Coronation Street‘s Carla Connnor (Alison King) is on a downward spiral in the aftermath of the factory collapse, blaming herself for the disaster which killed Rana Habeeb as she knew the roof was in desperate need of repair but ignored it to save money – only for the structure to cave in with fatal consequences.
Already under fire from her grieving sister Kate Connor (Faye Brookes) for her part in her fiancee’s demise, on Monday 8 April the fragile Underworld boss started to lose her grip on reality when she receives creepy online messages from a user named ‘Rana’ accusing her of murder. With her paranoia increasing and her behaviour getting more erratic, Carla becomes convinced Rana is still alive and when worried boyfriend Peter Barlow (Chris Gascoyne) takes her to the GP on Friday 12 April she flees at suggestions she needs to see a mental health specialist and disappears… But who is behind the sinister messages pretending to be tragic Rana?
King tells RadioTimes.com how Carla’s decline plays out, and why this is the darkest hour yet for her alter ego.
How tense is it among the Connors as they plan to visit Aidan’s grave on his birthday? It’s really awkward as emotions are so high within the family she feels like she’s not welcome. Peter puts pressure on her to go and she feels like he’s set her up because it’s so uncomfortable when she gets there. It’s all part of her growing paranoia but she can’t understand why he’d make her do something with people who hate her. She wants to remember Aidan, but it’s hideously awkward.
Is Carla’s guilt over the factory collapse starting to overwhelm her? Her guilt is all consuming, especially when she’s with Kate because it took Carla so long to admit the truth about the roof. Because Peter convinced her not to tell people what she knew, and she went along with that, it’s made things doubly worse. When Rana died a little bit of Carla broke, it was a tipping point.
Does she think she is to blame for Rana’s death? Yes absolutely, she knew the roof needed replacing and didn’t have the work done. It starts off as all-consuming guilt, the paranoia doesn’t start until after she receives the message from ‘Rana’.
When Carla receives the message, supposedly from Rana, how does she react? She believes everyone is in on it, that Rana must be alive and they’re playing some sort of cruel trick on her. It’s really confusing, Carla can’t work out why somebody would do that and why Rana would hide but she believes it due to the paranoia. She’s already broken from what people have been saying about her and her frame of mind since the accident.
Carla starts to spiral, how do we see her mental health deteriorate? Through her paranoia, and the feeling she’s on her own. Even though Peter is trying to help her she’s not taking it in the right way, he seems to be pushing her too hard. She’s gone into a state of paranoia which spikes and then calms. The first signs of her having these episodes are that she just isn’t being herself which she tries to hide from Peter, but then she becomes more secretive, writing down what’s going on in her brain. As her paranoia grows she feels she has to get away from people because she thinks they’re out to get her. She eventually shares that with Peter after initially hiding it from him and he realises the depth of her illness.
What happens when Peter takes her to the medical centre? It’s too serious by that point, it’s gone beyond the point where Carla can sit down and talk about it and she just wants to get away. She needs to talk to a doctor but she’s not ready and believes everybody wants to make her suffer or put her in prison. It’s not even the thought of prison she’s running away from, it’s what’s going on in her head and the need to be on her own.
Have you fond this challenging storyline difficult to play? It’s been the toughest yet for me. The rape storyline was emotionally tough but this has been a real challenge every day being in different sorts of mania from first thing in the morning, using shallow breathing, working your body and mind into a frantic state. I’m really grateful for the help we’ve had from Mind and a lady who’s suffered from psychosis herself. She told me about the physical symptoms Carla might have and how she would be feeling at different times, her exhaustion, her paranoia, her potential thoughts of self harm. I’ve tried to take this with me into scenes.
What support have you had to portray Carla’s illness? We’ve worked closely with Mind during the research stage and with the scripts and they’ve been really helpful. The directors on set have also been amazing, helping me with the timeline of where Carla’s been in previous episodes as we film out of order and letting me try and show her mental health in my way own way through the spikes in her behaviour. I want it to be as real as possible so we can show what people go through, and make the audience see this can happen to anybody.