Coronation Street launches a big new storyline tonight (November 3) as teenager Seb Franklin discovers that he's HIV positive.
The ITV soap is aiming to raise awareness and break down stigmas with the new plot, which will explore how Seb comes to terms with his diagnosis and how it affects his relationship with Faye Windass.
Digital Spy recently caught up with young actor Harry Visinoni, who plays Seb, for his reaction to the storyline and new details of what's ahead.
How long have you known this story was coming up for?
"I found out a couple of weeks before I got the scripts with the storyline in. Corrie's producer Kate Oates told me over the phone and we had a bit of a chat about it. Kate was asking me firstly whether I was okay with it. Once she knew that I was, she also told me the overall purpose of the storyline and where they'd be going with it. We met up and talked about it too.
"It was surprising to hear about the storyline, but in a nice way. I'd been warming up with the character for a year, doing bits and bobs here and there. Corrie trusting me with this was a great surprise and I was very grateful. It motivated me to hopefully do it well."
Did you feel the pressure of exploring an issue-based story?
"Yeah, definitely. I was slightly anxious when I first heard about it, but I really wanted to do it justice. That anxiety came from the fact that I didn't know much about HIV, so I had to get my head in the game and find out more, but it's great because I've not been challenged like that before. It's the biggest thing I've done in my career by a mile, really."
Have you done much research?
"Yeah, I've spoken to a few people. I've looked it up online quite a bit too and read some articles. That's helped me to find out what the virus does, what medication can do to combat it, and also the quality of life that Seb would have. All of the information was quite readily available, so it was quite easy to get a grasp of it really quickly.
"I felt like I learned a lot. It was a total surprise to me that you could survive with HIV at all, let alone live well with it, as well as the fact that you can take precautions to have a totally normal sex life and not pass it on to anyone else."
How will Seb cope with his diagnosis?
"I think Seb is shocked initially. He feels that he's constantly getting punched to the corner of the ring and this is the knockout blow. But it's definitely a turning point for Seb with his attitude towards life, and he starts appreciating the people around him.
"While playing the storyline, I decided that Seb would probably know as much as me. I didn't know anything about it, so why would Seb? At first he thinks it's a death sentence, but he slowly realises it's not like that at all. He has his own prejudice towards it, so it's a case of overcoming that. Hopefully the audience will go through the same journey Seb does and come to terms with it like him."
How will this affect Seb's future with Faye?
"Seb and Faye have had a pretty intense relationship for a long time now and this is just another hurdle for them. Their relationship will definitely be tested, because it's a big thing to come to terms with, especially at their age. But they're a stubborn pair of teenagers and I think that will help them to get through it together almost like an act of defiance."
When you joined Corrie last year, did you always know you'd be sticking around long-term?
"No, I had absolutely no idea! I came in for six months and just kept going. I always kept my fingers crossed they'd want to keep me on for longer and it's unfolded quite nicely for me over the past year. It's still pretty surreal. I'm very blessed to be in the position I'm in right now and I'm very aware of that."
How are the viewers responding to Seb?
"There's been great feedback. It's nice, because a lot of the comments I do get are about my acting and that's really encouraging. Even if someone says Seb is an annoying little teenager, that's cancelled out because people also say I'm performing it well.
"That's genuinely motivating, because it means you can go into work confidently with your head held high. If Seb's liked by the audience, then hopefully he can keep on going in the show.
"It's nice to be able to exercise my skills in different storylines. I've been able to play a vast range just in the year that I've been here. I've been able to do totally vulnerable scenes, but then I've also done a scene where I knocked someone out! I've been given the opportunity to flex my muscles and it's a really good part."
After so many scenes with Phelan, would you like to be involved in his comeuppance?
"Oh, that'd be the cherry on top to be involved in that storyline. Phelan's comeuppance is bound to be very dramatic. If I had a little role in that, that would definitely be one for the showreel, wouldn't it?"
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7.30pm and 8.30pm on ITV.
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