Ben Price has spoken about Oliver Battersby’s heartbreaking illness storyline currently dominating Coronation Street, and admits his alter ego Nick Tilsley may not be able to deal with the inevitably tragic outcome if partner Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) loses her son.
Finally getting through to his devastated other half after she angrily pushed away not only him, but sister Toyah Battersby and adopted son Simon Barlow, Nick’s breakthrough forced Leanne to let down her guard and open up, but only served to highlight how difficult the coming months will be for all of Oliver’s loved ones. Can their relationship survive such a terrible test?
“Doctors are preparing them all for the worst but hoping for the best,” explains Price. “Nick is trying to manage his and Leanne’s feelings and not let her fall, but his place is just to support her.
“He feels he’s not massively equipped to deal with the breakdown when the worst happens. Is he emotionally prepared for that, and will he be up to it?”
Three-year-old Oliver’s diagnosis with life-threatening mitochondrial disease means his life expectancy has been cut drastically short. As there is no cure for the condition, Leanne and Oliver’s dad Steve McDonald are reeling from the news they will not see their little boy grow up.
Emotions are already running high, but as Price points out the fact the lad’s parents are not together makes it difficult for their respective partners to know how to handle the situation, and leaves them feeling pushed out.
“The fact Oliver isn’t his child perhaps makes it easier for Nick to step back,” explains the actor. “If it was his biologically, would he be reacting more like Leanne? He and Tracy, Steve’s wife, are more on the outside looking in. They love Oliver but are more able to see the bigger picture.
“It is a very double-edged sword in that Nick is able to step back, but he wants to support Leanne and doesn’t want her to think he doesn’t care. Nick must tread the line very carefully.”
The plot has rightly garnered acclaim from critics and viewers, despite it being almost unbearably upsetting and hard to watch at times, merely due to the powerful way Corrie is handling it. Price acknowledges this is no ordinary storyline for the cast to tackle.
“As an actor you want to play those strong stories. I have children myself so it isn’t easy, but it is important to tell it.
“All big stories are hard to tell, you have to be prepared to tell them and understand that people have gone through them for real. Actors must highlight the elements where the characters are struggling, the emotional heartache, all these questions that come with any illness – especially children.
“It is a hard thing to discuss, but if you have a gateway with a soap storyline it gets the conversation started. It does transcend entertainment.”