Ellie Leach reveals that a surprising twist is on the way ahead of her Coronation Street character Faye Windass’s exit.
Faye hopes to start a new life with young daughter Miley (Frankie-Jae Simmonds) and Miley’s father Jackson Hodge (Joseph Evans), who she has fallen in love with. But there’s one big problem in the form of Faye’s fiancé Craig Tinker (Colson Smith).
Things turn nasty when, in a bid to make her stay with him, the usually gentle Craig reminds Faye that he could have her sent back to prison for accidentally running over and killing an elderly man named Ted Spear (Duggie Brown) last year.
Speaking about Faye’s reaction to Craig’s blackmail, Leach explains: “I think everyone knows that Craig is just this kind of fun, loving character.
"We’ve never really seen him react like that before; he’s always just so nice, and everything’s just ‘la-di-da’ with him, so I feel like she definitely is like ‘where has this come from, who is this person?’
“I think as much as it drives her to stay, because she’s scared of that getting out, it’s also driving her further and further away because she doesn’t want to be in a relationship with someone who’s literally blackmailing her.
"So yeah, I think she definitely sees [Craig] in a different light. He is kind of trapping her, and kind of forcing her to make a decision that she might not want to make.”
While it looks like Craig will come to his senses in the end, this change in behaviour will leave viewers shocked. But Leach says her real-life friendship with co-star Smith actually made it easier to play such difficult scenes.
“Colson’s my best mate, we literally have a laugh all the time, no matter what scene it is; whether we’re crying our eyes out, heartbroken, or having fun, we’re always just having a laugh. And I think we’ve worked together for so many years now that we just know each other.
"Yeah it can be horrible [filming nasty scenes], but as soon as it’s cut it’s straight back to conversation again. It’s also good because, because we’re so close as friends, we can do those kinds of hard-hitting scenes and still just be normal with each other afterwards.”
Leach adds that Smith was involved in one of her Corrie highlights, during filming for Faye’s teenage pregnancy storyline. “I remember one of the first scenes was when she thought she might be pregnant, but she didn’t want to buy a pregnancy test so Faye and Craig went into Dev’s shop and she was like ‘just try and knock a loaf of bread off the shelf’.
“And we went for a take and Colson literally knocked the whole of the shelf over; the whole shelf, everything was on the floor. That’s my funniest moment that I’ve ever, ever had here; we just looked at each other and we were like ‘well we can’t carry on because we’ll burst out laughing now’. But it would have been so funny if we could have carried on.”
Chatting further about her upcoming departure, Leach tells us that there were plenty of tears on set. “It was very, very emotional, very emotional. Obviously it’s Faye leaving the Street after 12 years, but it’s me leaving the Street after 12 years as well.
“The last scene that I filmed was with Colson and Mikey [North], and Lisa George, so that was really nice because I’ve not worked with Mikey for a while, considering he plays my brother. It was really nice for him to be there on my last day; and when we finished the scene there [were] people on the floor and my family came to watch.
“It was so, so emotional but I kind of felt really proud and really lucky, and loved. It was emotional but it was also kind of happy tears, because I was like ‘I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for so long, and that all of these people are here to kind of wave me off.’”
Asked to sum up her time on the show, she has some warm words to share. “It’s honestly, honestly been the best experience. I can’t thank everyone here enough, because everyone’s always made me feel so welcome and it’s just been so lovely. I’ve honestly loved it, it’s been the best years of my life.
“I’ve absolutely loved being able to work with my best friends; and I feel like that is just an amazing experience in itself. To be on one of the biggest soaps ever, it’s crazy and it’s been an amazing, amazing time and I honestly will never, ever forget it.”
On the realities of growing up in the public eye, the actor gives a frank insight into her experiences. “It’s very scary, it’s very scary. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met some amazing, amazing people through this job. I would never, ever have had the opportunities that I have had if it weren’t for Corrie.
“But I think it’s hard because, [me] being young, my mum, she would have social media accounts that I was never allowed on, and she would look after them for me. People say don’t read what people write about you, don’t read what people say about you; and it’s alright saying ‘don’t do it’, but it’s another thing actually not doing it. Probably not any more, because I don’t really care about what people say about me now; I’m doing my job, that’s my job and that’s that.
“But I feel like when I was a little bit younger, you are self-conscious and when people say things that aren’t very nice it’s like ‘that’s not very kind’. But on the flip side, there [have] been so many amazing, amazing people and comments and support, and I honestly could not thank people enough for that. But I think growing up in the public eye - it’s amazing, but it’s also very, very hard.”
Asked to name her favourite storyline, Leach reveals: “I loved doing the Ray storyline.” Back in 2020, Ray Crosby (Mark Frost) coerced Faye into sex, before attempting to rape her again. This left her so traumatised that she struck Adam Barlow (Sam Robertson) over the head, mistaking him for Ray; and Faye served a short stint in prison.
“Obviously it’s hard because I started when I was nine years old and now I’m 22,” says the actor. “I feel like people see the transition of you growing up but they don’t actually see that you are going from a child to an adult. I think that storyline with all of the Ray stuff, I think that was my moment where I was like: ‘I’m not a child any more, I’m an adult now, I’m a woman, I’m proud to be able to play these [stories].’
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some amazing, amazing storylines. Teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest ones that I’ve ever had, and I loved doing that. But I was still a child, and I think the Ray storyline really helped me to develop from a child into an adult on-screen.”
Coronation Street will air Faye’s emotional exit on Wednesday, 24 May.
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