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Monday 4 October 2021

Iain MacLeod interview: Corrie producer teases death and destruction for super soap week

Super Soap Week is back! And it's planned to be bigger and better than ever before. 

Forget your trams and bulldozers, this week promises the return of the sinkhole, an explosive car crash, an escaped convict, and revenge plans that go awry, all while a huge storm puts the weather in Weatherfield. 

The week starts with Debbie organising her House of Horrors attraction, and as everybody excitedly gets ready, nobody notices the earth beginning to move around the Platt’s sinkhole. Meanwhile, Dev, Asha and Aadi leave for their family holiday, but find themselves lost on a country lane. Hurtling down the same country lane is a prison van, holding an injured and angry Harvey Gaskell. What does he have planned? 

Back on the street, Abi gets her hands on a gun and sets her sights on Corey, planning to make him pay for murdering Seb. Nina, however, is desperate to stop her, but will she be able to reach them in time? In the Rovers, Jenny begins a new relationship with Leo, but soon learns that Johnny plans to leave the street. As she goes to have a word with her ex, Jenny gets side-tracked, and soon finds herself being swallowed by the ground below her. Determined to rescue her, Johnny edges towards the sinkhole. 

Elsewhere, Leanne comes face to face with Harvey and Dev must make a heart-breaking decision about which of his children to drag from a burning car. 

If that isn’t enough to get your teeth into, we’ve got a series of interviews with the cast involved, but first we chatted with producer Iain MacLeod to find out what we can expect from this massive week of episodes. 

“I think what you can expect is something truly massive,” Iain told us. “I wrote down an outline of what I wanted this week to be, and in the back of my mind I thought, there’s no way we’ll be able to do all of this. I gave it to our incredibly talented production team, and they went: ‘Yeah, we can do that.’

“It’s got loads of twists, it’s got some stuff in there you’ll never see coming, which is always the best thing in a soap or any drama. The scripting of it is incredibly tight and pacey. It’s kind of Coronation Street in a microcosm. It’s got big drama, lots of heart, lots of humour.”

The week took about a month to film, including night shoots involving lots of water. Iain explained it was a challenging shoot for all involved, but it was well worth it. “I know our cast and crew worked incredibly hard. Having now seen the more or less finished episodes, I think it was worth all the blood, sweat and tears that have gone into it because the end result is incredibly dramatic and heart-stoppingly brilliant.”

Episodes like these undoubtedly require a lot of planning in advance, but Iain explained how this week has been in the pipeline for a long time. He said: “When we first collapsed the Platt’s back garden, it was with half an eye on doing something maybe around the 60th, and then we got to the 60th and the Covid restrictions in place meant we probably couldn’t do quite what we were intending to do with the sinkhole there.

“A number of times, people within the production have gone: ‘Shall we just fill that hole in?’ and I’ve always said: ‘No, leave it, because I’ve got a plan for that.’ We finally got to a stage now, thanks to the incredible graft and professionalism of our crew, that we were able to do finally what it was that we always wanted to do with that sinkhole.”

After a pretty dreary 18 months on Planet Earth, Coronation Street is about to give its viewers a real treat, and Iain is keen to show that Corrie has still got it. “None of us in Coronation Street takes our viewers for granted and I like to think we’ve given them an incredibly good selection of drama over the last 12 months, but one thing it probably hasn’t had as much of as it might normally have done is this big spectacle. 

"I think we’ve done all the intimate, human drama stuff fantastically well over the last 12 months, but these big, ambitious set pieces are a huge part of what we all do and something we’re very proud of. It was an opportunity for us to as well to sort of stretch our muscles again and go: ‘Look guys, we can still do this,’ and we really wanted to do it at the first opportunity. The moment we thought the Covid situation would allow us to do it, we wanted to give the audience something really spectacular.” 

In order to create these episodes, the cast and crew had to form close contact cohorts, which involved putting them in bubbles and increasing their testing. “I think we had 70+ specific bubbles around this big week, so it was far in excess of what we’ve done before, but there are certain things you can’t really do from two metres away. 

“The Covid measures were in large parts still in force, which did make it incredibly challenging and once again I can’t praise our cast, crew and our production team and our scheduling team enough for what they’ve done over the last 12 to 18 months. Doing anything in a pandemic is hard, making TV in a pandemic is particularly hard, and doing something of this level of technical ambition is unfathomable for the likes of me who just has to come up with the crazy ideas and I don’t have to execute them, so thank heavens we’ve got such a brilliant team because I honestly don’t know how they do it sometimes.”

On top of everything else, the Corrie team had to build posh new sets in a hired studio to accommodate a giant storm and collapsing sinkhole. “We essentially built this elaborate underground complex of tunnels and storm drains. There’s water involved which is always a nightmare. People say don’t work with children or animals, but I think you should probably be adding water to that list because it’s incredibly challenging. 

“We had to work out how to build this sub-terranean universe, fill it with water that would rise and fall so we needed water of variable depth, we needed it to be fast-flowing water at times to create the jeopardy that we wanted. I gave the design team a fairly impossible shopping list and much to my astonishment, they went away and did it all.

“We had to build a huge tank which would be filled with water, we had to pump water through it in high volumes to create a sensation of the risk of people being swept away. The sets themselves were built on winch-rigs so that they could be raised and lowered in the water to allow us to adjust the depth. We had to build the above ground and below ground thing, we needed to connect the surface world to this kind of sub-terranean world so the sets were 20 or 30 metres high so that we can actually drop actors from the surface world into the sun-terranean world for real. It was astonishing. 

