Coronation Street star Christopher Harper has admitted that the audience reaction to the soap’s sexual exploitation storyline took him by surprise.
“I came onto the show for just a couple of months, but the storyline has had much more oxygen than we thought. There was no way I would have guessed that it would resonate in the way it has. In fact, my initial contract ran up to the beginning and then it was extended,” the actor told RadioTimes.com.
Speaking about the kind of reaction he’s had since taking on the role of evil groomer Nathan Curtis, Harper said: “The first time it really struck me was when I was on a busy tram in Manchester and one of the workers grabbed me by the wrist and said, ‘thank you very much, my mum was abused and it means a lot to us that you’re doing this storyline.
“I could see that she was quivering with emotion. And, honestly, that kind of thing now happens so often. It’s a constant reminder of how much of an issue this is.”
This week’s drama on Corrie is charting Nathan’s trial and the evildoer’s attempts to prevent Bethany from testifying. Having diced with danger thanks to the efforts of Nathan’s cohort Mel, Bethany has now finally been able to speak out in court..
The verdict is being kept under wraps, however Harper revealed that Bethany’s experiences are to shape the character’s future storylines:
“My time on Coronation Street is coming to an end, but I’m genuinely happy that [producer] Kate Oates and the team will continue to show the conflict and troubles that affect Bethany. All that will carry on.
“Having now met so many survivors, I’m really pleased that Bethany’s journey carries on. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.”
The actor was speaking at the launch of new animation The Mouse (watch it below) for Voicing CSA, a charity run by survivors of sexual abuse that helps others who’ve endured the same experience and to raise awareness of the IICSA (the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse).
Harper has given his support to the charity since the beginning of the Coronation Street grooming storyline. Speaking about the inquiry’s objectives, Harper said:
“There’s never been anything like it before and what they need is victims to identify as victims and to want to come forward and share their story. That is a huge mountain to climb.
“And when you have cases like Bethany’s – people who are, say, 16, 17 or 18 – they’re still kids, they can’t vote, but they’re legally able to have sex. And when it comes to abuse, they unfortunately often slip through the cracks.”
You can watch a 60-second rundown of next week’s episodes of Coronation Street below