Coronation Street star Nina Lucas (Mollie Gallagher) captured the hearts of Corrie fans since she made her debut in 2019.
Niece to soap staple Roy Cropper (David Neilson), Nina’s had to deal with the death of her dad, prejudices on the street and, most recently, a love triangle involving Asha Alahan (Tanisha Gorey) and Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni).
But it turns out Nina’s largest storyline was actually planned all along.
And producer Iain MacLeod has confirmed that Nina was brought onto the street "specifically" with the intention of participating in the hate crime storyline, which was inspired by the murder of Sophie Lancaster in 2007.
Working in line with The Sophie Lancaster Foundation established by Sophie’s mum Sylvia, the storyline will see Nina and boyfriend Seb savaged in a brutal attack by a gang led by Corey Brent.
"A couple of years ago, a story of this type was floating around the writers’ room," Corrie producer Iain said. “It felt like it was something that needed to be told, and it sits very well in the soap genre.
"As far back as the introduction of Nina, we knew the direction this was going to take and with the death of Roy’s mother some years ago now, it all led up to the point where we brought Nina in – specifically with a view to embedding her in the show and getting people to fall in love with her, as they understand her relationships with everyone on the Street and especially with Roy.
"We’ve embedded her as deeply in the show as we possibly could," Iain continued, "with a view to doing this story with her, and at a point where it would be really powerful – a character we’ve fallen in love with over a number of years being in the middle of something so heartbreaking and tragic and visceral."
And Nina’s romance with Seb has been particularly important to achieving that goal.
Mollie Gallagher said working with Henry Visinoni, who plays Seb Franklin, for the tense scenes was a very "natural thing".
"I hadn’t met Harry that much at all, really, because Nina and Seb's love story was so fast-paced," she explained. "So we FaceTimed loads of the scenes and and got to know each other quickly because obviously [the romance] was so fast, so we’d FaceTime to rehearse.
"It was really nice. And what our immediate intentions were from the script, we put it together and it just worked. It was a natural thing that worked really well."
Mollie said Nina is "used to" getting verbal abuse about her Goth subculture, but violence is new to her.
"The name-calling, you know, she’s had that before. She’s used to that, so it was like ‘Right. That’s fine’.
"And then the slap happens, and the other guys are egging Kelly on, and there is a moment when Nina’s thinking ‘Kelly’s not going to do this’. But then she does, and Nina realises it could escalate. You could feel the panic."
And on filming her harrowing scenes, Mollie continued: "When we filmed it, there was just something about the day. We were in a big group all of a sudden, which we hadn’t really been in before. So I remember filming it and it did feel intimidating."
But it was seeing herself in Nina’s bloodied makeup after the attack that hit the hardest for Mollie.
"I remember the first time I had it done and I hadn’t filmed any of my scenes yet, so I’d been rehearsing it in my mirror, but as soon as the makeup came on I literally wanted to cry.
"I remember just looking at myself, at my reflection in the mirror while it was happening, thinking it was absolutely awful but when you’re sat in it there was a really strange moment where I actually thought I could cry in that moment," she explained.
Mollie said she’s always had her own sense of style, and she never felt any need to tone herself down for anyone else – which meant Nina was her "perfect role" on the cobbles.
"That’s one thing I’m grateful for, because I always thought if I just stay true to myself, just be authentic, it’ll all work out because I’m a believer in the universe giving me what I ask for!" she laughed.
"Nina is literally the perfect role. It’s mad. It’s literally what I’d dream of. A few years ago if I’d seen Nina on Corrie, I would have been like, ‘oh my god, I would love to play her’," she confessed.
Iain hopes the storyline will go towards changing peoples’ preconceptions about people who occupy various subcultures.
"I really hope that what we put on screen does justice to Sylvia’s own story. I hope it does cause people to sit back and think about how they might make snap judgements about someone based purely on secondary characteristics.
"It’s the human being that matters, not what they might look like," he said.
"If we achieve that, I’ll be incredibly pleased."
And with Sylvia Lancaster on board, he hopes the storyline will be as "authentic" as possible.
"You can imagine, can’t you – you’re sat there one day, probably on a Wednesday afternoon, and you get an email from Coronation Street wanting to speak to you!" Sophie’s mum Sylvia shared. "The Foundation was so thrilled to be involved, and the experience has been very professional, we’ve been very well looked after."
Her daughter Sophie was actually a big fan of the Street, and had one favourite character in particular – Spider Nugent, nephew of Emily Bishop.
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"It was a young guy," Sylvia explained. "He was called Spider. He was an eco-warrior and I can see him as vividly as anything, with the combat jacket and beanie hat.
"Sophie absolutely adored him. Everything about him – what he stood for, what he looked like, who he was, and we used to laugh and say ‘when she grows up, she’ll bring a Spider home’. She just loved him."
Sylvia is hoping that the storyline sees an increase in the number of people reporting hate crimes, as well as to create a general discussion around the issue and to educate more viewers about prejudice and violence.
"It’s amazing that we can have contact with [so many] young people. And so it’s really, really important that we get our message across," she said.
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