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Saturday, 19 June 2021

Harriet Bibby interview: Summer's shock diagnosis

Summer Spellman has been struggling to cope with her guilt after the attack that led to Seb's death. When she starts to struggle with sleep and food, Billy and Todd become concerned that she has developed an eating disorder. We chatted to actor Harriet Bibby to find out what happens after Summer collapses and is taken to hospital. 

The night of the attack has had a lasting effect on all the younger Street residents, and Summer is carrying a lot of guilt that she was unable to help. Harriet told us: "She has quite a strong moral code that she doesn't like to stray from. I think she feels guilty about leaving before she could help, so I think she feels as though she was partly to blame for what happened because she didn't stay and stop something that she could see turning a bit sour."

As Summer fights with her guilt, Billy and Todd notice a worrying change in their daughter, and they jump to the conclusion that it's an eating disorder. Harriet said: "She starts losing weight and feeling faint. She's a hard worker, she really wants to do well at school, and I think a lot of young people struggle with this, especially at the minute during what's happened over this last year. You're told to concentrate and do well, or else it'll have a domino effect on what you do for the rest of your life.

"I think Summer takes that to heart and just gets tunnel vision of work, and actually doesn't realise that she's not very well, so hearing from a source that isn't Billy that they think she might have an eating disorder is a bit of a shock. I think she's a bit upset by the fact that Billy couldn't talk to her about it and actually makes her realise that she's not very well and she hasn't been taking care of herself. It's a bit scary, I think, that they've noticed all these changes in what Summer's going through."

During a confrontation with Billy, Summer collapses and is taken to hospital in an ambulance. "Physically, this is her body telling her to stop and check itself. She's just found out they think she's got an eating disorder and is quite cross, and during a sort of heated discussion with Billy, she collapses. Billy then is obviously very shocked and very worried. They get her into the ambulance and then take her off to hospital to find out what's up."

Later at the hospital, Summer is diagnosed with diabetes. This comes as a huge shock to her and at first, she doesn't quite realise what this will mean for the rest of her life. "I think everyone, or at least a lot of people, have heard of diabetes, but actually, I don't think a lot of people know what actually happens to your body because I know I didn't when we started discussing this storyline. When she's diagnosed, you have this huge hit of: 'I've got this life-long condition that I'm going to have to deal with, but actually, I don't even know what that is or what I have to do to control it.' I think she's a bit scared."

After her diagnosis, Summer has a hard time coming to terms with what having diabetes means for her. "I think finding out you have a life-long condition that you're going to have to deal with, you don't wrap your head around it for a little while, and we've spoken to Diabetes UK in the run-up to this storyline, and I think that's what a lot of people struggle with when they're diagnosed is: 'I'm going to have to live with this for a long time,' and I don't think Summer does really realise that.

"She relies on Billy to help her with her medication, and I don't think, as a teenager, she likes being told what to do. You have to stay on top of your medication, because otherwise it can have domino effects on your health. I think we see a little bit of that teenage rebellion, and difficulty with coming to terms with having to maintain doing your medication and things like that. It's tricky."

As Harriet mentioned, she has been working with Diabetes UK for help with research for this storyline, and she says that this has been very useful. "They've helped me a lot. Even just coming to terms with actually being diagnosed is one of the things that you need to understand, and I think that's what Summer's journey is that we're going to see in the near future, is actually just dealing with knowing you've got it. I've started a little diabetes diary for Summer and just keeping on top of what's happened to her, what she's been told by her doctors and nurses and how you actually deal with your medication and stuff."

Billy, Paul and Todd have had some problems seeing eye-to-eye in the past, but Harriet told us how herself, Dan Brocklebank (Billy), Gareth Pierce (Todd), and Peter Ash (Paul) all have a strong relationship behind the scenes. Harriet said: "I was working with all three of them this morning, which is really nice. You can only hope that people you work with so closely are so lovely, and I think especially on soaps, you build up a relationship with the kind of family unit that you have on your soap. It's so much easier when you have a lovely relationship and we really do, we get on really well. They make me laugh all the time and yeah, it's lovely, it's really fun."

The question that has divided Corrie fans recently was also posed to Harriet: is Billy better off with Todd or Paul? "I'm nervous to answer this because I know what everyone is saying that they want Billy and Paul to end up together. I know Todd is a swine, but I love him. I just love the idea that Billy and Todd will get together, so we'll see what happens. I don't know which way it's going to go."

While Todd has schemed his way back into Billy's life, his actions will not be soon forgotten by fans, and Harriet said that Summer would be "disappointed" to learn of what Todd's done. "She's not had an easy life, and actually, Todd's not been great to Summer. Although they have this great relationship, it's not built on that much level ground, and I think that if Summer knew how much Todd had schemed, she would be really disappointed. She does love him, and I think she loves the idea of their little family unit being back together, but I don't think she'd be able to trust him. I think Paul is someone that Summer has always been able to rely on, and they did build up a really lovely relationship, so yeah, we'll have to wait and see what happens."

Prior to getting the role of Summer, Harriet trained at ALRA North in Wigan before appearing in an episode of Doctors on BBC, and filming an episode of Brassic which is yet to air on Sky One. After she sent in a self-tape for Corrie, Harriet was asked to come in for a screen-test. She told us: "I screen-tested with Dan [Brocklebank] with a big, cheesy grin on my face because I was thinking: 'That's Billy from Corrie!' After that, about four days later I think, I got the call saying that I'd got the job. I seem to remember, from doing my self-tape to actually getting that call, was a bit of a whirlwind."

As Summer's diabetes diagnosis sinks in, will she be able to cope, and will she be able to lean on Billy for support? 

Sophie Williams

Follow me on Twitter @sophie_writer1.

All original work on Coronation Street Blog is covered by a Creative Commons License


popcorn said...

Sigh......Yet another issue which Corrie will highlight for a short time, then David's epilepsy, Seb's HIV, Nick's brain injury....

Sharon boothroyd said...

Not forgetting Shona's brain injury, Johnny's MS, Steve's depression, Oliver's illness, Aled's deafness, Tim's heart attack, Carla's mental breakdown... I could go on.
It's pick a health issue - any one will do!
It gets a bit tedious, as I feel they are preaching at us viewers.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure why you feel those things are forgotten? Oliver illness was mentioned on screen yesterday and so was Aled being deaf and Tim's heart attack was mentioned last week when Sally told Tim's mum off for making a hearty breakfast.

Those things are really happening in the real life and how is it preaching? If there is a 60 years with 10,000+ episodes, we cannot just go repeat the love triangle storyline?


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