Geoff Metcalfe has become one of Coronation Street‘s most sinister villains as a result of the coercive control storyline, and actor Ian Bartholomew has admitted to being concerned when producers first pitched the idea.
“It was very difficult to get my head around it at first,” he tells RadioTimes.com in an exclusive interview. “I am nothing like Geoff and had to get myself into a mindset I didn’t understand which is quite tricky. He was brought in as a bumptious, funny, cuddly, benign and pleasant character, but I knew from the start there was a possibility he might turn dark.
“After a few months they decided to take him and Yasmeen down the coercive control route. I knew I’d be playing somebody who I’m really not going to like, usually actors always have to find something they like in their character. I can’t think of anything I like about Geoff apart from perhaps a few of his shirts!”
Bartholomew and co-star Shelley King (Yasmeen) have been praised for their fearless performances, particularly in disturbing scenes when desperate Mrs Metcalfe fought back and stabbed her other half. “Neither of us realised how dark it was going to get, to be honest with you,” reveals the star, who joined the Street in 2018.
“In those early episodes where the relationship started it was all about how much he loved and needed her, and making grand romantic gestures. That was still him trying to gain control and desperately keep hold of her, because Geoff is terribly vulnerable at the thought of being alone. I always tried to keep a bit of an edge even at the start.”
Despite his candid confession of his initial struggle at the thought of tackling such a harrowing topic, Bartholomew acknowledges the soap’s bravery in embarking on what has become the most talked-about and prescient story of 2020.
“It was something of a leap of faith for Shelley and I, but I’m glad they went for it as it’s been an incredibly important storyline. I love my job and Corrie is a fantastic place to work – everybody is so kind and generous which takes the curse off being ‘Mr Horrible’ all day. And I couldn’t let my concerns get in the way – the underlying reason for doing this is so we can hopefully help people going through it in real life.
“At the back of your mind that is always there, it’s important not to shy away or sugar coat it – this is how it has to be.”
Geoff’s threats of violence and vicious verbal tirades against his wife have been uncomfortable to watch. When asked if any scenes stand out as particularly hard to film, Bartholomew recalls two specific moments.
“When the magic trick went wrong in the Rovers and he turned to Yasmeen and suddenly called her a ‘stupid, oafish b***h’ – I didn’t enjoy that at all. It seemed to come out of nowhere, I found it really disturbing.
“Then after he learnt she was planning to leave him when he made her get on her knees, and basically threatened to kill her if she tried it again: that was quite unpleasant, but you’ve got to go there in these moments to tell the story. To have the effect it’s having it needs to be as brutal as it can be, without being explicitly violent or making viewers switch off.”