Tonight on Coronation Street...
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Avert you eyes Alex!
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Debbie Rush talks about how she agreed to be set on fire for the dramatic stunt which saw Anna Windass suffer horrific burns after being caught up in a huge fireball on the cobbles.
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Debbie has revealed that when she was told her character was going to be left with life changing injuries she knew there was one very special person who could help her with the research for the role - her real life husband Andrew.
For Andrew Rush had himself suffered terrible burns when a childhood prank went wrong and he was engulfed in flames.
Having chatted with Producer Kate Oates about doing her own stunts for the episode, Debbie knew that she had to check that Andrew was ok with what was planned.
She said: ”When Kate asked me how I felt about actually being set on fire I told Andrew straight away as he got set on fire and got badly burned when he was 10 years old. He went very quiet, but he didn’t say that he didn’t want me to do it as he knew I was relishing the challenge and he has always been very supportive of my career.
“I know it must have been hard for him after what had happened to him. He was with his brother and his friend and they were messing about trying to be fire eaters after watching a variety show on TV.
“Some of the paraffin was on Andrew and he was set on fire, it burnt through his clothes and burnt his chest. It must have been an awful thing for a 10-year-old boy to suffer.
“If anyone can help me research how Anna would be feeling then I knew Andrew was the man for the job.”
WATCH: GO BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE EXPLOSION
Debbie didn’t think twice when Kate Oates asked her whether she wanted to do her own stunt or use a stunt double.
She said: “When Kate arrived we had lots of discussions about what was coming up for Anna and after a few weeks she asked me to pop up and said there was something she wanted to run by me. She said ‘how do you feel about being set on fire?’ and straight away I said ‘yes, it’s not often you get to be James Bond in Corrie so I will do it.’
“She made it clear from the start that she was asking me how I would feel about actually being set on fire, that if I was ok with it there wouldn’t be a stunt double playing that part it would be me. She said if I wasn't comfortable at any point the stunt double could be used.
“I spoke to our director Tony Prescott and I knew that it was completely safe and I thought ‘they trust me, I trust them, so let's do it’. I always had the get out clause if I wanted it but I just put my trust completely in them and in Glenn the stunt coordinator. It wasn't until a few days before the stunt was due to be filmed that a few people started saying I must be mad, but I am so glad I decided to do it myself.
“I was told that my skin would be coated with a cooling gel and then after that you put your first set of fireproof clothes on which are like the cotton skins that racing drivers wear and then that gets cooled, I thought the gel stopped you going on fire but it is just to keep you cool, it is the clothes that stop you burning. I had two layers of skins, Glenn gave me his fire suit as he knew that was safe as he had used it dozens of times. Then I had Anna’s clothes on that we had to buy a few sizes bigger, I looked like the michelin man! On top of each layer was the cooling gel.
“Everyone kept saying it would be like opening the oven door and would be boiling. When we came to do it my heart was pounding in my chest and I didn't speak I just focussed on the fact that I was about to be set on fire and thinking I must be crazy. I just zoned everyone out, I had put my trust in everyone and I knew I would be safe so I just got in the zone. I had had a couple of nights where I didn't sleep thinking about it.
“On the day itself it was like running on autopilot, I got painted up and layered up. The stunt lady was always there just in case but I knew I wanted to be the one to do it.
“What I shouldn't have done is watch them do a run through with the dummy, that was dressed as Anna, being set on fire, it was like a huge furness going up and that was the one moment I thought ‘I can’t do this’.
“Then I watched them do it on Donna the stunt lady and that was fine and I relaxed again. They told me I was only going to be on fire for 8 seconds, when I came out to do it the paramedic put an oxygen mask on me for the fumes from the accelerant and that was the point I realised it was real. I was determined to make sure I didn’t forget to act, so I just focussed on what I had to do until they stopped filming. He lit me with a long torch and up I went and then as I was laying on the floor acting my socks off I started thinking I could have been set in fire for longer I would have been all right. I had that much gel on I was freezing I didn't feel a thing, the adrenalin rush was amazing.”
Actors Ben Price and Mike Le Vell were trained to put out the fire as Nick and Kevin are the ones that came to Anna’s rescue, they too had to wear fire proof clothes and practiced putting out the flames on the trained stunt double.
And Debbie asked hubby Andrew to come along and watch the stunt so he wasn’t waiting at home thinking about it. She explained: “I wanted him to see how safe it was and how well looked after I was. I felt, if he could see that, it was better than sitting at home worrying about it and he agreed. We were playing it for real but I wanted him to realise it wasn’t real and the lengths they had gone to to make sure I was safe.
“Andrew came in with Poppy my daughter and watched it up in the gallery and he was really excited watching the explosion and he saw how it was all controlled. But then filming over ran and they had to delay me being set on fire to the following day and Andrew wasn't available to come but actually it was probably for the best, he was relaxed about it knowing it was so safe and I rang him straight afterward to say ‘you’ve still got a wife’ as I knew part of him would be a bit worried.”
Debbie explained that in the coming weeks Anna and Kevin’s relationship is going to be tested to the limit as a consequence of the accident.
She said: “Anna’s ultimate love was Owen but something always went wrong for them. Kevin has come along and he is loving and kind and gentle and he just wants to look after her and be there for her and it has taken her a long time to accept it. Finally she has done and they were due to move into together, finally everything was coming good and then this awful tragedy happened.
“Anna is put in an induced coma and when she comes round the first thing she is thinking is that she doesn't want Kevin there out of pity, she wants him to love her not pity her and she doesn't want him to feel he has to look after her - this is not what he signed up for.
“For Anna, certainly at the beginning, it is nothing to do with how it looks, it is so horrific, she has got full thickness burns on her legs she has to learn to walk again and learn to accept it herself, in her head she will be thinking where does this lead, how will she be, will she ever be anywhere like she was before, not physically but emotionally and mentally and physically in capacity not in the way she looks. That will come down the line, she is not a vain woman but it is a big thing to deal with. From being a woman who is a little bit like Wonder Woman and helps everybody out she is suddenly feeling incapable and very vulnerable.
“For the first six to eight weeks it is all about feeling that she is no longer the doer, the person looking after everyone, the person people turn to.
She isn’t aware that it is David’s fault and it remains to be seen how she will react when she finds that out - especially with Sarah and Gary getting closer.
“I am enjoying this challenge very much and I have been very mindful of making it as true to real life as possible and letting the viewers see the different layers with Anna still trying to put a brave face on it.”
And Debbie revealed that Andrew is helping her research Anna’s recovery: “He has been able to tell me how it felt. Everyone’s experience is different but it is important to me because of what happened to Andrew and to other people that we do this story justice. Anna’s recovery and how she copes with it is important. Andrew was a child, Anna is a grown woman so it is different, on top of how she looks she can no longer be the woman she was and has to deal with all of that so it is important we get it right.”