Why is Malcolm Hebden quitting Coronation Street as Norris Cole?

Corrie: Ken Barlow visits Norris in a retirement home

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Malcolm Hebden played the role of Norris on Coronation Street for almost 30 years and was adored by fans of the ITV soap. The actor has made sparse appearances over the last few years as he suffered from a heart attack in 2017 and never returned to the show full-time. To mark the end of the character’s journey on the cobbles, producers have killed him off but why did Malcolm want to leave his iconic role?

Why is Malcolm Hebden quitting Coronation Street?

After Malcolm suffered his heart attack, he returned to the show in 2019 as Norris oversaw the sale of his house.

In 2020, he came back to become a resident of Stillwaters retirement home which Ken Barlow (played by William Roache) was moving into.

Since Ken decided to return to Weatherfield, Norris has not been seen since but over the next couple of weeks, he will be the centre of a new storyline.

The scriptwriters have killed him off as Malcolm announced earlier this year he was going to be retiring from acting.

This meant he would have to quit his role as the Coronation Street stalwart to enjoy his life off-camera.

Discussing his departure from the soap, Malcolm said: “I absolutely adored playing Norris and I was pleased to be able to return briefly after my operation.

“It took a great deal of courage to make the decision to retire, but I had come to realise that although the mind was willing the body was not so much,” he said in a statement to Digital Spy.

Executive producer Iain MacLeod added: “Norris became an all-time great character, whose lemon-lipped barbs will be remembered forever.

“But, in his brilliant double acts with Emily, Rita and more recently Mary, Malcolm has left us with countless fantastic memories.”

Mind was willing, body was not

Malcolm Hebden

How is Norris Cole leaving Coronation Street?

At the time of the announcement Malcolm had quit the show, it was explained Norris would still be referenced as a resident of Stillwaters.

However, with the year pressing on, writers have decided to end the character’s time on the cobbles by giving him a big send-off.

In upcoming scenes, Ken will tell Rita Tanner (Barbara Knox) Norris has asked to meet him and has some important news.

Unfortunately, the pair don’t get to meet as Norris’ partner Freda Burgess (Ali Briggs) informs the residents of the cobbles he has collapsed and has been taken to the hospital suffering from a stroke.

By the time Ken, Rita and Mary Taylor (Patti Clare) get to the hospital, it is too late as Norris has already passed away.

Freda breaks the news to her partner’s friends, who are devastated they never got to say goodbye to the stalwart.

Ken is the most shaken by his friend’s death as he realises he will never know the news Norris wanted to share with him.

In tribute to one of the show’s most iconic characters, the residents of the cobbles gather in the Rovers to raise a toast to their friend.

It was reported a couple of weeks ago, some of the cast of the soap had gathered to film an unknown character’s funeral.

With Norris passing away in upcoming scenes, it is likely these scenes will air as part of his final storyline.

Mary will dress up as Star Wars character, Princess Leia, to reference when she and Norris dressed up as characters of the iconic film franchise.

Other residents who will attend the funeral will include Gail Platt (Helen Worth) and Claudia Colby (Rula Lenska).

How will ITV pay tribute to Malcolm Hebden quitting Coronation Street?

To mark Malcolm’s departure from the show, ITV will be airing a special episode to celebrate the character of Norris.

Entitled Coronation Street Icons: Norris Cole, former star of the soap Sally Lindsay, will narrate the tribute episode.

The emotional instalment will air on Monday 13 September, 2021, to coincide with the episodes making Norris’ death.

Viewers will be taken on a trip down memory lane as they relive some of the character’s most memorable moments.

Coronation Street airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30pm and 8:30pm on ITV.

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