Coronation Street had just embarked on a long-running storyline for Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) and Steve McDonald (Simon Greyson) in which their son Oliver battles a life-threatening illness, but after an enforced production break due to the pandemic the soap is having to adapt to a big logistical change that could impact the plot.
As part of the health and safety measures in place to ensure production is Covid-safe, child actors are currently not allowed on set, so how can the story about little Oliver’s mitochondrial disease diagnosis continue when the twin boys who play the part will be absent?
“The storyline is more about family loyalties being tested and marriages breaking down, so the bulk of the scenes are with the grown-ups anyway,” said Corrie producer Iain MacLeod, speaking at a virtual press conference earlier this week about the show’s return to filming.
“We have a vault of old shots of Oliver so we can cut to stock footage if need be, we have all bases covered in that regard. If the landscape shifts it’s not inconceivable to have the child actors back, but for now it’s better for their safety to keep them off set. And it won’t radically change the story.”
Danson also points out: “We are restricted at the best of times with kids in scenes, often we have to play to a piece of gaffer tape or a doll to minimise how much they’re on set so have worked around it in the past, and we just have to accept the situation.
“The twins, Emmanuel and Jeremiah, are absolutely amazing and rose to the challenge before we shut down so it’s not ideal, but we just have to do our best. The looks are played off the adults, it is a bit disappointing not to have them in as the story is about Oliver, but so far so good. I hope we can get them back but safety has to come first.”
Co-star Ben Price, aka Lee’s partner Nick Tilsley, adds: “I don’t think you lose a lot really. I slightly feel the scenes we play with a child are restricted anyway as when they’re not there, that’s when you have the real adult conversations.
“If you’re around the bedside discussing a child who is very ill, it’s watered down and there is a lot that can’t be said. The scenes are more interesting between Nick and Leanne speaking from their heart. You find a way – it’s just different, not necessarily worse.”
Oliver was rushed to hospital after a series of mysterious seizures which led doctors to warn his concerned parents he may have the incurable condition, caused by a mutation of cells that affect many of the body’s organs and functions.
He’s now back home with his mum and Nick, who face an agonising wait for test results which will ultimately confirm he has the disease.
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