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In episodes to be shown this Wednesday, Seb Franklin (Harry Visinoni) and Nina Lucas (Mollie Gallagher) are subjected to an unprovoked attack due to her alternative identity.
The assault bears similarities to a real-life 2007 crime that resulted in 20-year-old goth Sophie Lancaster dying from head injuries after she and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were set upon by a gang of thugs in a Lancashire park.
Speaking to journalists about the work the ITV soap has been doing with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation ahead of broadcast, MacLeod said:
“It was apparent that the foundation has an agenda that we wanted to get behind, in terms of changing the way society deals with this kind of intolerance.
"It enabled us to not only tell a good story, but hopefully change people’s perceptions about alternative cultures.”
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Sophie’s mother Sylvia, who set up the foundation to honour her daughter, expressed her hopes that the on-screen drama would help those suffering similar persecution in real life.
“We need people to report what’s happened to them,” the campaigner said.
“If people don’t report, then there are no figures we can use as a lever to go forward.
"There’s now a whole generation who don’t know Sophie’s story, so it’s really important that we get our message across.”
Sylvia also revealed that Sophie herself was a fan of Corrie, and that her favourite character was environmental campaigner Spider Nugent, who appeared between 1997 and 2003.
“Sophie absolutely adored Spider," Sylvia said.
"He was an eco-warrior and she loved what he stood for. We used to say that when she was older, she’d bring someone like Spider home.”
Asked what Sophie would make of Coronation Street now crafting a storyline her memory, Sylvia replied: “I think she’d be astonished and probably a bit giggly about it.”
Actor Mollie Gallagher, who plays Nina, also gave her reaction to the plotline she’d been asked to play.
“It’s such an important story to tell, but I was nervous because I wanted to do it justice,” the star confessed.
“I feel a huge responsibility because Sylvia has shared her story with us. So I did my research with Sylvia’s help to make sure the portrayal was accurate.”
The impact of the assault on Nina and Seb – which is set to involve many of the soap’s younger characters, including Corey Brent (Maximus Evans) and Kelly Neelan (Millie Gibson) – will be felt in Weatherfield for the rest of the year.
Discussing the aftermath and how it will affect life on the Street, MacLeod said: “It draws in lots of different families and, in the best tradition of Coronation Street storytelling, pits neighbour against neighbour and, in some cases, husband against spouse.
“At its core, we wanted it to be a story about the horrific intolerance that people can face purely on the basis of what they look like, or what music they might listen to or what subculture they might identify with.
“I hope it does cause people to sit back and think how they view people and perhaps make snap judgements based on essentially secondary characteristics.
"It’s the human being that matters and not what they look like. And if we can get that message across, then I’ll be incredibly pleased.”
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