“I think this is going to be a day that nobody forgets.”
Kirsty Soames makes a prediction on the morning of her wedding to Tyrone Dobbs.
She’s not wrong.
I was at ITV’s London launch yesterday for next Monday’s two wedding day episodes.
Always a treat to see Coronation Street on a big screen with an audience.
And then a showreel of what is to come in the weeks and months ahead.
Including some delicious scenes involving Gail (Helen Worth) and Lewis (Nigel Havers).
Plus the return of Roy’s mother Sylvia, played by the wonderful Stephanie Cole.
Along with the twists and turns ahead involving Tyrone, who has suffered months of abuse at Kirsty’s hands.
All but three of his Weatherfield neighbours unaware of what has gone on behind closed doors.
The screening was followed by a Q&A involving Alan Halsall (Tyrone), Natalie Gumede (Kirsty), Jennie McAlpine (Fiz) and Michelle Keegan (Tina McIntyre).
You can read my full transcript further down the page.
There are spoilers below. So if you don’t want to read them, stop now.
Without them knowing, Kirsty discovers Tyrone and Fiz’s secret affair on the eve of her wedding.
Scenes which you can see during this Friday’s (Jan 18) episodes at 7:30pm and 8:30pm.
A moment that left me almost feeling sorry for Kirsty – a testament to Natalie’s acting skills.
But as you can see from the photos, she turns up for her Grawley Lane Chapel wedding to Tyrone.
With viewers finding out next Monday if they marry or not.
Later next week Kirsty tumbles down the stairs during a row with Tyrone.
And then accuses him of a campaign of physical violence and psychological abuse against her.
Which leads to Tyrone’s arrest and, eventually, the prospect of a trial.
Producer Phil Collinson introduced the screening.
“This storyline has been a very important one for us,” he said.
“It really seems to have captured the imagination of our audience.
“That’s because of the performance of the company of actors. But, in particular, Jennie and Michelle and Natalie and Alan.
“The joy of a show like Coronation Street sometimes is, when you find a storyline that you can really burn slowly. That you can really unpick.
“And just try and understand human nature and what makes us tick.
“I think this story has been a perfect example of that.
“A real chance to get inside not just the mind of a victim of domestic violence but also the perpetrator.
“Natalie has done a wonderful job helping us see why this person has turned into the woman that she is.”
Natalie is nominated for Newcomer in next Wednesday’s National TV Awards.
With Alan and Michelle both nominated for Serial Drama Performance.
Plus Coronation Street itself is nominated in the Serial Drama category.
You can vote online here.
My Q&A transcript:
Q: What’s going through Kirsty’s head when she turns the tables on Tyrone and accuses him of domestic violence?
Natalie Gumede: “I think something has really died inside of Kirsty. Tyrone was the love of her life and that’s the one piece of happiness she thought she had. And I think throughout their relationship, despite all of her mistakes, he has at least appeared to forgive her. So I think she thought she had a new start. And her world has fallen apart. She had a very unhappy childhood and a lot of unhappy relationships. And just when she thought everything was going to go right, it all goes wrong. She’s so in love with Tyrone and she hates him for what he’s done. If she can’t have him then nobody can. It’s that thing of trying to still get their attention. While she’s doing this to him, she still has him, she still has a hold over him. She’s not willing just to walk away and let him be happy. No way.”
Q: What was that like to play?
Alan Halsall: “To be honest, for me, it’s just been another twist in what’s been such a great story. I think it’s run for the best part of a year, the whole domestic violence thing. It’s nice to have a long-running story and it was just another twist along the way. It’s been brilliant because it’s been a bit like that for us. We’ve received the scripts and gone, ‘Ooh, we’re doing that now?’ So it’s been really good in terms of that and it’s been a great story to tell from the very beginning. And there’s more to come, as you can see.”
Q: Just how far will Kirsty go now? Are there any limits?
Natalie Gumede: “That’s a great question. I don’t think there are. I don’t think it’s as calculated as planning far ahead. But she’s an intelligent girl and she knows how to manipulate. So whenever she’s given a set of circumstances she knows how to turn them into her favour. I think there’s definitely a pang of guilt there. When you love someone, no matter how much you want to take revenge on them, you don’t really want to see them unhappy. She still wants to be with him. She’s clever enough to dream up in the moment, toss a pebble in the water and see what ripples, what comes from it.”
