Coronation Street’s Bethany Platt is going to be unknowingly pimped out to a friend of Nathan Curtis next week.
Their sinister relationship has been walking a fine between what is legal and illegal, but next week Nathan breaks the law when he coerces Bethany into having sex with his friend Neil, and then gets paid by him when she agrees.
Here Lucy Fallon, who plays Bethany, has admitted she found the scenes horrific to film but reveals the storyline is going to get even darker…
How are you finding this storyline?
At first I was quite nervous about it because obviously it’s a big storyline, it’s all on me in a way. It sounds weird, but it’s exciting to get a gritty storyline that you can really get your teeth into. I’m feeling good about it now because we spoke to the NSPCC and a girl called Lucy who told us her story, it’s made me feel quite passionate about it and really determined to do it justice. Even though it’s uncomfortable to watch, and I find it uncomfortable to watch, I think it’s so important. I’m determined to do it justice.
What reaction have you had to the storyline so far?
It’s actually been really positive. There’s been a few people who have said that it shouldn’t be on at this time because it’s a family show, but most people have been saying that it’s amazing how Corrie are tackling such an issue. These things don’t get spoken about and if they don’t get spoken about there’s no awareness about it. So it’s mainly been all positive, apart from a few people.
Have you had any young girls contact you and say this story has helped them or asking you for advice?
Not really asking me for advice, but there has been a few people, mainly women, who have said they have watched it with their daughters and then afterwards they’ve spoken to them about grooming. That’s what we wanted to do, start the conversation so that people are aware that these things happen. Also, quite a lot of younger girls watch Coronation Street. I’ve seen that from all the fan accounts online, they are all run by teenage girls. So it’s important that we target those people because they are the ones who are vulnerable in these situations.
What research have you done into this issue?
We spoke to the NSPCC and they came in to talk to us with a girl called Lucy, who told us her story. She talked through what had happened to her, she was really young, just ten but it progressed until she was 16. That was horrific, it was really horrific. That helped me understand how people get into those situations, because obviously I’ve never been through anything like that and neither has anyone I know. It was hard to put myself in that situation but after speaking to her I felt a lot more confident with the storyline going forwards.
Did Lucy’s story upset you?
Yes, it was horrific.
Having spent so much time with a victim like Lucy, do you feel a pressure to get it right?
Yeah, definitely. When we spoke to there were scenes where she said she didn’t think this or that would happen, so Kate changed it. She also said there would be pornographic pictures involved, so Kate said she would consider that. She gave a lot of input into how she thinks the story should play out and what she wasn’t happy with, so I do feel a lot of pressure for her. She was so nice. I hope to speak to her again.
What’s been the most uncomfortable or hardest scene for you to film so far?
There have been quite a few but probably the most uncomfortable was the scene with Neil in the bedroom. Obviously the guy who plays Neil, Ben, was amazing but the scene was horrific. There was also the scene where there was a party and lots of men were there, that was quite uncomfortable because you’re like, ‘Ah, this actually happens’. It’s really horrible.
What was it about those scenes which made it so horrific?
She does end up sleeping with Neil and it upset me because she’s saying no and ‘I’m not that kind of girl’ and she just lays her on the bed, I had to cry and it was like, ‘Oh this is horrible!’. I could really put myself in that mindset, I think you kind of have to otherwise you’re not doing it properly.
When you do have those horrific scenes to film, how do you cope with it on set?
The scene with Neil, which has been the worst one yet, I was only in for the morning. I had two scenes and then that one, then I could go home. I think they timed it on purpose so that I didn’t have any other scenes after that because I think it would have been quite difficult to do a scene straight after that because it was quite upsetting.
Does it take you a while to unwind from those scenes?
I don’t think there’s any way you can get out of it but I have quite a long drive home, so when I’m driving home I zone out and listen to my music and by the time I get home I feel normal again.
When Neil’s got her on the bed, is there no point where she just wants to scream for help?
There’s things leading up to it, someone comes to the flat, which Nathan has planned, and says that he’s coming to take some stuff. He takes cameras and laptops, he goes and Nathan comes back and tries to make out like someone’s come and she’s let the rob all the stuff, so it’s her fault. To make it up to him he says to go out for a drink with Neil, so she goes out for a drink with him and she thinks he’s really nice. They come back and then she’s sat with Neil and he keeps trying to put her on his knee, she thinks that’s really weird. Then he says they should go into the bedroom because it’s too loud, she says she’s fine but he picks her up and takes her into the bedroom. She’s looking at Nathan because they have planned that if she ever feels unsafe then she’s going to rub her ear. So as she’s walking past him she’s rubbing her ear but Nathan just turns away from her. She’s saying no to him, that she’s got a boyfriend, but I think because she’s so in love with Nathan she just does what he wants her to do.
