CORONATION Street star Shelley King has told how she struggled to switch off after filming her character’s harrowing coercive control storyline and could not stop thinking about the real-life victims.
In an exclusive interview, Shelley, 64, tells HOAR on Sunday how making some of the darker scenes took a toll on her emotionally — but adds that she is “proud” knowing how many people she has helped.
The hard-hitting plot, which saw her character Yasmeen Metcalfe suffer at the hands of twisted husband Geoff, played by Ian Bartholomew, 65, is one of the most talked-about in years.
And it could not have come at a more relevant time, with a sharp rise in domestic violence since lockdown — and an emergency summit on the issue hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson taking place next week.
Shelley says: “The past few months were tiring to film. The storyline has been going on for two years and at times it was difficult to unwind.
“I felt a heaviness. It was a feeling that not everything is right in the world.
“But in a strangely positive way, I am getting messages from people all the time.
“I’ve heard the most distressing stories from women and men from so many different backgrounds and cultures.
“One woman of 80 shared her story with me. It’s not something you ever forget.
“Corrie is informing people there is help out there. It’s such an important issue to tackle — that’s why I love it.
“A lot of the messages I’ve been getting are from people saying, ‘That’s happening to me’. They’re watching the storyline and are now seeking help.”
The actress, who made her debut as the grandmother of the Street’s first Muslim family in 2014, drew on the tragic death of her mum Eunice after a stroke in 1999 to access the emotion needed to make her performance as realistic as possible.
Shelley, who has worked tirelessly with the Stroke Association to raise awareness of the dangers, told us: “This has been one of the most traumatic experiences.
“I’m a theatre actor — and all actors, in order to give an acceptable, truthful and vulnerable performance, have to open themselves up to the situation of the person they are portraying.
“You have to rehearse and make connections that are often painful. I was remembering my mother’s sudden stroke. She died in my dad’s arms. She was a huge Corrie fan. It’s such a shame she never got to see me on the Street.”
Shelley and the writers worked with domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid and talked to victims about their experiences. These stories were weaved into the scripts.
Shelley says: “Having met these people, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to them. You’ve got to get it right.”
Her storyline has helped Coronation Street pull in more than eight million viewers throughout the lockdown.
Last week they watched as Yasmeen stabbed Geoff in the neck with a broken bottle after he attacked her with a knife.
The gruesome scenes sparked more than 270 Ofcom complaints.
But Shelley is proud of what Corrie has done to highlight the issue of coercive control, which became an offence in the UK in 2015. Domestic abuse is not always physical and coercive control can cover threats, humiliation and intimidation.
During lockdown, there has been a surge in domestic violence as people are trapped in homes with their abusers. On average, two women a week are killed by their partners. In the first three weeks of lockdown that more than doubled, with 14 women and two children losing their lives.
Shelley says: “Good storytelling can involve exploring difficult subjects. And that’s what Corrie has been doing.
“Somewhere, behind some door, a man or woman is being treated badly. Don’t say, ‘It never happens’ because it does and it might happen to you.
“But there is help out there and you don’t have to tolerate it.”