Q: How long does it take you to calm down after filming those scenes?
Natalie Gumede: “It gets quicker now because we’re so used to doing it and we film so quickly, we have so many scenes to do in succession that there’s not really time to indulge in de-stressing, to be honest. It’s straight on to the next one. We can be straight on to a quite happy scene straight away. So there’s not much to be done in that sense.”
Q: Obviously the abuse is her own responsibility – she must realise that’s why this has all happened? She seems to be a bit like the wrong woman. She’s not taking any responsibility?
Natalie Gumede: “Sure. I think that’s the difficulty with her character at this stage. There was a point where she had an opportunity to learn from her mistakes. She talked with Tyrone at length about the abuse that she suffered. And she had the opportunity to make it right. But I think pride and a denial of being like her father…I don’t think she can face the fact that she’s so like her father. That means that she’s not learning from it and she’s really on a downward spiral now.”
Q: We’ve seen some reasons for Kirsty acting the way she does, if not excuses. Do the cast think that she’s an out and out villain? And can she be redeemed?
Alan Halsall: “I personally think, what’s been great about the character is, there’s a real depth there. Once we got to find out about her childhood, with her father and stuff, there’s a real depth to the character. I don’t know how far she can go…a character is always redeemable because this is a soap opera, we’re always telling a story. There’s a lot that goes with that. We’ve gone very far in terms of it’s changed once there’s a child involved, the tables have turned as you’ve just seen. So it’s not whether she is redeemable anymore. It’s what people will believe. So, again, it’s just a great twist in the story. It kind of takes it away from whether she’s redeemable or not. There’s a story now that branches off from that, as you can see, with the twist. I don’t know, really.”
Q: Is there guilt on Tina and Fiz’s part, that they have effectively stood by and not forced Tyrone to speak up and gone along with it?
Michelle Keegan: “I think Tina wanted him to speak up from day one. But he never did. So I don’t think she’d feel guilty because she’s always stood by him as a friend and she’s been there for him and she’s tried to help him and try and make him speak out to people and tell them what Kirsty did.”
Jennie McAlpine: “You can’t force someone to do something…if it’s a true friend, I don’t think you’d force them because it’s his choice to say it. It’s such a complicated thing and it’s something that two young girls like Fiz and Tina, they’ve never dealt with any of this before. It’s like, ‘How the hell do we help a friend who’s going through…’ We’re used to just having normal problems, like, ‘Should he sell the garage or not?’ This is a really serious, adult, grown-up, scary problem. I don’t think they know what the hell to advise him. They’ve advised him as best they could…”
Michelle Keegan: “I think it’s with the child involved as well. Obviously Tyrone had a child taken off him. He didn’t want that to happen again. So you can’t really force him.”
Q: Does Fiz now become the villain of the Street?
Jennie McAlpine: “Yes! She does. I became the villain last time and it wasn’t my fault. Yes. (laughter) Yes, is the answer.”
Q: (From me as it happens) What sort of reactions and feedback have you had from the public and others to this storyline?
Alan Halsall: “For me, personally, I’ve never had a reaction like I have to this storyline. I’ve been in the show now for quite a while and this story has definitely been my favourite story to be part of. And the reaction that we’ve had – I think it’s difficult at times for people to watch because it’s a serious issue. This is something that happens a lot more than people think. So it’s difficult at times. But I think people have appreciated the story. And there’s a lot of depth to the story. This is my first year on Twitter, so you get an immediate feedback from the fans. Which has been fantastic, actually, to realise how passionate the fans are of Coronation Street and, in particular, this story. So I’ve loved it. Even though it can be tough at times for people to watch – I get that – I found out that the charity that we work with along the way (ManKind), their calls have gone up by 300 per cent since Coronation Street took this story on, which I didn’t know until today. So it does affect people. It makes you feel proud to be part of a story like this.”
Natalie Gumede: “Very much the same. Obviously there’s an element of worrying for your own safety. There’s warnings given to you along the way. But for the most part people have been hugely supportive and just really intrigued to see what happens next. I certainly expected a lot of negative feedback because Kirsty’s not the most likeable character. But it’s been lovely that people have seen past it and I feel really lucky for that because I think Coronation Street as a whole has told a really important story. So I’m glad that I haven’t had too much negativity.”
