As Paul starts to re-examine his past with Kal, Peter Ash tells us his thoughts on Paul's upcoming historic sex abuse storyline.
What is Paul and mum, Bernie’s relationship like?
When Paul and Gemma were younger, Paul lived with his dad and he has been in prison as well. Bernie kicked him out when he was fourteen so that is where some of his bitterness towards her comes from, but there may be more layers to that. Gemma looks up to Bernie, but Paul feels abandoned and let down due to the fact that she kicked him out.
What are his feelings towards Kel?
Paul feels pretty conflicted because he didn’t realise he was being groomed when he was younger, he felt that he was in a consensual relationship with Kel and as a consequence had very strong feelings for him.
Of course the truth is that he was being abused and has still not realised that was the case. He also feels shame and guilt because no one else knows what happened between the two of them and Kel was his mum’s partner. When Kel first shows up, Paul has his guard up and he is very aggressive towards Kel, but it all comes from his confusion about what happened.
Tell us what happens when Billy senses something is wrong...
When Kel first turns up, there is something that Billy picks up on with Paul and that’s when he starts to probe. It’s quite irritating for Paul. At this point, Billy and Paul have split so Paul thinks it’s none of Billy’s business but of course, Billy being Billy, very caring, he sees something isn’t quite right with Paul.
How does Paul feel when Billy starts asking questions about Kel?
There are a few moments when it looks as though Paul might confide in him but he shuts down really quickly. Paul has never had anyone to confide in, he was estranged from Gemma for so long as well. He has also been in prison a lot , it’s not really the type of environment that he’s going to open up in. That is what he liked about Billy in the first place, he gave him something that he has never seen or got from anywhere else. Although he quite likes Billy, this is something that he doesn’t want to share or even be truthful to himself about it. There is denial about what happened.
What makes Paul do a U-turn when he accuses Billy of abandoning him?
He is all over the place with Kel coming back and there is a lot from his past that he has to deal with and part of him doesn’t really want to deal with it. Billy has picked up on hints that something inappropriate has gone on. Billy has been prodding a bit much and Paul is having none of it, but when Billy changes his tack and backs off, Paul feels abandoned. He has felt abandoned quite a lot in his life and Billy has been the one person that has been reaching out to try and help him and Paul then thinks that he has pushed him away.
Does Paul use anger as a coping mechanism?
Yes, that is the way that Paul deals with things, he lashes out and attacks instead of being brutally honest. It is a crutch, it’s a shield.
When did you first hear about this storyline?
I had a meeting with Iain not too long after I started and he told me about this storyline so I have known about it for a good few months before we started filming. I was put in touch with Duncan from Survivors Manchester, who is brilliant and has been really helpful. The only knowledge I had of this issue is seeing it played out in other shows, films and dramas, so it was important for me to do research and get a bit of background.
What research have you done for this storyline? Have you spoken to any charities?
I have been speaking to Duncan and he has been great. His experience was really similar to Paul’s so it was important for me to talk about all the conflicting emotions and not accepting or realising it was abuse until later on in life. I have also spoken to Jack P Shepherd about how he found the male rape storyline and he told me about the increase in calls to Survivors Manchester off the back it, which is incredible. It’s an important storyline and I want to get it right.
What have you learnt from researching this storyline?
People carry this through their lives and not even realise, they blame themselves until they realise that is was abuse and then that unleashes a whole new raft of emotions. When you are younger you do feel like you are older and in control and you knew what you were doing, but that’s not always the case.
Why is it important for Coronation Street to highlight this issue with this storyline?
As horrific as the subject matter is, I want this storyline to raise awareness. It is important because it happens and so many people are affected by this. Coronation Street tackles issue-based storylines really well and as truthfully as possible. It’s important for people to see it play out on television as people may see things and situations that they recognise and seek help.