EXCLUSIVE: ITV Coronation Street’s Chris Harper breaks silence on revisiting role as soap’s worst baddie

Coronation Street’s Chris Harper on his controversial role as vile paedophile Nathan Curtis (Image: ITV)

One of the most contentious plotlines on Coronation Street in 2017 was Chris Harper’s character Nathan, who as a member of a child grooming gang, groomed and sexually assaulted Bethany Platt.

The terror is just imagined. The man who destroyed your life, assaulted and mistreated you, and took away your innocence is there in front of you while you browse the grocery aisle. A man you were positive was incarcerated.

This is a horrible situation that ought to never occur, yet it occurs much too frequently. And it was because of scenes like these that Chris Harper, who plays Nathan Curtis on Coronation Street, decided to reprise the role of the disgusting paedophile. Along with the startling increase in grooming victims. He says, “Nearly 34,000 online grooming crimes against children have been recorded in the last six years, according to the NSPCC.” He stated, “[that’s] an 82% increase since 2017/18 when this offence came into force,” pointing out that 6,350 Sexual Communication with a Child violations were reported in only the previous year.

This year is particularly meaningful. In 2017, Chris found himself at the middle of one of the most contentious plotlines on Coronation Street, as his character Nathan, a member of a child grooming gang, sexually assaulted and groomed Bethany Platt before allowing another gang member to attack her.

After Nathan’s release from jail in the soap opera, Call the Midwife actor Chris agreed to play Nathan again right away. Like the soap opera, he had promised to make room for the “many Bethanys” in the UK. Chris, who now serves as a patron of S.H.E UK charity, swears, “I want to keep Bethany’s story alive as Coronation Street promised to do.”

The initial plot, which focused on Lucy Fallon’s then-teenage character Bethany, was reminiscent of the Rochdale child grooming gang scandal, in which several girls from the Greater Manchester area were subjected to abuse as part of sex trafficking networks from 2004 to 2013. Thirteen was the age of some of the females. The Rotherham child sex abuse scandal, which surfaced in 2014 and showed that 1,400 children had been molested in the area, came next.

Bethany and Nathan

Chris, 46, was deeply touched by the challenging plot when he first portrayed the part and has since persisted in advocating for victims. However, the task is massive in scope. The Rotherham scandal came to light only four years after the Mirror reported child sexual exploitation in Telford that may have gone back forty years.

Furthermore, a lot of abuse victims remain experience problems even after their perpetrators are imprisoned. According to research by the Maggie Oliver Foundation, a nonprofit that assists victims of abuse, due to pressure on the legal system, many victims are not informed when a perpetrator is set for release. “The Maggie Oliver Foundation informed our producers that quite often victims are not informed because the system is under-resourced,” he continues, despite the fact that statute requires victims to be notified when someone is released from jail.

“Those who are groomed may very well run into their rapist in the frozen food section of the grocery store without even realising it.” Chris, who also acts in Call the Midwife, is determined to keep highlighting the catastrophic and enduring impact of an attack on the soap opera. He claims that, even seven years after our last glimpse of Nathan, victims are still not receiving adequate protection.

Nathan was brought back to Coronation Street as part of Lauren Bolton’s ongoing plot, which began when she vanished in February (Image: ITV).

Chris continues, “I have been so affected by the people I have met who have been affected in some way and I’ve been gobsmacked by the horror of what has happened to them.” He goes on to describe his personal sadness by the numerous horror tales he has heard firsthand. There is always something much awful to hear than the tale you just thought was the worst you’ve heard.

“This is about Bethany and all the Bethanys out there; it’s not about Nathan, nor is it a passing fad. Many individuals live in shame because they conceal their stories, but this narrative has made it possible for many more people to tell their own. Corrie’s decision to treat Bethany’s tale seriously is commendable as it is deeply grounded in reality. Whether or not a victim receives justice, they must deal with it for the rest of their life.

Chris says that even though he portrayed one of the most reviled characters in soap operas from 2016 to 2017, he has been very touched by the outpouring of thanks from victims who have approached him in the street. The actor claims, “Nathan is a force of evil, just like Voldemort.” “He is not your typical soap opera villain that people adore detesting; rather, you hate him and it makes sense.” However, I have never received any abuse at all about my job as Nathan. When I initially started playing him, I would get three or four approaches a day, and a terrible percentage of them would include someone who had been sexually abused or someone they knew.

“Thanks to the Corrie narrative, I now speak with individuals who I may have known for 20 years who are in their 50s or 60s and feel that it’s OK to share the tale of their uncle, a close cousin, or a friend from their earlier years. They have been able to relate their experiences and, in some cases, acknowledge that they have also been victims because of this narrative.

It’s been rather touching. Once, a woman touched me deeply; all she did was take my arm and say, “Thank you.” I understood what she meant right away.

Bethany with her mother Sarah would naturally assume that Nathan is the really bad guy.

Nathan returned to Coronation Street as part of the ongoing narrative of Lauren Bolton, who vanished in February following her dismissal from Roy’s Rolls by Roy Cropper, who is currently facing murder charges. Although viewers found out last night that Nathan was not involved, Bethany and her mother Sarah naturally believe he is the true bad guy. Chris, a London resident who plays Nathan again, is a father to his three-year-old kid, whom he shares with his wife Emily Bowker, an actress he married eleven years ago.

He quips that having a child has made him more gray-haired. He smiles. He quips, “I have definitely aged.” “Yes, being a parent is wonderful—it truly is amazing.” Apart from Corrie, Chris is hard at work getting ready to record a Christmas special for Call the Midwife. He’ll be reprising his role as Trixie’s brother, Geoffrey, from last year. Chris remarks, “It’s such a pleasure to portray someone who is entirely different from Nathan.” “Geoffrey is a fixer with a big heart who is there to support his sister. He also fell in love and felt at home with the nuns.”

Alongside Seann Walsh from I’m A Celebrity and Strictly Come Dancing and Aden Gillett from The Crown, there’s also a stage tour of the remake of Art planned. For now, though, Chris is concentrating on Nathan’s homecoming, and he hopes that it will also serve as a warning to parents to watch out for any unusual conduct patterns in their kids.

“I can personally attest to the significance of this narrative in reminding people to recognise any behavioural characteristics that aren’t appropriate,” he continues. Things like teens becoming silent, receiving presents out of the blue, or changing their behaviour. Although technology has become a huge part of our everyday lives, groomers may still benefit from using it as a tool. Helplines are available, and they serve as a helpful reminder that individuals like Nathan exist. Additionally, he is wicked.

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