Carla Connor’s mental health has deteriorated in the months since the Underworld tragedy. Alison King discusses what will happen, as Carla suffers a severe psychotic episode.
How do you think Carla survived when she was in hiding, is it her upbringing on the estate that made her such a fighter?
She is a survivor, she wanted to keep herself safe in the smallest of places, literally locking herself in a hotel room and barely going out. If she did, she had her hood up. It is a very introverted disease, she was safe because she didn’t expose herself once she was at the hotel. She put herself at risk going to the squat, but that was her going back to her roots to somewhere she knew, but that meant that they knew to look for her there. She needed to make herself invisible.
What made her become visible and turn up at Roy’s?
She thought Roy was on the side of the people she believed wanted to hurt her, but when she heard him talking to Johnny she heard him say that he wished he had done everything differently and that he wished she knew that he was there for her now. By this point she is so ill, she doesn’t realise it, she doesn’t know how she looks, she is so exhausted without knowing it she wants to be cared for and in a safe place. She wants to believe that he’s there for her.
She trusts Peter, but once they are together at the flat she has started to be wary of him. Does she think he is against her now?
Peter thinks she is taking the medication, but she isn’t as she still believes they are all together in this and making her take the medication. She is starting to believe he is getting taken in by them and believing them, it isn’t that she doesn’t trust him, it is more that she thinks they are manipulating him. She believes that the ‘others’ think she is evil.
What happens when Peter breaks down?
He is exhausted and battling his own demons and it is heartbreaking to see that she doesn’t even register what he is going through. She, even at one point, blames him for flooding the bathroom when it was her, it doesn’t even register that she did it. She is too busy trying to get the microchip out of her ear that she thinks they have implanted, her psychosis has got so bad.
Is the tipping point the police coming back?
Yes, Peter tries to get rid of them and tells them that she is not ready to answer their questions, she is too ill. But when they see how bad she is, talking about Rana being alive they realise that she is not able to be interviewed.
Does she feel that her family are against her?
Yes, when Kate, Michelle, and Johnny come into the flat she is very wary, she thinks they are all in on it. She believes they think she is an awful person, she killed Rana, and everything she touches turns to acid almost. She is scared of them and what they will do to her and she just needs to get away.
What happens when she sees the person in the park she believes is Hayley?
She believes she is being watched and followed so in her head she needs to keep on the run, she ends up in the park asking a stranger for help. When she won’t help her, she then sees the most beautiful thing that will always help her and that is Hayley in her red coat. So she follows her back to Victoria Street and when she can’t see her she is absolutely mortified. The thing that means the most to her and always helped her get back on the straight and narrow is Hayley and she has gone. Then she sees her walking up the fire escape and she follows here - she has an hallucination.
What are the scenes on the fire escape like?
The scenes on the fire escape when Peter is there are so emotional, it was hard to play as it was so terrifying for her at that stage, inside her head everything is terrifying. She thinks she is seeing Hayley, then she thinks she is seeing Rana and she doesn’t know if Rana is dead or alive. Then she thinks she sees Aidan, to her it is real, she is in a very dangerous predicament and unrecognisable to Peter who is desperate to rescue her.
What was it like for you filming those scenes?
It was really weird trying to encapsulate what she is going through. I met a beautiful lady through MIND, she came to meet with me at the studios. When I talked to her I asked so many questions, she suffers from what Carla is suffering and she told me that during those moments of extreme psychosis you are never not yourself but you are just the most terrified version of yourself. You are locked in there, when you are spiking in these psychotic episodes there is no way out. You are trapped in there and wherever you are or whoever you are with it is terrifying but you need to be free to go through it and this is what I am trying to portray.
Was it important for you to meet someone who has gone through this?
It meant all the difference. With soaps there are different writers for each episode and they can have slightly different ideas, the team from MIND were across all the scripts and for me it was important to have the through line to hold on to and get that from her and keep it real. She was able to help me with how Carla would be speaking, her physicality, her need for isolation and desire to hide away. It is important for people to see how it is affecting her.
Do you feel a real sense of responsibility with this storyline?
Yes because it shows with it happening to Carla that is can happen to anybody, of course she is just as likely to get it as any anyone because she has been through so much, the brain is so fragile and it has to snap at so point and for Carla it needs to break to mend, to change her lifestyle in some ways, to understand yourself better. I felt a real responsibility and especially after meeting that amazing lady who had been through so much, she is brave enough to go out there and talk about it.
Following on from this how important will the relationship with Peter be for her recovery?
It is really important, he has shown her that he will do anything for her still and she can trust him, he has literally saved her through his perseverance and believing that Carla is still in there and the belief she can come back, that is worth fighting for so I think they will become more solid than they have ever been.