries Derek's ex-wife, Angela, putting him one up on Derek, but the marriage does not last. A few years later, Norris returns to the Street, looking for work, and moves in with Emily Bishop (Eileen Derbyshire) after finding himself a job at the Kabin, working with Rita Sullivan (Barbara Knox).
Norris develops a reputation as a fusspot and a busybody, but his inquisitive nature sometimes works to advantage, as when he guessed that serial killer Richard Hillman (Brian Capron) was after Emily's money and wanted her dead. Only he and Audrey Roberts realised Richard's true nature, but no one believed them, and it was not until later that the full story emerged.
Norris is generally asexual but he has had several lady friends. He proposed to Rita, who declined, and later to her friend Doreen Fenwick (Barbara Young), before he found out that both George Trench (Keith Barron) and Ivor Priestley (Paul Copley) had also proposed to her.
Rita employs Tina McIntyre (Michelle Keegan) to work at The Kabin, because Norris has back problems but Norris is unhappy about this. Later that month, Emily discovers ladies underwear in a bin bag of Norris's. Instantly suspicious, Tina and Rita confront Norris and ask if he is a transvestite. He explains that he had won the underwear in a competition and that he has an addiction to competitions. Norris's friend, Mary Taylor (Patti Clare), arrives on the Street; Mary was introduced for this specific storyline as she shares Norris's obsession with entering competitions. Norris initially resents Mary, as she often beats him in competitions, but they quickly become close, and Mary offers Norris a ticket she has won for a Cliff Richard concert. Norris's fellow lodger, Jed Stone (Kenneth Cope), enjoys flirting with Mary but she only has eyes for Norris. When Mary and Norris win a motor home, Norris is pleased, but begins to be concerned about how far Mary wants to take their relationship.
When Mary's mother dies, she is able to spend more time with Norris but he remains unsure about their relationship. She then invites him to accompany her on a world cruise, paid for with her inheritance. Norris agrees but is nervous and is shocked by Rita's engagement to Colin Grimshaw (Edward de Souza), and the two share a poignant moment in the Rovers. Genuinely wishing each other well, it is clear that Norris still harbours thoughts of what might have been. He is a great support to Rita when she later calls off the engagement after discovering that Colin fathered a child with a fourteen-year-old girl.
Norris's half-brother, Ramsay Clegg (Andrew Sachs), arrives and hopes to make amends with Norris, who refuses to speak to him. Norris blames Ramsay for their mother's death, stating that the shock of his reappearance in her life caused her demise. Despite Ramsay's best efforts at a reconciliation, Norris refuses to see him as anything other than an illegitimate half-brother and Ramsay eventually returns to Australia. Norris is left reeling at the news that Ramsay died on the flight; he had an incurable brain tumour, which he never told Norris about. Some of Ramsay's possessions are left to Norris and amongst them is a letter written by their mother, who cruelly rejected Ramsay. Norris is left devastated that he had blamed Ramsay all along. After Ramsay's death in August 2009, Rita decides to sell up the Kabin. When Norris receives £172,000 from Ramsay's will, he buys the Kabin from Rita.
When Norris shows signs of tiredness, Mary suggests that she does some work in the Kabin so he can take a break. She enters a competition for them to win a week at a cottage in the countryside and wins, persuading Norris to come with her. Norris realises that Mary is trying to ensure that he cannot escape and even hears Mary mention the idea of them getting married; a horrific thought for Norris. She then breaks his glasses, leaving him more or less housebound, as his eyesight is quite poor. He attempts to escape from the cottage but Mary tracks him down. Eventually, he contacts the Police telling them that Mary is holding him captive. No charges are brought against her, and Norris subsequently makes up with her.
Norris is not pleased when Emily allows Tracy Barlow (Kate Ford) and her daughter Amy (Elle Mulvaney) to live with them. When Tracy offers to clean the house for Emily, Norris puts a lock on his bedroom door so that Tracy cannot get into his room. Tracy locks Norris in his room as a joke, and he is annoyed when Amy spills paint on his shoes and tells Emily that he wants Tracy to move out. Emily agrees after Tracy ruins Ernest's old dancing shoes, thinking that they belonged to Norris.
After much fretting about where he will live when Emily pays her debt to nature, she gives him her house on condition that she can always live there. Norris is enthralled with being a home owner but the accompanying expenses upset him. This storyline revealed Norris to be a cynically manipulative liar when it suits him. After stealing Emily's post and pretending that he has bought her presents that others have sent he gets found out. But Emily forgives him as usual.
Norris is also an exploiter of child labour, and sacks his long term paperboy when he secures a month of free newspaper deliveries from Craig Tinker as punishment for stealing sweets from the Kabin. But Craig does not deliver the papers and the storyline fizzles out.
Norris showed a softer side in October 2013 when he teaches Roy Cropper (David Neilson) to foxtrot, without music, in the back room of the Kabin. Roy breaks Norris' beloved teapot and tries to leave, but Norris calms him down and motivates him to perfect the steps.