Nathan’s tried to alienate her from her friends and family, but Craig starts raising concerns about him – what happens?
I think at that time he’s been trying to push her away from everyone so the only person she has to depend on is Nathan, so she will do everything he says because she doesn’t feel like she has anyone else to turn to. Nathan doesn’t see Craig as a threat it’s because he sees him as her friend, and if she feels she’s in a vulnerable situation or pressured into doing something she doesn’t want to do, then she could turn to Craig. There’s a scene where she says she can’t be bothered with Craig or her mum any more, so Nathan’s successfully pushing them away so she’s completely with him and no one else.
After what happens with Neil, how does Nathan behave with Bethany?
The morning after he makes her some breakfast and she’s like, ‘Does he know? What’s going on?’. She’s really confused and he’s being really cool with her. She keeps wanting to talk to him about it but he’s like, ‘Shut up, it’s fine!’. She comes home and he’s on the phone to Neil, he says he knows what happened, it’s fine and she did good. So she’s just really confused. That whole week is just a bit of a head f**k.
Does she feel dirty about what she’s done?
Yeah, that whole week after it happened she’s really confused. There’s quite a lot of stuff that happens with Sarah too. She wants to go home and for Sarah to be like, ‘Come home’ but Gary’s told Sarah to be really cool with her. So Bethany’s really confused because she thinks Sarah isn’t bothered about her anymore. She didn’t want what happened with Neil to happen and now she’s in this head space where she’s like, ‘What is going on?’.
How do you think Sarah will feel when she finds out what’s been going on?
I think any mum would be horrified about what’s been happening. She will feel like a really s**t person and a s**t mum because she let it happen. Even though it’s not her fault that this has happened, she’ll blame herself.
Is this storyline going to get darker?
Even if you think this is bad, it gets worse.
Is there any point when Bethany starts to question Nathan?
I think from this point, where she sleeps with Neil, she questions why Nathan would let her do that. There’s a scene where she says, ‘You’re supposed to love me so why are you OK with me sleeping with someone else?’. He says it turns him on when she’s with other men, it makes her more desirable when other men want her. From that point on there’s little things when she realises it’s not right, because she’s not stupid. But because his influence on her is so big that outweighs her concerns.
Do you know how this story is going to play out?
I know where it’s going because Kate Oates and I have regular chats about what’s going to happen. The content of the story is quite horrid so she wants to keep me in the loop, so I know where it’s going and I’m happy about where it’s going to go. I do know where it gets to but not what happens after that. I know as far as September time.
How do you want this storyline to end?
I’d like to see him in prison because it’s quite rare, Lucy’s case didn’t even go to court so the person who did it to her is still living in her area where she lives. I think it’s important that we show people that it’s happening to and they are watching at home, that he does go to prison otherwise they might be like, ‘There’s no point me telling anyone this is happening to me because nothing will come of it’. I’d like there to be a court case, there should be.
Who do you think she’s going to be more bitter about, Nathan or Mel seeing as she’s a woman and didn’t do anything to stop this?
I think it’ll take quite a long time to realise Nathan’s done anything wrong. At first she’ll be really angry with Sarah, Gary and the Platts who are trying to help her because she’s in love with Nathan and can’t see past that. I think when she starts to realise it’ll be Nathan she’s bitter towards because she thought he loved her and she gave him everything, like her virginity.
Will this change who Bethany is as a person?
Yeah, I think it has to. It wouldn’t be realistic if it didn’t because when I spoke to Lucy the word everyone uses for people like her is survivor, but when asked if she preferred to be called survivor or victim, she said victim because she said survivor makes it seem like she’s fine but she isn’t, it’s something she will live with for the rest of her life. She has days when she feels horrible and will self harm. So I think something like this lives with someone forever, so Bethany has to change or it won’t be realistic.
How conscious are you when you’re filming this that Coronation Street is a family show and these scenes are going to be shown pre watershed?
Nothing that we have filmed has been graphic, there’s no nudity or anything that shouldn’t be on at that time. I understand that it’s pre watershed and it’s a controversial storyline, but we need to do it at this time to target the people we want to target. I don’t feel we’ve pushed any boundaries yet.
Are you worried about a backlash as the storyline gets darker?
Not really, I think this storyline is so important so it doesn’t bother me that people say it shouldn’t be on at this time of night. I think that gets outweighed by the people who say this is important and people who have come forward and said they were abused and it’s helping them to talk about it.
