Coronation Street dropped a huge bombshell on viewers tonight – ‘terminally ill’ Curtis Delamere is fighting fit! Well, physically at least.
The fiancé of Weatherfield hairdresser and barmaid Emma Brooker is, in fact, suffering from a factitious disorder, and has been faking a heart condition to get sympathy and attention.
The truth was revealed when Curtis had a private hospital appointment, and the consultant turned out to be someone he had already seen on the NHS.
“Your heart, as we’ve said many times before, is in A1 condition,” insisted the medic, Dr. Handley, who went on to tell his patient that he was referring him to a psychologist.
Actor Sam Retford, who plays Curtis, recently spoke to whattowatch.com and other media about keeping his character’s big secret, and why Curtis shouldn’t be thought of as Corrie’s latest villain…
Did you always know that Curtis had this factitious disorder?
Yes, I knew from day one. That’s what attracted me to the role, because certainly in British television, it’s not really something that has been spoken about, and I thought ‘When else am I going to get this opportunity?’ It’s just been an amazing experience to build a character and build relationships for the last seven months or so, and always in the back of my mind knowing where it was going.
How hard has it been for you to keep the secret of his real illness?
It’s been pretty tough! If you were to watch the story back, you would see that all of Curtis’ actions are influenced by this, so it’s something that has always been in the very forefront of my mind but it’s never something I was able to talk about.
A few people guessed it, which is good, and we left some clues in there. We didn’t want it to come out of the blue because it is something that influences some people’s day to day lives. It’s a really debilitating disorder.
Knowing that a lot of what Curtis does is based on lies, how has this affected the way you have approached playing him?
When I first started, I looked at it from a clinical, pragmatic point of view; what someone with this condition would typically act like or how their behaviour is influenced by the disorder. From there on, when you build a relationship with him and you start to fall in love with him a little bit, his behaviour becomes a bit more habitual and you have to then develop a huge amount of empathy for things that, at face value, seem black or white, good or bad.
So he is ill, rather than being a villain?
Yes, absolutely. I would read some of that text and it wouldn’t even be an emotional piece of text; it would literally just be a small white lie that he would tell to Emma maybe, and it would make me emotional reading it because he wouldn’t need to lie, there would be no necessity for it, but in his head he believed he needed that to be loved by other people. I felt great empathy towards him. He’s been an amazing character to live with.
What has made him the way he is?
It comes from a place of neglect and forming inauthentic relationships with people in his childhood and this notion of wanting to feel loved. It comes from a place of regret and a need to manipulate situations. He’s just lonely.
There was a lot that happened to him when he was younger and he saw a way to tap into people’s empathy – and why wouldn’t you? If we could all have a button we could press and it means that people love you, of course we would do that, because it’s a nice thing when people care for you. And when you don’t have that as a kid, you chase it. He’s pretty lost.
What research have you done for this role?
It was so interesting to research this. I started off with the clinical aspect and talked to psychotherapists and doctors – Gwyn Adshead, Tom Ward, Marc Feldman, and Suzanne O’Sullivan. It’s interesting because the medical field is so split as to whether these lies are a conscious choice or subconscious.
Are Curtis’ feelings for Emma not a lie?
Yes, it’s definitely an authentic adoration. It’s really difficult because she’s taught him so much about himself, but just a bit too late. He would do this before with other people, but he would leave. He would get what he wanted, but once he felt that fulfilment, he would feel the risk was too high to stay and he would make up an excuse and run away so he didn’t have to face any more introspection.
Do you think viewers will have sympathy for Curtis?
I really hope so. There are two sides to this. There’s the story side, where we want people to get lost in the drama of it, and then the other side of it, where hopefully we can just teach one person to have a bit of empathy and look deeper into the illness, and think that it’s not necessarily a choice.
Curtis isn’t sitting there in the morning, thinking “What lies am I going to tell today?” He’s not malicious. His lies exist within a need for care and maternal love that was absent when he was a child. So I really hope people see beyond the lies and see the human traits in him and in all of us.
Coronation Street airs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7.30pm and 8.30pm on ITV – see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also catch up on episodes on ITV Hub now.