Q: Do you feel like you’ve done your job right if people hate you?
Natalie Gumede: “It’s my first experience of something so huge. It’s hard to really take that concept in. We just work on a TV set and we don’t really think about the wider impact. We just work day to day and do our best to tell a good story. But the fact that people have responded well to it has been really gratifying. It’s been lovely.”
Q: Alan – I wondered how the storyline has affected you personally? Is it one of those where when you clock off at the end of the day you’re still carrying Tyrone’s turmoil around?
Alan Halsall: “I don’t know why or how this came about, but when I finish work I’m home – and my personal life is obviously very different. So I can leave it at work and go home to my own personal life. I’ve not found that so much an issue. The storyline was a challenge in itself to get into because, obviously, it’s so different. I’ve no personal reference to start with in a story like this, I’ve never experienced it. I’ve never even spoken about this kind of subject before we got the story. So it was hard in that way. But no, I go home and I have my own personal life and I leave all Tyrone’s angst over Kirsty at work.”
Q: When they were researching it, is it accurate that this is what happens? If people are in this situation in real life, do people have to have weddings or could you do a DNA test or something?
Natalie Gumede: “There’s been an awful lot of research done by Corrie. And we’re telling a story as well. We’ve tried to make it relateable and, hopefully, that’s helped people along the way. But I’m sure at some points…we’re telling a story and not everything is true to real life”
Coronation Street spokeswoman Alison Sinclair: “We’ve researched with a legal team – the parental responsibility. If his name’s not on the birth certificate then if he’s married, it gives him a lot more leeway.”
Alan Halsall: “When we got case studies to read through…I was a little bit the same, I was reading the case studies and it was horrifying to read at time. But it still kind of felt like a story. And I had these questions in my mind, ‘Why didn’t they just leave? Why didn’t they tell somebody?’ And I couldn’t get past that for a while. And we met a chap who suffered with domestic violence quite seriously. He helped me get through some of those…and I thought what Coronation Street did well, all the case studies showed that they were so isolated from the friends and the family and that’s what Kirsty did to Tyrone. He was isolated. He didn’t really have anybody to go to. So I know the writers and the production team did an awful lot of research. As we tried to. But, again, it’s a subject that’s not really talked about. We had to get to it through the charities because there was nobody to go and speak to about such a taboo subject.”
Q: Alan, I know it’s only acting but Natalie’s rages are so terrifyingly real, have you ever found yourself feeling slightly scared of her?
Alan Halsall: “Not scared. But I found myself watching her sometimes in scenes, you know she can snap and I go, ‘Ooh, oh, I better be acting here.’ Because as well, what’s happened with the character of Kirsty, especially in the beginning, it was very much just a moment and she snapped. And so, yes, it was quite brilliant to watch at times. It’s been fantastic. Some of the earlier ‘hits’, if you like…they came as a shock to myself and Tyrone.”
Q: What happens after a fight scene? Do you have to hug each other to show you’re friends?
Alan Halsall: “We hug it out? I tell you what generally happens, for myself I’m generally just getting hit and then I run off. It’s the scenes afterwards that are quite emotional for my character. Whereas Natalie has to get herself into such a place, like a frenzy for Kirsty when she hits him, that when they shout ‘cut’ I run off and make a cup of tea and bring back Natalie a biscuit and say, ‘There you go.’ We calm it down for a couple of minutes.”
Natalie Gumede: “He looks after me.”
Q: Natalie – what did you think of your wedding dress? It’s quite unusual?
Natalie Gumede: “It was. It was very Kirsty-appropriate. We always knew when we talked with the costume designers that Kirsty wasn’t a traditional white wedding kind of girl. I think I’d said I’d originally wanted black. But they drew a line and said, ‘No, you’re going too far now?’ So we went for purple and they made that costume in three days. I thought they did an incredible job. It’s not what I’d personally choose, no. But I think it’s great for Kirsty.”
Jennie McAlpine: “You looked stunning though.”
Q: And the falling down the stairs…you could see how it could happen in a fishtail dress?
Natalie Gumede: “Yes!”
