Coronation Street’s Chris Harper has revealed that Nathan’s behaviour so far hasn’t been illegal, but that’s about to change.
Soap fans have been left sickened as the predator set his sights on Bethany Platt and has been grooming her for months, manipulating her so that she’s fully under his spell.
And in upcoming scenes he’s finally going to take his plan for her to the next level when he breaks the law by coercing her into having sex with his friend Neil.
Poor Bethany is unaware that money has changed hands and she’s actually just been pimped out by her own boyfriend.
In a hard-hitting interview Chris has opened up about the struggles to play such a sick character and revealed how he based Nathan on people he’s known from his past.
How would you describe Nathan?
He is not being a paedophile because Bethany is over 16, that is the clever thing Corrie are doing with the line of the law. He is what the Police have termed me a Hebiphile because he likes somebody who is going through puberty which is a bit grim. I secretly, my own take on him, is that he is trisexual and he is in it for other things. I don’t think he probably gets anything emotional out of sex or love. In fact his relationship with Neil, his partner in crime, is more relaxed and intimate than his relationship with Mel who is a longer term an official emotional link. That is my key, going back to how I sympathise with him, the broken aspect of him and his own wiring about intimacy, about affection and kindness and what that means and what love is, is slightly shattered. He doesn’t fall in love with Bethany, he is finding whatever he gets out of it as an ego boost for him. Again I am stealing this partly from how they have written Nathan but also from conversations with police who have described people who have carried this out.
Does he have any redeeming features?
There is quite a following on twitter for his velour jacket and his hair, I don’t understand that. Personality-wise I don’t know. I have just started talking to some counsellors who are carrying out treatment for people who have carried out sex crimes. I am trying to find a motivation and a background is always going to be a route one. They were very clear here that we get to imagine what Nathan’s background was but we are not going to find too much out about it, we are finding out what he does. So trying to find out what motivates him, I go back to certain experiences I have had in my life, people I have known and now wider cases where you start to realise it comes from a history where they were abused, or from somewhere else. There is a crack of empathy or sympathy there but I think what he does to Bethany, he has some many chance in which he can stop or walk away and he never does. I think that is incriminating.
Did you base him on anyone?
There are a number of people that I touch base with. There’s someone I’ve never met, thank god, who’s a case that’s very similar, he’s in prison. Personally, yeah there have been a few situations going back which I can see how someone’s charisma at the time was nice, but a bit weird, and later on it turned out, or even at the time we knew but couldn’t prove it. So basing it from my own experience, a bit.
Can you to elaborate on that at all?
The thing I was always interested in when I was younger, everyone knows the ‘Milky milky’ character from Mary Whitehouse? There was always that image as a teenage boy, y’know don’t be like him. That was what a paedophile look like. Or if you had a dodgy teacher at school you were like ‘he’s a paedo you can tell because he has got long fingernails’. And yet the people I knew having gone through cubs and football as a kid and the people that went to prison because of this never looked like that. Ever. They were football coaches. They were cub leaders they were gymnastics coaches.
So I have often wondered about this weird image paedophiles have and being this funny little man with a combover who lives on his own and eats dog food. That is not what they are. It is your uncle, it is the bloke you trust. And so, I really like that about this story, Bethany does fall in love with him. Initially from a point of charm and care and affection and confidence building and attraction. But his is a front totally.
How aware were you of this type of person before you took the role on?
Nowhere near as aware as now. It has really come into the media’s attention since the Dr Alexis J report that came out after the Rotherham circle in 2012. That triggered the NCA to do a ongoing report and that has now taken the shape of the IICSA which is being following very closely by Voicing CSA UK they have been part of that independent inquiry into child sexual abuse. The big thing, I sort of knew, but you realise as you do more research, that abuse is not limited to a particular group in social class or a racial class or religious, it happens all across the board. In school groups, football groups, the size of it, we are only just scratching the iceberg. It is a secret crime and it often passes by unnoticed because victims don’t report it. Either they don’t dare or they don’t identify themselves as victims because they often blame themselves. It is getting really murky the more you find out about it. But I am really pleased to see the work the NSPCC, Banardos and the government are doing now to start to unearth it.
In doing research were you surprised at lengths people go to in Nathan’s shoes?
