Filming resumed on Coronation Street this week for the first time since production was halted days before the UK lockdown in March, and soap bosses have explained when – and how – the pandemic will be referenced on screen.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com and other journalists at a virtual press conference on 10th June, producer Iain MacLeod explained episodes that were half-finished before lockdown have been completed within strict new government safety guidelines, so there will be an unavoidable continuity issue when characters directly acknowledge coronavirus for the first time in episodes airing from 24th July.
“The remainder of incomplete episodes have been shot strictly adhering to the new measures,” he says. “In a manner of speaking there is something of a jump on screen. Fictionally it created a world where people were half acknowledging and half not, which would have been really weird.
“From 24th July it will be referenced and it’s just like the flip of a switch. Very quickly we are in a post-pandemic world and I am sure there will be comments about continuity, but we have a mature audience and I think they will understand and go with it.”
MacLeod had previously stated the ‘new normal’ would be a part of the fabric of Weatherfield life without dominating it, which he expanded on during the conference. “We will reference it with a light touch, because the world has been living with this for many months by this stage.
“We will see a lot of washing hands, social distancing, discussing older relatives who are shielding and are not on camera. A lot of our businesses are operating as takeaways but it’s possible that Roy’s Rolls, for instance, might be open by the time the scenes air, but we thought it safer to bet on people not being able to be in big groups in a cafe.
“It will be mostly visually referenced rather than talking about it – the audience has talked about pretty much nothing else so we want to give them some escapism but grounded in reality. We want to stay true to what Corrie is and not turn it into a soap version of the movie Outbreak!”
The day-to-day of social distancing will become the norm on the cobbles, as MacLeod explains: “In reality, Steve and Tracy McDonald would not have to socially distance as a married couple, but the actors don’t live together so we have to film them two metres apart. In those instances I have asked directors to cheat it with lenses and editing to create a sense of proximity.
“If two people from different households meet on the street you will definitely notice them consciously keeping their distance. Let’s emphasise it as we have to normalise it.”
MacLeod reassures fans by insisting the heart of Corrie’s storytelling, while tweaked where necessary, will remain largely unaffected.
“We wanted to carry on with as many storylines as we could and, on the whole, they remain the same, with a couple of exceptions. The packaging of some stories has changed, but the gift inside remains the same.”