Alan Halsall: “Tell me about it!”
Q: Did you do that yourself or..?
Natalie Gumede: “We may have had a bit of help. A little bit. I did throw myself on to a mat which was at the top of the stairs. That was terrifying enough because there’s still stairs underneath. And then I did a bit of slumping. And we may have had some help inbetween. Trying to get the wig right was difficult…” (for the stunt woman).
Q: There was some talk from some fans on a forum that introducing a love story into the domestic abuse storyline, maybe it was distracting away from the real issue? I just wondered what you guys thought about that?
Jennie McAlpine: “I think like any story of this kind, the thing is, because these kind of things happen and love stories happen and this kind of thing happens, you can only ever tell one story at a time. So you can only tell Tyrone and Kirsty’s story and, in this instance, Tina and Fiz have come into it. People might say, ‘That didn’t happen in my circumstance. I don’t think that would happen.’ You can only really tell one story that’s happening and you can try and bring as many elements that other people might have experienced and that other people might be able to empathise with you. But you can never show what everyone has experienced.”
Coronation Street spokeswoman Alison Sinclair: “And I think they’ve (Tyrone and Fiz) got history. He didn’t just go out and meet someone. It came out of her caring for him. I think that’s what’s slightly different. And it is a drama.”
Q: Your National Television Awards nominations? Is it weird going up against each other?
Alan Halsall: “No, not really. It’s thrilling. I’m pleased and I’m sure Michelle is. I’m really, really thrilled. But it’s so weird to stand up and be nominated as an individual because it’s such a huge collective of people to make something like what you’ve just seen happen. But thrilling, especially with this storyline, that people have enjoyed it and have nominated us for the awards. Really thrilled. But we all do the same job and that’s how it is between us – and the rest of the soaps.”
Michelle Keegan: “We really support each other.”
Alan Halsall: “Absolutely.”
Michelle Keegan: “I couldn’t believe it. I was so chuffed that I was up for it and I was so grateful that people voted for me. Just to be up against Alan is amazing. I’ve said this before in an interview, and I’m not being biased, my vote is totally with Alan. If he doesn’t win it…honestly.”
Alan Halsall: “And I’ve asked Michelle to thank me in her speech.” (laughter)
Q: Michelle – you are always in the “sexiest” category and now to be nominated for dramatic performance…it’s all about your acting?
Michelle Keegan: “Yeah, it is. It’s amazing. I think because I came into Corrie as a new actor as well, five years down the line I’m up for an award like that and have been shortlisted, is just unbelievable. I’m going to have to pinch myself now and again.”
Q: Natalie – where do you think Kirsty would like to be in 12 months’ time, if she could have her wish come true? Would she like Tyrone to be banged up as punishment or would she like to have him come grovelling back..?
Natalie Gumede: “I think the latter. I think all that she’s doing now is in aid of that, really. From her perspective, from the way she’s seeing it, is probably she may come to a point where she realises a lot of this is of her own doing. And I think ultimately she would see, in her ideal world, that they’ve both made mistakes and there may be a way back.”
Q: Natalie – Corrie has got a great history of villains. How does it feel to be the latest one?
Natalie Gumede: “I’ve never really…up to this point where a couple of people have asked the question recently…I’ve never really considered her as a villain. I’ve always considered her as somebody who’s just really troubled and damaged. But I can see that she’s crawling into villain territory…charging into villain territory. It’s lovely to be thought of in the same bracket as some of the great villains that Corrie have had. To be given such a platform and to be given such a role where she’s so dark – I’ve really had something to get my teeth into. It’s been such a juicy role for me and I never dreamed of having a platform like this. I never dreamed of coming into Coronation Street and being part of a lead storyline in such a short amount of time. I just feel really lucky to be considered as such, really.”
Q: Michelle – we say in those episodes that Tina is starting to get a little baby bump now and that’s going to be upon us probably before we know it. How do you feel about giving birth on screen and have you spoken to your co-stars who have done that before you?
Michelle Keegan: “I was there when Kirsty was giving birth and, honestly, it looked so real. I’m the next one to give birth. I don’t know how I’m going to follow it. I’m a bit nervous about it. Because I was there when she did it. Unbelievable. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. But it’s going to have come out some way.” (laughter)