The revelation that Sharon Bentley (Tracie Bennett) returned to Coronation Street on a secret mission set by her drug dealer nephew Harvey Gaskell (Will Mellor) to track down Leanne Battersby (Jane Danson) stunned viewers, and in the coming weeks they’ll see just how far she’s prepared to go as she sets her sights on innocent young Sam Blakeman (Jude Riordan) to get what she wants.
Lee is in hiding with lover Nick Tilsley (Ben Price) and son Simon Barlow (Alex Bain), having worked as a police informant to expose Harvey’s narcotics network, and Sharon is back in Weatherfield pretending she wants to reconnect with former foster mum Rita Tanner (Barbara Knox).
However, she’s surreptitiously digging for info on her old pal Leanne’s whereabouts so she can try to stop her testifying against Harvey in his upcoming trial. Using her links to her old neighbourhood, Sharon identifies Nick’s sweet son Sam as a potential way to lure her quarry out of hiding… Is there no limit to her manipulations?
“I’m going to be so hated by the whole of Britain!” laughs Bennett, speaking to RadioTimes.com and other press. “It’s very complex as Sharon is being forced into this by Harvey, and she promised his late dad, her brother Wayne, she’d look out for him.
“Sharon struggles with her morality and is ultimately doing this because she’s being guilt-tripped. Harvey has basically told her: ‘I need you to find Leanne and I don’t care how you do it.’ So as Harvey gets her to do worse things, she will slowly start to realise things are getting really dangerous for her. There is a limit and she starts asking herself what she can do about Harvey – watch this space!”
Fans will be screaming at their screens to see lovable Sam at risk from granny Gail’s old friend suddenly befriending him and fishing for clues about where his errant daddy is hiding, and promising to help him set up a secret meeting to see his father. Will Sam unwittingly lead Nick and Leanne into danger?
Bennett explains the concept of remorse for her complicated character’s abhorrent actions is far from straightforward.
“Sometimes she’s enjoying the ride and is pleased with herself at having done good for Harvey, then she wishes she didn’t have to do any of it. If she feels somebody is nice and harmless but she’s using them, then she does feel massive remorse. I have to play it quite ambiguous, it’s a great challenge.”
Securing Bennett’s return 22 years after her last appearance (although she started on the street as a teenager back in 1982) is a coup for Corrie, as the actress is one of theatre’s most in-demand leading ladies on both sides of the Atlantic. She’s won two Olivier Awards and was nominated for a Tony for playing a troubled Judy Garland in End of the Rainbow.
Sharon’s chequered history on the cobbles – trying to steal Gail’s first husband, conning Rita out of the Kabin, among other misdemeanours – means she has to work hard to earn the community’s trust, in order to betray them. But will anyone expose her true nature before little Sam ends up serious strife?
“Sharon comes in really nice and harmless, but there is a flicker with some people, particularly Jenny Connor, who was immediately suspicious of her. She plays her like cat and mouse and tries to maintain the upper hand, but it’s a case of ‘it takes one to know one’ with those two!”