With reports of domestic abuse rising during lockdown, Coronation Street’s coercive control storyline has become more important than ever for highlighting what victims are going through. At the heart of the storyline is actress Shelley King, whose character Yasmeen Nazir has been subjected to mental abuse and controlling behaviour by her husband Geoff Metcalfe, played by Ian Bartholomew.
“Barty is such a good man,” Shelley says of her co-star and friend when OK! magazine catches up with her. “But when we go for walks together, people shout at me to leave him!”
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The 64-year-old says she felt an immense responsibility taking on such a sensitive storyline and reveals that even her partner, director Trilby James, suffered a nightmare after watching the disturbing episodes.
Here, Shelley opens up about receiving messages from victims of abuse and how she winds down after filming disturbing scenes…
How difficult have you found filming this storyline?
It’s been extraordinarily challenging. I don’t like to use tear sticks [wax sticks that generate natural tears], so you have to draw from your own instances in your life, not just coercive ones, that will prompt a reaction. There are only so many tears you can cry as you actually start getting headaches. Sometimes nothing comes out. Usually when Barty and I get through something that is particularly heavy, we revert to the humour of a 14-year-old boy and there are a lot of lavatory jokes! But during some scenes there was just silence in the studio because some of the things are just too difficult to hop in and out of.
You spoke to people who have been helped by Women’s Aid. Were their stories difficult to hear?
It’s hard and a lot of people would like me to go and talk to them. A woman in her late sixties told me she’d found the strength to leave her partner and she wanted me to talk to her but I can’t. I’m not a psychologist or a counsellor and it’s too much of a risk for them and me, so I tell them to ring the Corrie helpline or charities like Women’s Aid. They can also ring 999 and press five so, even if they can’t speak, it will alert the police to where they are. Corrie has had loads of letters from people saying they’ve been made more aware of the issue by the storyline.
Coronation Street Stars
Do you get on well with Ian?
If Barty and I didn’t get on well and didn’t trust each other, I don’t think we could explore this whole process. We have been calling each other and we miss each other during lockdown. Being at home has made me think about the storyline so much more. Both our partners are directors, which sometimes isn’t that helpful! They give us a few notes [laughs].
Has Ian had any negativity?
He told me he was the most hated man in the entire country! Sometimes he stays with me and Trilby as he lives away and he said he wouldn’t go out in MediaCity in Manchester unless I was with him. When we’re walking, people wind down their car window and shout, “Leave him!” His two kids aren’t allowed to watch the show. It would be too upsetting to watch their dad becoming this person.
You said your partner Trilby has had nightmares about the storyline…
These things do happen because it’s difficult to watch your partner going through these things. Some of it is so difficult to watch. I hate watching myself so sometimes Trilby will watch it and then I watch it the next morning by myself.
Have you had any nightmares?
I suppose I do, but they’re odd things like not being able to find my way. I’ve had a lot of dreams about abandonment. The people in them have changed so it’s Barty, then a friend or a past relationship and then they turn into Trilby, even though it’s nothing to do with her.
What did you think about the news that domestic abuse has increased during lockdown?
It’s terrible. I think I read that there were seven deaths last week. I’ve been getting letters and direct messages, mostly from women but a couple from men. They were saying how difficult it is at the moment.
I don’t know what the plans are, but if we do film with coronavirus in mind, we would be going behind doors to see what’s happening.
How are you finding being at home?
My partner and I are actually getting on quite well. We love walking. I’m terrible at Facebook and Twitter and our computer is so old, so I’ve ordered a new one and we’re going to have some IT lessons. I’m a big petrol head and I’m missing my cars at the moment. I have four.
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