You are absolutely right it can take forever. That is the big thing that surprised me there are so many different varieties of evil sexual abuse people have had to go through. The groundwork some people will do. There is case with a guy called David Lean. I am connected with through Voicing CSA and a guy wrote to a boy for three years, he wrote to him and befriended him, chatted to him and eventually because he had been in the family for so long he managed to convince the parents to let him go and stay with him for two weeks. So it is this constant gradual chipping away, it is so predatory. That is not to say the speed at which Nathan has worked on Bethany is not true either, it can move very quickly too. It is really all about manipulation and power.
Were you nervous about the reaction of the viewers, sometimes they find it hard to separate between the soap and reality?
I have been totally warned about people being attacked in supermarkets with frozen chickens and stuff. I was on a train back from Scarborough and a girl was serving me in a tea carriage and her eyes lit up and I thought ‘she doesn’t fancy me she knows me off the telly’ and then her manager came over and he was this big burly Scots guy. And he was like ‘are you being served’ and I said yeah and then he said ‘you’re a monster’ and as he said that everyone in the carriage laughed. I realised then everyone had clocked me but had been too polite to say hi. So I have stopped picking my nose in public because I know people are watching. On the whole people have been really really nice and they appreciate it is an actor playing a part in a story that is much bigger. I have been really moved by some of the people that have come up and said hello.
How confident is he that the plan he has for Bethany is going to work?
It is a risk, but I think Nathan sees it as a risk worth taking. He sees Bethany as valuable enough to take that risk. It is also a sign that he is feeling very confident and it is going really well. The sad truth of it is actual cases exists where the perpetrator has been good friends with the mum or the dad. I don’t think that is quite what Nathan is intending but the writers have really done their homework. There are a lot of times where they get away with what they do because they say things like ‘you know how close I am to your mum, she will be so upset you have done that’. It is just emotional blackmail. I think Nathan is doing it because he feels really powerful and he knows how charming he is.
Is he under pressure to deliver her to his network of men?
Yes. It is a pretty alien network. The more people you meet who are attached somehow to Nathan, the more you realise our rules don’t work. What I noticed talking to friends who work in the police is when you track down who you think is the gang leader they are way down the ladder but there is no way of getting higher up, they are very good at cutting off beneath them. If it is a gang, the levels between Nathan and Neil and other characters is very difficult to see.
Will he get violent towards Bethany?
A lot of these people force you to show allegiance in strange ways. On the other side of that, the damage they do can lead to various forms of harm. Whether he does it or she inflicts it on herself.
Is it financially motivated as well?
That is when it becomes crystal clear it is illegal because he is renting her out. If you start seeing money changing hands that definitely comes into that area of the law. I am not sure I will say how much.
What offence would they actually charge him under?
That is a brilliant question. It is section 48. A lot of people are saying she is over 16 so he hasn’t done anything wrong. But it is illegal to coerce someone into having sex for your own benefit anyway. Under 18 counts as a child in that situation. You are also not allowed to send images of anyone under 18 but it is very difficult to prosecute that because you can’t actually tell the age of the person in the image. But the NSPCC are currently pushing a continued campaign what they call a ‘flaw in the law’ to make the properly illegal to take images of someone under 18. One of the problems is a lot of these crimes come in under a different legal jurisdiction they come in under assault or some other sex crime. What a lot of charities are pushing for is a real clarity so you can proceed with criminal proceedings. It is brilliant Corrie are doing this and they are one part of a movement pushing in that way already. The Government put in £1.3 billion towards mental health in young people and a lot of that will hopefully go towards the 90% of children who have been abused and have mental disorders.
What is the biggest challenge for you?
I have found it at times really uncomfortable. I have become an ambassador for voicing csa uk. They are a brilliant charity opening up a talk group and a community organised by survivors. What has been really amazing is finding out how many survivors have come out due to this survivor. The support network they have set up is so moving. I had an amazing time with a campaigner and survivor from the NSPCC and on the stairwell afterwards I was just talking to their head of press and I just promptly burst into tears on her because it just got too much what some of these poor people have been through. So some of the research has been quite harrowing. The storyline where it is going now is quite hard to act.
Do you feel protective of Lucy on set?
