Coronation Street: Natalie Gumede talks Strictly, justice for Tyrone and stepping away from Kirsty

"Kirsty has to have some kind of punishment otherwise all is not right with the world"

As the story of abusive Kirsty Soames approaches its climax we speak to actress Natalie Gumede about her upcoming exit from the show:

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Kirsty must have been an exhausting character to play, so is it a relief to be leaving her behind?
It feels healthy to be leaving her behind. It’s the right time. She’s a very all-consuming character and it’s not always easy to shake her off at the end of the day. You can’t constantly play negativity and shake it off instantly, so it can be physically draining.

Did you know when you started on the show that your character was going to be involved in this plotline?
Not when I was auditioning, but I got to know about the domestic violence storyline from about week one. They weren’t sure how long the character was going to play out for, but I knew I was going to be playing a dark character, shall we say, and that we were going to take on this abuse storyline. I knew that it had a finite amount of time, for sure. But I don’t think they knew how far they could push it and I think they have pushed it far further than they had hoped for in the beginning. So that’s been fantastic both for me and Coronation Street.

All the way through the story, we’ve seen reasons if not excuses for the way Kirsty has acted thanks to the insights into her volatile childhood. Was it important to you that she wasn’t painted as an out-and-out villain?
Really important, yes. I didn’t want her to be a 2D character, so bringing that family history into her story gave her the opportunity to be understood if not excused. Even the most evil of people can be vulnerable and I wanted to show that. That’s not to say that the viewer has to have sympathy for somebody who is doing wrong, but what’s interesting is that people have felt conflicted. It’s important to find the subtleties.

Is there anyone on the cast with whom you’d have liked to work with more?
Oh gosh, yeah. People like Alison King, Jane Danson and Chris Gascoyne are always at the forefront of the show for a reason and it’s because they’re really brave, exciting actors. So it would’ve been lovely to have worked with those guys more. But I feel really lucky to have worked with Alan Halsall as well. He’s extremely generous as an actor and I think we’ve learned from each other as we’ve gone along and helped improve one another. That’s been a really lovely journey to take with him.

Do you think Kirsty could come back at some point in the future? Maybe as a rehabilitated person?
She certainly could and I would never count it out. You never know where life takes you and I’ve had a wonderful experience here. So yes, anything’s possible in Weatherfield! Plus I think she has the potential to be redeemed because we’ve seen the possibility of what she could have been had she not been so damaged. Maybe if she spent a heavy amount of time in therapy, she could get herself under control, but I’m not sure that would be as interesting to watch. 

Is it important that Tyrone gets justice?
Whether it’s criminal justice or poetic justice, it’s really important for the viewers to see Tyrone win. Especially after all he’s been through, not just in this storyline but over the past few years with Molly as well. He always seems to be so unlucky! Also, those who’ve been through something like this or who’ve known someone who’s been through this will want to see some comeuppance for Kirsty. She has to have some kind of punishment otherwise all is not right with the world.

Is it nice to be able to be yourself again?
Yes, it is. It’s a lovely prospect. Although I’ll remain Kirsty to a lot of people even when I’ve gone on and done other stuff just because Coronation Street is so visible and iconic. But I’m looking forward to stepping away from the character for a while to see what the future holds.

Is it possible that you won’t get such a continued level of high attention again in your career?
It’s extremely possible. In fact, I’d say it’s likely. Unless I was to return to the show, of course. Working on a soap is like no other job. The schedule we work under is so fast-paced, so it makes it such an intensive experience. We’re constantly filming out of schedule and out of story order. It’s preparation for the rest of your career, it really is.

And, finally, is it correct that you’d like to do Strictly Come Dancing?
I’m remaining open-minded! I adore the show. I’m a huge fan. So I’d definitely like to consider doing it one day, yeah. I don’t know if I should be acting this year or what’s going to come to me. I want to remain open to anything. But I do love the show, yes. 

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Coronation Street continues tonight at 7pm on ITV.