Auditions were held for the part of Norris with actor Malcolm Hebden going on to secure the role. After leaving the series in 1997 Hebden returned to filming with the series in 1999 and has remained on the show to the present day. In 2009 it was noted that the character of Norris has become one of the show's most recognisable characters. Norris was axed along with a lot of characters in a massive cull in 1997. However, the character was reintroduced two years later in 1999, when he had a more regular role than before. Hebden has said to be surprised by Norris having a fanbase, he said: "Norris is a very popular character in general though, and he's also very popular with children, which surprises me. I would have thought he'd get on our nerves, but he doesn't." He went on to say: "For some unknown reason, Norris is immensely popular with children, though I never understand why. Is he the granddad they've always wanted to poke fun at? He's always wrong, but most of my letters are from young people, which is lovely. I think they feel safe with him because he's a loser!"
In May 2009, it was announced that Patti Clare who plays Mary Taylor had been axed from the soap. A spokesperson for Coronation Street said: "The affected actors were all involved in storylines that were due to run for a finite time. If every new character stayed in the show, the Street would be a little crowded to say the least." It was then rumored that Clare would be returning; Hebden revealed these rumors were true. Hebden praised Mary and Norris, he said: "I think when Patti and I get together it's comedy all the way. We love working together which is a good start for comedy. Oddly enough, you can play a love relationship with someone you hate - I've done it - but comedy you can't do. So I love her to death and it helps with the comedy." Hebden also revealed that Mary should stay in the soap for good. In September 2009, it was announced Patti Clare was to reprise her role as Mary Taylor. A spokesperson confirmed: "Mary will be back to rekindle her relationship with Norris." On 18 February 2010, it was announced that Norris would be held captive by Mary in a Misery style storyline, speaking of the storyline a Coronation Street source told The Mirror: "Mary convinces herself they are reincarnations of Heathcliffe and Cathy and keeps trying to share his bed. Norris escapes to a phone box. When Mary arrives he tries to run and hide but falls and sprains his ankle. Mary refuses to take him to hospital and returns him to the cottage telling him, 'The more helpless you are the stronger I get'.
On 5 January 2009, it was announced that former Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs had been cast in Coronation Street to play Norris Cole's brother named Ramsay Clegg. A spokesperson said: "I can confirm that Andrew Sachs has taken us up on the offer. He will be joining us later this year." Sachs revealed said that he had already has an idea about playing Ramsay five years before: "Myself and my wife had dreamt up a storyline where I played Norris's brother. We thought it would be great fun if a brother every bit as annoying as Norris turned up and the pair of them wound everyone up." Sachs also revealed that he was scared about being on the soap: "I nearly turned them down because I was too scared. I said to my wife that I didn't think I could do it. Apparently there is very little rehearsal time and I said I wasn't sure I liked the part anyway." Asked by Digital Spy "What's it been like working with Andrew Sachs for the past few months?" Malcolm Hebden replied: ""It was suggested two or three years ago that Andrew Sachs wanted to be my brother and because we had a change of perhaps two producers in that time, it just got lost in the hundreds of storylines we have. I was talking to our new producer Kim Crowther and said I thought it was a great shame we'd never picked up the Andrew Sachs stuff and she knew nothing of it. She thought it was a great idea and she made it happen. Andrew was very happy to do it." He also went on to say: ""I had met Andrew once before and he expressed how keen he was to do it. We got on terribly well. I think it took him a little while to get used to my sense of humour but he did by the time he left! For me, the storyline kicks in once he's dead - that sounds awful - but I was just being dismissive and blocking Ramsay for the first part of the story. I just didn't want anything to do with him. Then Ramsay goes back to Australia and dies on the aeroplane but the fallout is enormous - not just for Norris, but particularly for Emily. She'd become quite fond of Ramsay. He's a civilised man and quite a charming character, whereas Norris isn't. Therefore, I'm going to be terribly unpopular for a little while until Norris realises that he was wrong."
In other media
A trailer for promotion of the Coronation Street website on ITV, which was released in July 2009 to air on television, portrays Norris Cole as James Bond, using high-tech devices to spy on many of his neighbours, in reference to his character's curiosity to know everyone's business in the street.
Malcolm Hebden was nominated for "Best Comedy Performance" for his portrayal of Norris at The British Soap Awards 2002. Hebden was also nominated for "Funniest Performance" at the 2010 Inside Soap Awards.
- Press Editor (2008). "ITV Press Center - Coronation Street". ITV.com. Retrieved 2009-05-30.
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- "Coronation Street | CoronationStreet.com trailer - ITV Soaps". Itv.com. Retrieved 2009-07-10.
- "British Soap Awards 2002: Nominations - TV Feature". Digital Spy. 2002-05-16. Retrieved 2012-08-23.
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