Coronation Street: Mel returns – what does she want with Bethany? Sonia Ibrahim interview

Can Mel be trusted or is she still brainwashed by her abuser Nathan?

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Coronation Street’s controversial grooming plot is back in focus next week when Mel Maguire returns to Weatherfield. Bethany Platt is surprised to bump into ex-salon worker Mel, who was also a victim of coercive abuse at the hands of sinister Nathan Curtis and his grooming ring. Since Nathan and his cronies were caught, Mel has been living rough and refuses to testify in his upcoming court case for fear of reprisals from Nathan’s sinister network of pals.

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Bethany begs her former friend to change her mind and ensure Nathan is sent down, and invites her to stay at the Platts in the hope of persuading her.

Can Bethany and mum Sarah convince Mel to stand up to her abuser, or has she been too brainwashed and traumatised by her experiences?

Sonia Ibrahim, who returns to her role for these episodes, talks us through Mel’s reappearance, and whether she holds the key to bringing nasty Nathan to justice…

How did you first feel when you heard Mel was going to come back to the street?

I was obviously very happy but I knew that there would be some kind of agenda from the character’s point of view. But even though there is a reason why she is back, it is good that we finally hear Mel’s story and the Platts get to know everything about her.

What happens when Bethany sees Mel?

Mel has been homeless for a while so when she sees Bethany, she’s desperate to speak to her. Bethany knows what Mel has done so obviously she doesn’t like her and she wants to phone the police but Mel manages to persuade her to invite her into the Platts’ to hear her side of the story.

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What is Sarah’s reaction to seeing Mel again?

She probably wants to hit her and to go for her since she’s put her daughter through all that. But Bethany persuades Sarah to at least let Mel talk.

Why does Bethany agree to talk to Mel after everything?

Bethany is trying to continuously open Mel’s eyes to how brainwashed she is by Nathan. Bethany keeps asking her to come to court because she needs her help – Lara is not a reliable witness and Mel knows more so she can help to put Nathan away.

How does Mel react to that?

Deep down Mel knows it’s the right thing to do. There’s always the to-and-fro in her mind of whether she should go to court but that little voice in her head, which is Nathan, is still niggling away telling her to do what he wants…

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What do we learn about Mel’s past this week?

At first Bethany doesn’t know what Mel has been through and tells Mel not to play the victim, so that’s when Mel explains she’s had it worse. She says she’s taken beatings for Bethany and explains she was Nathan’s first victim and it just escalated. Mel still thinks that she’s his one true love, though. She’s been through a lot more than anyone realises.

Is it challenging to play out the complex backstory?

At times it is challenging to get into that mindset, but it’s been really good to play the different sides of Mel and have such a character arc in the storyline. You’ve seen a massive journey for her and I’ve really enjoyed that.

Are viewers understanding the character a bit more than they did at first?

Yeah, definitely. I have noticed that people are warming to Mel because they can see that she’s very manipulated by Nathan.

What’s it been like working with Lucy Fallon (Bethany) on such a talked-about storyline?

Ever since I started working with Lucy we have formed a really lovely friendship, she’s such a nice girl. We have bonded and that’s good when you’re working so close with somebody, especially on a storyline like this when it does get quite dark because it’s nice to be able to have those uplifting moments in-between. All the Platt family unit are lovely, filming with Tina O’Brien, Helen Worth and Sue Nicholls has has been so much fun. Sometimes I just stand there and watch because I am still new to it and it’s interesting to see how everyone works.

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