Yeah, god, yeah. I don’t think it is a secret but it was her first on camera kiss in that car. I am not sure what she was expecting but she said to me afterwards how relieved she was, that it was just very platonic, chaste. It wasn’t was Nathan is probably capable of, we have got to leave that to the imagination. This story must not be titilating, it really mustn’t. We really do look after each other on set. The scene where we were in bed together, the crew were really lovely and everything was very calm and quiet. and we were just coming round to doing a very serious scene, but there was going to be this big pause while they changed the lighting, they decided to go for an interesting angle. And in that time I just heard a big pause and I just heard this rustling and from under the quilt we had a maltese, she just passed me a maltese, and then she said ‘I am sorry it is a bit warm’ and we were sat there like two squirrels. But we look out for each other actually. The one I think really hit us both was when we were first in Nathan’s flat and it was me her and Mel and these nine other guys and it suddenly sunk on us in a new way what a weird world we were opening up.
What would you say to people who say this isn’t something Corrie should be tackling?
They are wrong. Unfortunately this is a storyline and these are crimes that effect families and young people, 16, 17, 18 and it could be your uncle. The brilliant thing about the way Corrie are doing it is they are just hinting enough. If you look at they way a lot of these people operate it dos post watershed. You don’t need to see how their webs work, it is not suitable, but bringing it up and raising the conversation.
If I knew half of what I knew now as an 8-year-old, just to know it is wrong and never your fault, never the victims fault. I just hope it won’t ruin anyone’s TV.
What do you hope the message is from this?
I hope there is enough of a message for people who are potentially…..the starting part of this is about power and control and if it comes in through being charming and nice to people and the thin end of the wedge is quite attractive. So I am hoping there is enough of a warning to people who might be potential perpetrators not for Corrie to have to have the local sex predator behind the bar at the Rovers. I think it is much more important that we see this through Bethany’s eyes. And we see it through the families eyes because Beth comes from such a good loving family, a supportive group, she comes from a close knit community. She is not, what so often is depicted as a victim stereotype, she is not like that. She is much more like what is a victim in real life. It is more important to see it from her point of view than Nathan’s.
How hard is it to switch off from the character at weekends?
I think sometimes if you buy a red car you suddenly notice how many red cars there are on the road, as the saying goes. There are so many nice, charming and fun….Nathan’s way is to be nice, charming and fun and making people laugh, suddenly you notice if you are doing that to someone. You notice aspects of your own behaviour and think ‘is this sinister?’. I have talked to a mate of mine who is a counsellor and she said ‘that is absolutely natural of course you will feel like that’. In terms of where he is going and what is his motivation is, I have no links to him at all. So it is quite a fun job as an actor to play someone so duplicitous and then walk away and go and make dinner.
What can you say about his relationship with Shona?
She has scars and various signs of damage from her time with me, but she escaped.
She did the girlfriend bit but didn’t accept it. I think the clock is ticking. He does seem to have let that one go and in concentrating on other matters. But he underestimates people, it is an ego thing for him and he is quite caught up in himself.
Even though Nathan is awful, do women still fancy him and get in touch with you?
It’s been a bit weird. I haven’t had any knickers through the post or anything like that, it’s been nice. I guess they don’t know what’s coming. The comment which struck a nerve was someone on Twitter who put, ‘Why’s Bethany falling in love with this gay, middle-aged man?’. I was like, ‘Middle aged?! Shut up!’. Good point, tune in!
How long will Nathan be around?
He is not going to hang around. It is right I think. The message of the story, what we really want is to tell it right. And for anyone watching it who fears someone they know or themselves will know there is somewhere they can go and there is a very loving network of survivors out there who wil help you get through it. For that reason i think it is very important that Nathan doesn’t get away with it.
You said you are leaving, would it be a hard character to play for a long time?
Yeah. I don’t want him to get away with what he is doing. And I don’t think I would want or couldn’t imagine a place for him in Coronation Street, it would just be wrong. Especially if he got a nice romance and everyone said ‘yeah he used to be a real dodgy bloke but he is nice now’. No, he has got to go down.
What will you miss when you leave?
I will miss Corrie, being here and being part of such a great team. But I’ll be very pleased to be met on the street with, ‘You’re the bloke who’s in prison!’ or, ‘You’re the guy who died really gruesomely’. I’d like him to suffer.