New images have been released that show Weatherfield boozer the Rovers Return going up in flames – with two people trapped inside.
In scenes set to be shown on Monday 18 March, Stella Price (Michelle Collins) will be seen screaming for help upstairs, while Sunita Alahan (Shobna Gulati) lies unconscious in the basement.
As the flames take hold, the residents of Coronation Street will watch on in horror having fled the Full Monty charity strip show that was taking place at Nick’s Bistro. ITV today said that the inferno will eventually claim two lives, but the broadcaster is remaining tight-lipped on who is responsible for the fire.
The dramatic episodes – which took three weeks to film and involved stunt doubles, a special-effects team and specialist fire crews – will culminate with the Rovers being left a burnt-out shell and neighbours trying to come to terms with events. And in the weeks to come, it’ll become clear the fire was arson and that Sunita is being treated as the number one suspect.
Actress Shobna Gulati, for whom this storyline heralds the end of her time on Coronation Street, said: “It’s an amazing send off. It feels great and I feel so pleased. The Rovers itself burning was hard to watch. When you watched the inside burning there was Betty’s picture in flames, along with all those memories. Sunita was a barmaid there too so she had an inside out relationship with the pub.
“I had a stunt lady there to do any scenes I didn’t want to do, but when it came to it I just thought this is the last time viewers are going to see me as Sunita, so you might as well see my face and not the back of the stunt double!
“When I finished filming the fire I cried. I thought how awful it must be to actually be in that kind of disaster. It must be horrific because the heat was horrendous. I could feel the burn. You could actually feel your skin burning. I had a bucket of cold water for me to cool down in because I was that hot – hot beyond belief.”
Michelle Collins said of her own experiences: “Stella’s left the Bistro quite upset after the palaver with Sunita and goes home. She just wants to relax and de-stress, so she goes back to the Rovers for a nice bath. The lights go out first of all before she starts to see and smell smoke. At this point she doesn’t realise anyone else is in there and she thinks she’s the only one trapped indoors. Obviously, she thinks everyone’s in the Bistro and that nobody will come to rescue her. At that point I think 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.
“It was quite frightening. 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. I did feel very protected by everyone there. There were lots of firemen there and lots of people safeguarding. And of course I had the rest of the cast and crew with me too! Everyone was really supportive and it really felt like a real fire.”