CORONATION Street star Chris Harper told a meeting of CSE survivors in Rotherham: “Your bravery means your past is not a prison.”
The actor spoke about playing Nathan Curtis, the predator at the heart of one of the soap’s most controversial storylines, who grooms 16-year-old Bethany Platt.
Chris (pictured) was at Forty Martyrs Church Hall in Wingfield to speak at a victim support event for charity Voicing CSA, of which he is a patron.
He said: “Coronation Street isn’t issue-led but it does take its storylines very seriously. The writers realised that now had to be the time to bring a sexual exploitation story to Weatherfield.
“It was palpable that the stereotypes of individuals who carry out these crimes and their victims were dangerously narrow.
“Bethany is not the sort of girl who’d identify herself as a victim. She’d not spot the signals of a predator but she would be rich pickings for the kind of evil, manipulative mind that affects so many victims in real life.”
Bethany, played by 21-year-old Lucy Fallon, falls for the wealth and apparent kindness of Nathan, who leads a sex ring.
Chris (39) said: “I can’t give away how the storyline ends, largely because it’s not been written yet. Nathan will go down or meet a horrible, sticky deserved end.
“I get asked quite a lot what it’s like to play Nathan. It’s been hard. The learning curve has been sharp.
“Unlike any part I’ve played before, I’m continually grasping the scale of both the consequences of his actions and the scale of the problem in the UK and beyond. He doesn’t care.
“It’s fun to play somebody who’s duplicitous. It’s fun to play the snake, or twirl and imaginary moustache and creep about. But Nathan is real. Being in his mind is not a good place.”
Chris told last Saturday’s event that survivors speaking up meant that perpetrators like Nathan would not win.
He said: “I can’t imagine what it’s taken some of you to get here today but your past is not your prison. You’re showing that, just by being here. For people who have witnessed such inhumanity to show such human spirit, kindness and strength is breath-giving.”
Other speakers included Andy Moore, a police officer who visits schools to talk about issues like sexting; David Lean, a former footballer who helped secure a conviction against paedophile Barry Bennell; Rotherham survivor Sammy Woodhouse and her sister Rachel.
Organiser and Voicing CSA founder Phil Lafferty said: “It went very well. We had 8,000 people watching the live feed on Facebook.
“Sammy and her sister Rachel spoke, along with another lady Ella, who used a different name because she was nervous about being back in Rotherham.”
He added: “I’ve compared the Nathan Curtis and Bethany Platt storyline to that of Angie and Den in EastEnders. I think it will be remembered for a very long time.
“The many survivors of Rotherham that came to the meeting were fully supportive of the storyline on Coronation Street and made Chris very welcome.”