Coronation Street: “Josh is manipulative and unhinged” – Ryan Clayton on male rape storyline

The actor reveals his take on the controversial plot

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Coronation Street’s controversial male rape storyline starts on screen next week, when David Platt is drugged and sexually assaulted by new friend Josh Tucker after a night out drinking. The boys have bonded in recent weeks as newcomer Josh trains the locals for a charity boxing match in memory of the late Luke Britton, hitting it off with the Platt lad in particular.

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Likeable Josh displayed a darker side when him and David teamed up to run Lee Mayhew out of town to protect David’s sister Sarah from her former tormentor, and prior to the assault next week they join forces again to get violent with the thugs Alya Nazir blames for Luke’s murder.

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But nothing prepares David for how his evening with Josh next Friday ends. Josh invites David out with his mates, then says they can’t make it. Not suspecting a thing, David gets the beers in and the two enjoy hanging out and swapping life stories. However, unbeknown to David, Josh secretly spikes his friend’s drink with a date rape drug and ends up taking him back to his flat.

David is barely conscious by this time, and Josh throws him onto the bed and starts to undress him. The following week, David wakes up and realises Josh has raped him, but feels too ashamed to report the crime, while Josh insists their encounter was consensual in the aftermath of the assault.

We spoke to Street newcomer Ryan Clayton about taking on the high-profile character, and what his thoughts are on the controversy surrounding the storyline.

Why do you think it’s important to tackle the subject of male rape?
I saw a documentary on BBC iPlayer, and I realised you don’t see or here anything about it, as a subject it’s totally unrepresented. So it’s a story that needs telling. I knew from the audition stage what the story would be and expressed clearly I understood how importance of it.

How did you prepare for such a difficult role?
I met with Duncan Craig from from the support group Survivors Manchester which was very useful. Josh is motivated by wanting to have sex, and in his head he doesn’t see it as an assault. He thinks David will be up for it and he might as well slip something into his drink to make it an even better time. In his head he believes it’s consensual and will try to buy that for as long as possible. In the aftermath, we’ll see similar traits of how rapists behave, the manipulation games they play which is what I’ve spoken to Duncan about.

Is the attack pre-meditated?
It’s an opportunist sort of thing. Josh takes an opportunity and runs with it. As it is for a lot of people who do this, it’s about power – perpetrators enjoy that power. After it happens he still believes him and David can be friends, and thinks David needs to get over it and is just scared of Shona finding out.

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The storyline is set to run for a while, what can you tell us about the aftermath?
It’s very interesting, how Josh chooses to play that and what games and tricks he employs to keep it under wraps. He’s not going anywhere in a hurry, I’m here until the summer at least. Josh is a dangerous person to be around and extremely manipulative.

Is it a challenge to play such a disturbed character? 
I’ve played a lot of villains, I think it’s something to do with my eyes! But they are always interesting and complex, if harrowing. We don’t see the assault on screen of course, but the scenes are very powerful and were quite hard to do. The aftermath is more difficult to play, trying to think in a completely unhinged mind. How Josh thinks is obviously completely alien to myself, to be so manipulative was very hard to switch off from.

What are your thoughts on Corrie being criticised for being too dark, with this storyline coming so soon after the Phelan murders?
I think it’s a completely separate issue. It’s a big street, there’s a lot of separate stories going on and this storyline, while it may not be all happy, is one that needs telling. The show revolves around a lot of different characters.

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Do you see similarities between Josh and a character like Phelan? They are both seemingly sociopathic…
The way Connor McIntyre plays Pat is absolutely brilliant, I’ll always take inspiration from someone not just playing the ‘comic book’ villain and doing it in a much more interesting way. If you try to be as likeable as possible it messes with an audience’s head, which is more realistic.

Has Connor given you any advice about the reaction from the public?
He’s a great people person and I’ve learnt as soon as you show your real side, that’s the best way to deal with the public. Kill them with kindness. I’ll take it as it comes and appreciate the kind of reaction I may get so I’m anticipating it. The audience are invested in the show so I understand.

Could Josh go down the Phelan path and become a murderer?
Possibly. If you’re choosing to ignore morality then who knows where that can lead in the end?

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