“When I went in there for the first time to see the finished sets, it just felt like being on a movie set. It was incredibly exciting, and I think all of that hard work and all of that time and expenditure is visible on screen. The end result is incredibly cinematic and really impressive.”

At the moment, Coronation Street is keeping very tight-lipped about the finer details of super soap week, but Iain has given us some teasers to keep us on the edge of our seats. 

One major story this week will be Harvey Gaskell’s dramatic return to the street. “Will [Mellor] is a fantastically good actor," Iain said. “I don’t think many people have seen him in a role like this one before, but goodness me, has he inhabited the role of that really scary, incredibly plausible Salford gangster. He just felt completely box-office from the moment we saw him, therefore entirely appropriate for this kind of cinematic week. 

“The end result is fairly chilling, I think it’s fair to say, so I’m really looking forward to people’s reactions to that when they see what he’s got in mind. He feels incredibly real and therefore what we’re doing in this week feels incredibly scary.”

Abi and Corey have been at the forefront of Corrie for a while now as part of the hate crime storyline, and things only accelerate this week when Abi is determined for revenge. Iain said: “That story has been certainly among our biggest stories of the year, possibly the biggest. I think the actors involved are stellar and have been throughout. 

“When we designed this story, there was always a chapter in it where the people most affected by what Corey had done would have a huge opportunity to exact revenge and then a huge battle to have with their own conscience about the right way to proceed. 

“The scenes this week between Corey and Abi are emotional and incredibly tense and they look fantastic. I think they wouldn’t look out of place in a movie. It feels very cinematic and dramatic.”

The heart of this week comes from Johnny and Jenny, where they’re forced to admit their true feelings for each other. “What we get with Jenny and Johnny this week is circumstances force them to face up to their feelings for each other and their past and what they want from their future,” Iain explained. “It’s incredibly dramatic, but equally it’s very funny, it’s very heartfelt. The Jenny and Johnny stuff was the kind of heart and soul of the piece. What you feel like you always need as a Corrie fan is something that’s going to warm your cockles a touch and really give you that dose of old-fashioned Corrie humour, and that’s definitely coming from the Jenny/Johnny side of things.”

Finally, the Alahans play a big part this week as Dev makes the devastating decision of which of his kids to drag out of his burning car. Iain said: “I think the Alahans are a fantastic and very central family for us. Adam and Tanisha are absolutely brilliant actors, they bounce off each other fantastically well. 

“I love their performances individually and collectively. Putting them in the middle of this week was largely to do with that, but also to create this story going forward that I think is going to be really resonate for a lot of people across the country that have got siblings themselves.” 

What a week! As action-packed as this week is, it doesn’t stop there, as Iain assures us it’s simply a catalyst for future stories. “It’s all very well ‘blowing the street up’, but if at the end nothing’s changed, then it hasn’t really been worth doing at all. 

“There are brilliant final chapters in certain stories going on in this week, but it’s a launchpad for most of the big stuff that we’ll be doing into Christmas and well into the New Year.”

If this hasn’t got you shaking with anticipation, we’ll be publishing cast interviews over the next couple of weeks to find out more of what we can expect from this earth-shattering week on Coronation Street. Theories on a postcard please! 

Sophie Williams 

Find me on Twitter @sophie_writer1

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


Stevie said...

Great summary Sophie. I really hate guns and violence in Corrie but I have to say they've sold this very well!

Anonymous said...

As the photo shows Dev carrying Asha does this mean Aadi is going to die or be horribly burnt?

Anonymous said...

This has got me really excited! I thought Corey would die, but now thinking it'll be Harvey. I wonder if Corey will in a heat-of-the-moment admit he killed Seb and Nina's recorded it. Plausible..?

Love the Johnny and Jenny story. These 2 have been underused as of late and could be a great way for them to get back together.

Please, do not kill Adi. He's been wonderful as of late. Again, could lead to potential storyline especially if his dad chose Asha over him.

Anonymous said...

I think that Abi will be saved at the last minute and Corey will be killed, Harvey will be killed, and Aadi will either also die or be horribly burned or disfigured

Anonymous said...

Although some of the storylines sound exciting,I'm not looking forward to a 'Sophie's choice'moment with Dev deciding which one of his children he could save.
I like Aadi and it would be a shame to see another child die soon after Oliver.
I wonder if Asha will have survivor's guilt as she seems to be the 'chosen one'?

Anonymous said...

I think Johnny will die.

coconno196 said...

Terrible unnecessary melodrama. Sinkhole disaster fair enough but please don't kill off lovely Aadi. His scenes with Dev, Asha and Summer have been brilliant. Could happily lose nasty NuMax though.

CK said...

Wasn't it a Christmas wonderland thing where Shona was shot and the shooter died who had been seeking revenge on Gary? So this is a Halloween theme with Harvey seeking revenge and no doubt dying by toppling into a sinkhole?

Anonymous said...

I'm beginning to think that the 'well loved'character who dies in the sinkhole could be Fiz'snew boyfriend Phil leading to a reunion with Tyrone?

Unknown said...

Nay Johnny gonna snuff it and I hope will Mellor character goes too


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