She's bravely battled addiction, survived prison and even saved the street itself from demolition, but nothing can prepare Coronation Street's Abi Franklin (Sally Carman) for the death of her beloved son Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni).
The long-haired lad was killed after him and goth girlfriend Nina Lucas (Mollie Gallagher) became the victims of an unprovoked hate crime attack, targeted purely for their appearance. Viewers saw a gang of teens intimidate the couple, but the truth about who exactly is to blame remains a mystery - one that grieving Abi is determined to solve.
"Abi needs a focus for her grief because she doesn't know what to do with herself," reveals Carman, speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press. "In the immediate aftermath, Kelly Neelan (Millie Gibson), and then Corey Brent (Maximus Evans), are both arrested, but Abi feels really underwhelmed.
"There's a scene where she wonders why she's not doing cartwheels - but at the end of the day, even if Corey or whoever is sent down for life, he's still breathing and her son isn't. Abi goes to have it out with Corey and has opportunities to finish him off, but she doesn't.
"For the first time in her life she goes down the route of trusting the police, which goes against every fibre in her body - and then when justice isn't done, that's when she loses it and reverts to type…"
Abi's quest for answers is the backbone of how the plot unfolds in the coming months – viewers purposely didn't see the actual moment of the attack and exactly who was involved. As Weatherfield's teens, including Corey, Kelly, Asha Alahan (Tanisha Gorey), Amy Barlow (Elle Mulvaney) and Summer Spellman (Harriet Bibby), nervously get their stories straight and alibis in order, the truth will be teased for a while before it's finally revealed.
The brutal storyline is partly inspired by the real life case of Sophie Lancaster, who died in 2007 at the age of 20 after being attacked because of the way she dressed. The tragedy highlighted the issue of hate crime and intolerance of subcultures in young people, and Corrie have worked closely with Sophie's parents, who set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation in her memory, on the hard-hitting plot.
"There's a weight of responsibility because of what the storyline is based on," admits Carman. "I've heard Sylvia, Sophie's mother, speak publicly and it blows your hair back. It can't be underestimated, the effect of losing someone you love in those circumstances. And because of social media these days, we're less able to compromise and listen to other people's points of view. People are very offended if you have different views and we're blocking ourselves left, right and centre - I just don't know how healthy that is.
"It's good to comment on that and show we need to keep our minds open," reflects Carman. "Just because someone disagrees with you, it doesn't make them bad people. You can have different views and still get on, we have to be able to compromise and talk - otherwise the outcome isn't good."
Seb's death is undoubtedly a game-changing moment for Abi, and by far the biggest development for Carman's character since she arrived in 2017. For much of that time, fans have seen vulnerable-but-vivacious Abs struggle with her addiction demons which she recently overcame again, but could grief push her off the waggon and back into self-destructive mode?
"I don't think so," affirms the actress. "Her fiancé, Kevin Webster (Michael Le Vell), and best mate Sally Metcalfe (Sally Dynevor) are concerned about that and ask if she feels like she wants to take drugs again, but Abi explains even though she'd love to she knows Seb wouldn't want her to. If anything I'd like this to be the thing that potentially turns Abi's life around - her twins have been adopted and moved to Australia, Seb is dead, so she's lost all her children now.
"I also hope Abi and Kev's relationship survives. I love working with Mike and would like for them to marry and become a couple of Corrie stalwarts but constantly squabbling, like Jack and Vera Duckworth. I will stay here for as long as Corrie want me. I must've auditioned about 20 times, if not more, for different parts over the years - but it was well worth the wait to play Abi."