Do your family find this uncomfortable to watch?
My mum watches it but I don’t think my dad can watch it at the moment. My boyfriend doesn’t watch it because he finds it too uncomfortable. The only reason I find it uncomfortable is because it’s me, I find it uncomfortable to watch anyway, if it’s just normal scenes when I’m kissing Chris, I’m like, ‘Oh no!’. That’s the only reason I find it uncomfortable.
Have any of the cast been a support during these tough scenes?
I’d say the main person recently has been Ben Price, who plays Nick. He’s so lovely, he gives a lot of advice to everybody in the cast. I’ll be really sad when he leaves.
Have any of the stories you heard during your research moved you to tears?
When I met Lucy I was really crying during our talk with her.
How do you get yourself in the mindset for a sad scene?
It’s quite hard to describe, I just try and get myself in the head space by thinking of sad memories and things.
Has this storyline sparked conversations between the cast backstage?
Everybody has said how important it is, Brooke and Kym have done interviews recently where they have both talked about it and said how important it is. It’s sparking conversation in general, I don’t know whether the cast have spoken to their children about it, some of them are still quite young, but hopefully it will do. I think outside of work it is sparking conversations, from what I have seen on Twitter it is.
Has it changed the way you think about social media and things like that?
I don’t post anything weird on social media, I’m normal. So it’s not changed that. But it has changed how I feel about social media. When we spoke to Lucy it started on social media. So if I have a child, boy or girl, it’s changed the way I feel about them being on social media from such a young age, I don’t think it should be allowed. I think there should be an age limit, I think 16. When you’re young, especially Lucy, she was really vulnerable. She didn’t have a good family support behind her so she went to social media to try and speak to people because she was lonely and that’s how it started with her. So I think it’s changed my opinion on social media in general.
What message do you hope this storyline gets across?
I think if a teenager is being approached by an older man, I hope this makes them question why they are approaching a child. To know that that is strange, and also to just be aware that people are not always what they seem to be, if your mum has a doubt about the person who’s trying to be with you then sometimes it’s best to listen to your mum, because mum’s are always right.
Have there been any occasions where Kate has said what she plans to do but you’ve not been sure about it?
No, not really. She has always said if there’s anything I’m uncomfortable with then say and we’ll change it, so she’s really supportive. If I felt uncomfortable then I would feel comfortable telling her. As of yet, I’m OK.
This storyline must have been a steep learning curve so early in your career?
I was nervous at first because it’s a lot of pressure to get a big storyline, especially when it’s controversial like this, but this has been my favourite one to do so far because of the message but also I’ve had a lot of difficult scenes which have been quite challenging, which you don’t always get if you’re playing a happy character. The challenging scenes have been good, I’ve learnt a lot from them as an actress.
How do you deal with the pressure when you’re not at work?
I just be normal and do all the normal things I do. It’s not changing anything, I feel normal when I go home to be with my family and boyfriend.
Has this storyline alarmed you that this kind of thing goes on in the world?
Yeah, obviously I knew these kinds of thing happen but I wasn’t aware of how big it is. In 2011 there were 2500 cases of child exploitation in the UK so it’s a really big thing and the numbers are increasing every year, that was quite scary.
Are you hopeful that after this storyline there will be some happier stuff for you to play?
Kate said she’s not going to be in a dark place for the rest of her life. She sees Bethany as a successful businesswoman because she’s smart. So I think in the long run she’ll be OK. I’d like to do some nice Platt scenes because we’ve not done many in ages. I’ve just been doing scenes with Chris Harper involving grooming, so it would be nice to just sit in the Platts with a cup of tea.
How do you and Chris Harper help each other through the difficult scenes?
All the scenes have been difficult in the sense we know what’s going on, but Chris and I haven’t really had any difficult scenes. The scenes with Neil, they’ve been the difficult ones.
Will we see Bethany self harm as a way of coping with this?
Possibly, obviously it can’t be too graphic because it’s pre watershed. So maybe a little bit.
Does Mary become an ally to Bethany down the line?
Yeah she does. Bethany and Mary form a nice relationship because Mary was raped so she tries to protect Bethany and make her see what’s going on. Much later on Mary tells her story and Bethany hears what happened to her and it resonates with what’s happening to her.
What’s it going to take to get Bethany out of this?
I think some of it’s going to be her own strength, but she has her family and they will get her out of it.
Have the cast been speculating over who pushed Ken?
I actually don’t know! I don’t even have a theory. I didn’t know it was happening until I watched it because I only read my part of the scripts.