Kel finds himself in a dangerous situation as Paul begins to question their past. Joseph Alessi discusses the historic sex abuse storyline.
How worried is Kel that Paul will tell Billy the truth? Do you think this is the first time that he has feared the truth will come out?
Yes, he is very afraid of the truth coming out, of Paul telling Bernie and the wider implications of him being exposed as a paedophile. Kel wouldn’t have seen it as abuse but it obviously is. I think Kel lives in constant fear of somebody finding something out, it’s prevalent and foremost in Kel’s mind.
What is going through Kel’s head when Paul tries to kiss him?
Kel does not see himself as homosexual. He considers himself straight and he wants to have another go at things with Bernie and get that relationship back on track. He is repelled by Paul because he wants to move on from what happened ten years previously and Paul is no longer a young boy, he is an adult now, so as a result Kel doesn’t find Paul attractive.
It’s a volatile situation that risks Kel being exposed so Kel pushes him away and doesn’t want anything to do with him. They are out on the street as well which is a very public place so again, there is a high risk of people overhearing and finding out what is going on.
Does Kel feel he has to keep Paul on side?
It’s a dangerous situation for Kel because Paul is volatile and he is in a bad place, getting drunk and aggressive. Paul won’t keep quiet about what happened so it is important for Kel to keep him on side and placate him.
Why does Kel cover for Paul when quizzed by the police?
Kel covers for Paul because then he can blackmail Paul and keep him quiet - if he tells the police that Paul assaulted him then there are obviously implications for Paul, so he is using that against him. This is all part of Kel’s rather devious plan. Kel is very manipulative so he makes up a story to Bernie then once Bernie has left he warns Paul to keep his mouth shut as it’s the best thing for both of them.
How much does Kel feel he is losing control of the situation?
Kel was losing control of the situation but now he has the upper hand over Paul, he’s got Paul right where he wants him and Paul has to keep quiet for his own sake.
What was your initial reaction when you were approached with this storyline?
It is a taboo subject but at the same time, in the last ten years, there has been a real culture of openness where people are encouraged to talk about their experiences of rape or male abuse. This is why we are doing this storyline, we are doing it to bring it out into the open. It’s more common than we think and as an actor I play the scene as real and as honest as possible, given the storyline.
Why is it important that Coronation Street shows this storyline?
Coronation Street is one the greatest soaps in history with huge viewing figures. It is vitally important to bring issues to the wider public so that anybody that may be affected by this storyline will feel more comfortable to get in contact with charities like Survivors Manchester.
What research have you done for the role?
I have met Duncan from Survivors Manchester and there are lots of reading material online. I have read a fantastic book called The Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara and the main character has been a victim of sexual abuse in his childhood. It is a harrowing read but an amazing book. I have to do my research as an actor because I want it to play it as truthfully as possible.
What is the best thing about working with Peter Ash, Dolly-Rose Campbell and Jane Hazelgrove?
They are hilarious and really nice people. They make me laugh and they have been doing this a lot longer than I have, I was very nervous but they have really put me at ease. They are great and extremely professional - I am really glad that I am working with Dolly, Jane and Pete.
Did you watch Coronation Street before this role?
Yes absolutely, who doesn’t watch Coronation Street? My first scene on the famous street was great. You are thrust into it very quickly and there are so many people working behind the cameras that you really have to be on it but everyone has been so lovely, it’s like a really big family.
As a Coronation Street viewer, what was that moment like when you first found yourself on set?
I did loads of selfies! Then I sent them to my mum like ‘here’s me outside the Rovers Return,’ ‘here’s me outside the garage,’ ‘here’s me outside the corner shop,’ - it was fantastic. In my first scene in the Rovers, I was sat with Bararba Knox and I was like ‘this is amazing!’