Note: The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide that some readers may find upsetting.
Coronation Street spoilers follow.
Coronation Street's producer Iain MacLeod has shared long-term plans for the future of Stephen Reid's storyline, warning that he could be a menacing presence on the cobbles for years to come.
Stephen returned to Weatherfield this year with secret financial problems. He has been manipulating those closest to him in the hope of securing a large sum of money.
Speaking to Digital Spy and other media about Stephen's character, MacLeod teased: "Desperate's the word – and he will continue to get more and more desperate, and more and more dark, as the story unfolds.
"We definitely brought him back with a slightly different spin from the one we've seen before. The beauty of this character really is that he's got this huge longevity in terms of his connection to the show and to a heritage family.
"But actually, he's a bit of a blank canvas. If you dig back through his archive scenes, we don't really know a lot about him. So we thought: 'If we're going to fill in those blanks and we're going to learn more about him, shouldn't we make him dark, dangerous, interesting, scheming?'
"Mischievous is probably too light a term, but certainly Machiavellian may be a stronger word. I think he's just brought such an injection of otherness into the show."
He continued: "Stephen is a fish out of water and doesn't quite belong there, which I think will contribute to some of the behaviours we'll see from him in the coming months and possibly years. So all in all, I'm really excited to have him back.
"Our viewers are so canny as well. As soon as he arrived, everyone was like: 'Ah, I've got him marked. He's going to be a wrong'un'. And they'll be proved to be right in no small measure.
"I'm excited to see the audience reaction to the unfolding story when they realise that he's every bit as desperate and dangerous as they predicted when he first returned."
Audrey recently cancelled her plans to put her money into a trust fund, which would have been overseen by Stephen. However, this doesn't mean that the Corrie favourite is out of the woods yet.
Asked if we should be worried about Audrey, MacLeod replied: "Absolutely, yes. I mean, I always worry about Audrey! I think any Coronation Street fan should and does worry about Audrey, especially because she's quite fragile at the moment in terms of what we've seen on screen recently.
"Audrey has been through this depression story, she has attempted to take her own life. And that makes her particularly vulnerable to Stephen because she's clinging on to him as something positive, the light at the end of the tunnel for her emotionally. He's really not that, I think it's fair to say.
"Audrey obviously will be a large part of the story. She won't come to be in any physical jeopardy, I should say, but emotionally the stakes for her are incredibly high because she's put all of her maternal eggs in Stephen's basket.
"Audrey and Gail have always had a very fraught relationship, a very complicated relationship. Whereas Stephen, possibly by not having been around, has been put on this pedestal.
"Audrey's family obviously have not always covered themselves in glory in their dealings with her. Going back a few years, obviously David and Nick conspired to steal Lewis's inheritance that he'd left her and they have actually learned their lesson now, but unfortunately it's a bit too late for Audrey.
"Audrey is mistrusting them and throwing her lot in with probably the person that she should trust the least, which I think is really interesting.
"I'm excited to see where it goes. Todd [Boyce, who plays Stephen] is such a brilliant cast member. I love his performance. He's so completely over the moon to be back in this role and back in the show and is really embracing some of the more dark and dangerous elements of what we're asking him to do.
"It promises to be a really brilliant story for us, I think."
Check out Digital Spy's new collection of Coronation Street spoilers from show producer Iain MacLeod:
We would encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Organisations who can offer support include Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm on ITV and streams on the ITV Hub.
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