Ryan Connor (Ryan Prescott) became the victim of a horrifying acid attack in tonight’s devastating episode of Coronation Street.
The ITV soap previously announced that Daisy Midgeley (Charlotte Jordan) would have acid thrown at her by her stalker, Justin Rutherford (Andrew Still), on her wedding day. But Ryan stepped between them and took the full force of the attack.
In powerful scenes, traumatised Daisy sprung into action to help Ryan, before ensuring that Justin was captured by the police for his hateful crime.
Meanwhile, Ryan's ex-girlfriend, Alya Nazir (Sair Khan), frantically rushed to the hospital in the aftermath of his ordeal. Ryan had been on the verge of leaving Weatherfield behind, but now his life has been turned upside down.
Coronation Street has been working with Acid Survivors Trust International (A.S.T.I) and The Katie Piper Foundation. Speaking for the first time about his shocking storyline, actor Ryan Prescott explains what’s going through his character’s mind. “By this point, he’s starting to see that his life is never going to be the same again.
“He’s kind of trying to reach out and clutch onto whatever he can within his life, mainly the relationships within his life, that will allow him to kind of deny this reality. One of them being Alya - his relationship with Alya; [and] this newfound possibility with this new love interest Crystal, of him wanting to go and live the life he always wanted in Ibiza and continue with his DJ career.
“As he sees these things kind of slipping away, he naturally tries to reach out and try and grab hold of them in desperation.
"But I think he knows, as soon as something like this happens — there are stages of acceptance and denial, but slowly, bit by bit, he starts to understand the gravity of his wounds and what’s happened.”
Discussing how Ryan's situation will affect him in the long-term, he adds: “It’s going to change his life forever, because it changes the way he interacts with the world. The difficulty within the parameters of soap is to show some kind of reality of the longevity of what it means to be an acid attack survivor; in this case, because the restoration period and recovery period is so long - if not lifelong. It’s psychotherapy and physiotherapy for many years, if not for the rest of your life; PTSD and trauma therapy.”
Prescott has researched the experiences of real-life survivors, and he talks us through the journey that lies ahead: “One of the things they teach in the therapy session is to deal with people looking at you in the street.
"There’s a whole phase of just trying to accept how people will react differently to you; and your face is the first thing that you look at in the mirror when you wake up, it’s your first means of communication and it’s the thing you most readily identify with yourself.
“When that changes, everything changes. I think that despite the massive shift that the incident causes, I think [Ryan] is determined to not let the experience define who he is, and he wants to try and somehow find his way back to that infectious spirit that he once had. But it’s a long road.”
The actor is full of praise for the team behind the scenes at Coronation Street as he describes filming the harrowing scenes. “The scripts were written by Ian Kershaw. Ian’s a fantastic writer, he’s one of my favourites, he really is. He manages to draw a lot of reality into scenes, and still leave room for the actor to find the subtext.
“So it’s not all black and white, there’s a lot of room for creative license, and I think he naturally writes like that. The scripts were great, they were amazing; which is a godsend for a block like this - something so sensitive.
“Our director, Mike Lacey, in the same respect, kind of creates a working environment where you feel comfortable, yet free enough, to explore what we like to call the ‘wiggle room.’ The wiggle room is kind of like the ‘in between the lines’ of what you can find creatively.
"I think that’s where the best work comes to fruition, from that; through the collaboration of letting it evolve from the writers’ desk, to the editors, to when the director first sees it, then onto the floor when you’re blocking through the scenes and then when you’re actually shooting.”
To portray Ryan’s injuries on-screen, the show turned to one of the most well-known professionals in the industry - and Prescott was in awe of his work. “A man called Davy Jones, a master of prosthetics, made [the mould for Ryan’s facial injuries]. We went to his workshop in the Wirral. Lovely guy, incredible guy.
“We went into his workshop to have a mould set, and create a cast of my face, and then basically create pieces that would be layered, in order to create the types of scarring. There are different stages of the scarring, and the wounds as well, so we’ve had to focus on what stages come in when, and skin grafts and things like that. So there are a lot of things in play to kind of consider.
“His workshop was something out of this world, he just had people on shelves, that looked so realistic - it was kind of chilling! But he’s an incredibly talented guy. The colouration that will be done, has to be done by hand every time I come in.
"There’s about 15 people within the makeup team that will have to get used to putting it on, [and] the team, they’ve just been incredible. It’s about an hour in the chair, and an hour to get [the mould] off, and we’ve been cutting those times down, they’re getting faster. The hardest thing to do is match it with continuity.”
Asked about the moment he found out about Ryan’s traumatic storyline, the star reveals the news came at the most unexpected time. “Iain [MacLeod, Corrie’s executive producer] first called me when I was on holiday. I was sitting on a sun bed by the pool in Crete. I didn’t really know what to expect. He said there was going to be something big in the pipeline for Ryan.”
Viewers will recall that Prescott previously played a strong supporting role in Yasmeen Nazir's (Shelley King) coercive control ordeal at the hands of her abusive husband. But the actor notes that his alter ego is best known for his more lighthearted scenes, so he's ready for the challenge ahead.
“I had no idea that it would be something that gritty, because Ryan usually slides into the more humorous elements of the show. So to have something that serious, I was just excited to be honest. It kind of woke me up from being subdued, watching the ocean.
“It left me full of excitement, and [it’s] something gritty to get into for Ryan; so I was excited to kind of explore different things for him. It’s something of real substance, so as an actor you can kind of get stuck in a little bit more.”
Viewers who identify with Daisy’s story can contact the National Stalking Helpline on 0808 802 0300 or visit the Suzy Lamplugh Trust for help and support. You can also visit Safeguarding Hub for advice.
Watch Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod discuss the importance of covering the acid attack storyline