Coronation Street: Michelle Collins – Rovers fire is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever had to do

"It was quite frightening for me filming those scenes. I didn’t think it would be as scary as it actually was," reveals the actress at the heart of the blaze that consumes the Weatherfield pub

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It’s the burning question on the lips of Corrie fans: can Stella Price survive the forthcoming fire at the Rovers Return? Next week’s episodes will see the Weatherfield boozer go up in flames with Stella trapped on the premises. Here, actress Michelle Collins talks about what it was like to film the incendiary scenes and reveals what happens to her character as the inferno takes hold:

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So, viewers will soon see Stella asking Jason [Ryan Thomas] to move into the pub with her. What are her feelings towards Jason? How serious is their relationship?
There are certainly cracks starting to show in the relationship that are making her realise that he’s not just young in terms of age, but he’s also quite young maturity wise too. He’s starting to show signs of immaturity, but she tries to tell herself that she’ll knock it out of him once he moves in.

In a way, Karl behaving like he has been doing makes her realise that she doesn’t want to go into another relationship like that again, so she jumps quite quickly into moving in with Jason. I think she does still have quite strong feelings for Karl even though she’s pretending that she doesn’t. But, at the moment, she thinks she’ll go for it with Jason because she doesn’t have anything to lose. She’s having fun with him and finds him physically very attractive and she probably gets quite lonely, so she might as well have him around at the minute.

When she discovers that Dev [Jimmi Harkishin] and Sunita [Shobna Gulati] are back together, Stella interferes by telling Dev he’s making a terrible mistake. Why does she do this?
She thinks Dev is making the wrong decision and that Sunita is totally untrustworthy. Actually, Stella and Dev get on really well, so she doesn’t want him to get hurt. Afterwards, she says that she’s sorry and admits that she shouldn’t have stuck her nose in, but I think her concern was really from the heart. She’s got quite close to Dev over the whole situation and just felt that he shouldn’t have to go through the whole ordeal again.

Sunita goes ballistic when she finds out that Stella’s words have resulted in Dev dumping her. So how does Stella react when Sunita rages at her and hits the bottle?
She gets quite upset about it, actually. She’s embarrassed too because Sunita throws a drink all over her in front of everyone in the Bistro. Stella just doesn’t want to get involved in this all over again, so she leaves and goes home.

Tell us about the circumstances that lead up to the fire and how Stella reacts when she realises that the Rovers is ablaze…
Well, she just wants to relax and de-stress after the palaver with Sunita, so she goes back to the Rovers for a nice bath. First of all, the lights go out, then she starts to see and smell smoke. At this point, she doesn’t realise anyone else is in there, so she thinks she’s the only one trapped indoors. Obviously, she thinks everyone’s in Bistro and that nobody will come to rescue her. At that point she genuinely believes she’s going to die. She tries to open the window and it’s jammed and she can’t get down the stairs either.

What happens when Karl [John Michie] comes to the rescue?
He’s her knight in shining armour! When he gets up there he certainly thinks she’s going to die but then they start to think they’re going to die together. There’s a point where she just thinks, ‘this is it’.

So, Stella and Karl are trapped and then Paul [Tony Hirst] and Toni [Tara Moran] try to rescue them. What is Stella going through at this point?
When Paul drags Stella out she’s unconscious. She’s in a bad way. It was quite frightening for me filming those scenes. I didn’t think it would be as scary as it actually was! To be honest with you, I tried not to think about it, which was a good idea. I spent my time talking to the special effects team instead. So I did feel very protected by everyone there. There were lots of firemen and lots of people safeguarding. And of course I had the rest of the cast and crew with me too. Everyone was really supportive as it felt like a real fire. 

Early investigations point to an electrical fault in the cellar, so does Stella blame Jason for this?
Yes, initially they do think it’s Jason and many people are pointing the finger at him, so it’s difficult for her not to think it too.

Does she suspect anyone else to have started the fire?
I think she doesn’t have any suspicion whatsoever. As far as she’s concerned she can’t believe that someone would purposefully try to kill her.

How does she feel when she discovers that Sunita is in danger as well?
She’s really worried actually, even after everything Sunita has done to her. She doesn’t want her to die and she’s concerned for her children, too. She also feels bad because she’s the one who told Dev not to take Sunita back and that’s why Sunita went off the rails. 

With Karl being hailed as a hero, does this change the way Stella feels about him? 
Oh yes, absolutely. As far as she’s concerned, he saved her life. There was always love there between them, but when he does this and nearly dies for her, it definitely brings them much closer together. 

So, tell us about filming those stunts. Was it a dangerous business? 
I was very worried about my pyjama pants falling down when I was being thrown over Tony Hirst’s shoulder! Very glamorous I know. I think this is the most dangerous thing I’ve ever had to do. I did have to film something on a very high building for Daylight Robbery and that was quite scary – in fact, maybe a little scarier as I actually had to be strapped into a harness!

But then again this was a fire, and once fire gets out of control there’s nothing you can do. I think if I’d have let myself think about it I would have been more afraid. It was exciting too though! It’s great to do something a bit different. Night shoots are horrible when it’s cold, but it was incredibly exciting to do. 

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And, of course, we are about to see the departure of Shobna Gulati as Sunita. She’s involved in a lot of the Rovers fire scenes as well – do you get on behind the scenes?
Yes absolutely. We did get on and it’s sad that she’s leaving, as it is when anybody in the cast departs. She will be missed. But I’m sure she will go on to pastures new and do some great things.