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Wednesday 1 March 2023

James Craven interview: Coronation Street tackle non-consensual sex story

In an upcoming storyline, Coronation Street will tackle the issue of non-consensual sex between Amy and Aaron. In Friday's episode, we will see Amy and Aaron getting drunk together in the flat. Later, Amy lays on the bed, saying she feels sick. Aaron continues to kiss her and Amy is oblivious to what happens next. 

We were invited, alongside other media, to have a Zoom chat with James Craven about how Aaron deals with the situation and what this could mean for Aaron's future on the street.

Can you talk us through how Aaron's feeling and how the kiss with Amy happens before they go out?

Aaron and Summer have had a lot of problems in their relationship in the past. Some of them have been out of their control, but I think he’s always been there to support her previously, and he’s always stuck by her no matter what and tried to help her through everything. 

But I think this time, he feels this real sense of betrayal, I think, because whilst he knows he’s done something wrong, he tries to make amends for it, and she just pushes him away. So I think this time, it’s his sort of last straw, and he thinks, “Well, what’s the point in bothering with any of this?” 

And then also, you’ve got to remember that him and Amy have had all of this time together in the flat, and they’ve had Brian there, but mainly, it’s just been them two. So they’ve had all this time we haven’t seen onscreen for them to grow closer to one another and to really learn to care for each other and to laugh with one another and for their friendship to become stronger.

I think they’ve really learnt to rely on each other. So, in that moment, I think all of these emotions and thoughts just take hold, and they don’t even think about it, and they just end up kissing. I think they can feel that electricity and that tension beforehand, but they just do it without any thought. 

During their night out at the Bistro, things don't go to plan when Amy storms off and after an argument with Summer, Aaron follows Amy back to the flat. What is the mood like back at the flat?

Initially, there’s that guilt for him because he knows he hasn’t handled the situation with Summer very well. And he hasn’t stopped thinking about what’s happened with Amy throughout the whole night, so he’s guilty about that because he knows that these are feelings he shouldn’t really be having. But it’s new, it’s exciting for him, and it’s unexpected. 

And when they first get back before they start drinking, they share a really lovely moment just between two friends who’ve both just lost their partners, and they just decide that they need each other, and they need to rely on one another, and that they need each other’s support. So, initially, they just decide that they’re not going to let anything ruin their night, they’re going to have some drinks, they’re going to have a laugh together, and they’re going to have a good time. 

They’re trying to ignore what happened at first, but then I think they know there’s something there between them - they are genuinely enjoying each other’s company. Amy suggests doing shots, and they've drunk a lot. I think since they got back, they probably had a couple of bottles of wine, vodka.

Aaron and Amy go into the bedroom to find some more alcohol, but Amy says she feels sick and lays down on the bed. Aaron gets closer and starts kissing her. Do you think, in that moment, he fails to read the signals she's giving?

Yeah, I think he definitely fails to read the signals. Here I should mention his biggest sort of mistake he makes in this moment is that he assumes that she’s OK to continue because as far as he’s concerned, everything leading up to this moment has been fine, and she’s been OK with everything.

And the emphasis really is on the word “assumes” because that’s his biggest mistake, and he doesn’t check in with himself and more importantly, he doesn’t check in with Amy that she’s OK with all of this. So I think it’s sort of a lack of care due to a lack of thought. 

Things then go a lot further - is Aaron unaware that what he's done is wrong?

I think his immediate thoughts when he first wakes up is, “Oh, God, I’ve just slept with my ex’s best mate,” and then he’s worried about how he could approach that without making it sound like it didn’t mean anything, and it was just a one-night thing. 

But initially, there’s no sort of thought in his mind that he’s done anything wrong. And I think he’s also trying to piece together kind of what happened as well, and he’s sort of got this thing going on of, “Did that really happen?” Because I think it was so out of nowhere for him, and it just took him by surprise. 

The next day, Amy approaches Aaron and tells him what happened what non-consensual. Do you think he'll be taken aback by that, rather than knowing that was the case?

Yeah, 100%. I think he’s definitely going to be shocked to hear that because I think if… from his point of view, he believes he hasn’t done anything wrong in this moment, so I think if someone told him that, he’d be shocked to hear that, and he’d be devastated. 

It’d be really, really stress-inducing, and I think that was the hard part for me when we got this story, was to try and find a way to sort of justify why he reacts in the way that he does because obviously, me, as James, knows that it’s wrong, but then to sort of find a way for the character to justify his actions was quite a hard thing. 

We know Aaron to be a caring character, and this is someone he cares about. What do you think has happened - is it a lack of education, that failure to read signs?

I think it’s both, and who knows, maybe if he’d had the education beforehand, and he’d been spoken to about it, and he was thinking about it a bit more, then maybe he would’ve made a different decision. He hasn’t been this malicious character or this evil character in the past, but I think that’s a really important thing about the story, and that’s why it should be so important because despite the way that he is as a person, he’s still capable of doing something like that, and that’s the important thing to highlight here. 

We've worked closely with the Schools Consent Project on this storyline. Did you find that helpful?

Obviously, doing something like this isn’t particularly comfortable just because of the nature of what it is, but luckily, we’ve been so well supported. Elle’s just been amazing. But working with the Schools Consent Project was great because whilst they fill us in with all the facts and figures, and it was really interesting to hear about the work that they were doing and how they approached the situation and what kind of situations they’re dealing with, it also just reaffirmed for us why we were doing the story in the first place because it does highlight the fact that unfortunately, this is something that is far too common and is far too normalised.

Hopefully, after something like this, we could try and do something to help that, I think. They’ve been amazing, and hopefully, they can get the sort of reach that they need to be able to continue doing the work they’re doing. 

How has it been for you filming the storyline?

I think the most important thing for us, or for me, was just to make sure that Elle was comfortable at all times, and if there was anything she wasn’t happy with, then we could change that immediately. That was the number one focus, was to make sure that she was all OK with everything. But the crew were amazing. You could feel this energy on set, and everyone felt really focused, and when you feel that everyone’s sort of locked into something, it makes it a lot easier to do it because you feel like everyone’s sort of working towards one thing, which was a really great feeling. Everyone’s going to see how good Elle is in this, she’s amazing. 

Coming out of this, what do you hope that we could learn from Aaron’s behaviour? Do you think it will spark conversations?

We hope so, we really hope so. I mean, we knew when we set out to do this story that we weren’t going to change everyone or educate everyone, but if we tried to do exactly that, then hopefully, we were going to deliver the best story we possibly could and deliver it with a real sensitivity and truth. I like to think we haven’t disappointed anyone, but I think that the most important thing that people can take away from this is that no matter how you’re feeling, no matter whether you’ve had a lot to drink, whether you’re happy, you’re sad, confused, angry – when you find yourselves in these intimate situations, be it with a friend, a girlfriend, a partner or someone you’ve just met that “No” is not a yes and only “Yes” is a yes. Always check in with the other person because it is never going to be a bad thing for you to do that. 

How do you think this could change him as a character going forward? Do you think he can remain on the street?

Who knows? Hopefully, there’s some sort of, not necessarily redemption because how would you redeem yourself from that? But I like to hope that he sort of tries to make amends for it and tries to realise his wrongdoings and tries to make up for it. 

Sophie Williams

Find me on Twitter @sophie_writer1.

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