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The following article contains discussion of sexual misconduct that some readers may find upsetting.
Coronation Street star Ellie Leach has spoken out about her temporary absence from the show during 2021, revealing that she was so nervous when she returned to the soap that she almost couldn't go into the studios.
Ellie's character Faye Windass was given a three-year prison sentence in April last year after she attacked Adam Barlow (Sam Robertson) in a case of mistaken identity, but she was released in November after Debbie Webster (Sue Devaney) forced Ray Crosby (Mark Frost) – who Faye had thought that she was hitting when she assaulted Adam – to confess that he had sexually assaulted Faye.
Speaking to Digital Spy and other media, Ellie admitted that she didn't enjoy her time off from the soap while Faye was in prison and that she couldn't wait to get back into character.
"When I came back, everyone was like, 'Oh, what have you been doing?' And I was like, 'Nothing'. It was the most boring six months," she said. "I couldn't wait to get back to work.
"But when I came back, because I've been off for so long, there were new people and I felt so nervous. I've never been off that long before. I've been there like 11 years and I've never had that much time off."
In fact, Ellie was so anxious about getting back to work that she needed some support from her co-star Colson Smith, who plays Faye's roommate Craig Tinker.
"I remember the first day back I rang Colson in the car park at work and I was like, 'I don't think I can go in. I'm so nervous' and I got dead anxious," she revealed. "But obviously as soon as I stepped through the door everyone was like, 'Oh my god, I have not seen you for ages, how are you?!'.
"So it was lovely to be back. But honestly while I was off, I did nothing. I would have liked to have gone away but obviously with the travel restrictions it just meant that I couldn't, which was quite sad, but I'm sure there'll be times I can go away soon."
Adding that she had "those first day nerves" before returning to set, the actress said that she "couldn't sleep the night before" and that it felt like "going back to school".
Thankfully, Ellie had her return as Faye to look forward to throughout her absence, as she confirmed that she always knew that she'd be returning after her six month break.
"I knew that I was going back in," she said. "And obviously when I spoke to [Corrie producer] Iain [MacLeod] about the storyline, he'd said that Faye's going to go to prison and you are going to have time off.
"But he always reassured me that I would be coming back, and I never once thought that could be it. Iain always reassured me that there was obviously a storyline follow up, which is this one that we're filming now."
Faye's return to the cobbles has been far from straightforward, as she has struggled to settle back into Weatherfield life following her ordeal with Ray.
2022 has got off to a terrible start for learner driver Faye after she accidentally hit an old man named Ted with her car while driving a tipsy Emma Brooker (Alexandra Mardell) home from a New Year's Eve party.
Ted assured them both that he was fine and the girls took him back to his flat to rest, but when they later went back to check on him, they were horrified to find that he had passed away.
The pair are now desperately trying to cover up their involvement but, with police officer Craig living with them, it won't be easy to hide their guilt, and Ellie has revealed that there is "pressure building up" on Faye following the incident.
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 7.30pm on ITV.
Watch: White Wine Question Time looks back at 2021
If you've been affected by the issues raised in this story, you can access more information from Rape Crisis England and Wales, who work towards the elimination of all forms of sexual violence and sexual misconduct, on their website or by calling the National Rape Crisis Helpline on 0808 802 9999. Rape Crisis Scotland's helpline number is 08088 01 03 02.
Readers in the US are encouraged to contact RAINN, or the National Sexual Assault Hotline on 800-656-4673.
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