How has these few weeks of recovery been for Ryan?

Over the past few weeks there seems to be some level of acceptance and awareness of what state he is in and how long the repercussions are going to be, however when he is told he is going to need skin grafts and multiple operations that’s when it starts to hit home and he starts to feel really down and depressed. 

What impact does Justin pleading not guilty have on Ryan?

Ryan is furious because he expected Justin to plead guilty, for justice to be served and for the Justin situation to go away, as it should. Because Justin has pleaded not guilty to what he did to Ryan but he has pleaded guilty to the other counts involving Daisy, it feels personal to Ryan. He is really, really upset by this and obviously he is really angry and this flares up an aggression in him.

How does Crystal’s visit boost Ryan’s spirits?
Ryan doesn’t expect to see Crystal again so when she turns up at the hospital with Daisy, he feels like he has got something to look forward to. Within an hour of talking to Crystal, he is thinking about going to Ibiza in the summer, he is talking about getting a mask made for his DJ sets and he is thinking about continuing his DJ-ing career. 

Ryan has struggled to come to terms with looking at his injuries. Why does he feel like now is the time to take that step?

Crystal gives him that bit of hope because she walks into the hospital room and is not phased by what has happened to Ryan and how he looks. As they talk about some sort of future together, Ryan thinks, “If Crystal can accept something like this then maybe it’s time that I can.” Ultimately, this gives him the push to want to see what his scars look like.

What is Ryan’s reaction to seeing the full extent of his injuries?

 This is one of those situations, as an actor, where it doesn’t take much to take me to that place because I am looking in the mirror and I have all these incredible prosthetics on. For Ryan, I don’t think he expects it to be as bad as it is. He has never seen major burns before so he doesn’t know what to expect and because he has been in bandages for so long he gets into a little comfortable zone with just wearing the bandages. Once his facial injuries are revealed to him, it knocks it right out of him again. The initial glances are heartbreaking. The first time he sees his face, he is thinking, “I am never going to have love in my life again. I am going to be the one that people look at in the street.” In that moment, all those feelings he was trying to ignore come rushing to the surface and he realises that there is no way this is going to heal and he is going to look like his burns haven’t been there. It confirms to him that this is going to affect every aspect of the rest of his life, no matter what.

What’s Ryan’s reaction when he is told he is not healing as they have hoped and needs a skin graft?
Ryan has been through one skin graft already and when he hears he has to have another one and that it is going to be a facial skin graft, just on his neck, below his jawline, the idea of how much pain he went through last time haunts him and it becomes too much. It’s not necessarily the procedure, it’s the aftermath that he fears because he already knows how painful it is. Ryan has been looking for the horizon to get through this, that sort of point where he thinks, “Okay, all I’ve got to do is get to there then it will be okay.” But once they tell him his injuries aren’t healing like they thought they would be, it shatters that idea for him and it reminds him that there may be no end to this. He gets pushed over the edge because he is trying his best to come to terms with things but he becomes overwhelmed at this point. The longevity of this scares him. 

How consuming is being outside with his bandages off? Is Ryan’s thoughts all about how he looks to others?
Yes, once Ryan realises that he is always going to stand out from the crowd and he is always going to look different, certain things start to trigger him into that spiral of negative thinking. One of the things he is putting so much effort into while he is in hospital is trying to change these thoughts and not let his injuries define who he is. However when he hears a group of nurses laughing together, it’s a trigger and he automatically thinks they are laughing at him. There is also a moment when a little girl looks at Ryan. She is so innocent and Ryan sees in her eyes her reaction to him; fear. Ryan knows that because she is a young child, her reaction to him is organic and natural and is probably going to be the response from everyone else regardless of how they cover it. The little girl’s reaction is so raw that it triggers Ryan.

When he runs away, is Ryan planning on leaving for good or does he just need time to himself?
I really don’t think Ryan knows where he is running to; he doesn’t really have a plan and he is just in panic mode at this point. He’s going through an overwhelming emotional drop and he wants to get as far away from everything as possible, but he isn’t thinking much further past that. When he is found at the tram stop, he is in such a state.

Ryan tells everyone, including Alya, that he wants to be left alone. Do you think there is a danger of Ryan pushing everyone away? 

Yes, Ryan has the tendency to push everyone away when he is in a vulnerable position. He can’t accept that people care for him when he hasn’t got the kind of love that he wants to feel. He is aware that he has love in his life but it might not be the kind of love that he wants so he is in denial. 

How has such a heinous attack changed Ryan as a character?
It is going to make him grow, all pain is where we grow as people in general. Ryan is shifting out of that happy-go-lucky, almost naive, opportunist character. He has a comic streak but this event will deepen him and round his character. Ryan doesn’t look the same as he used to and he won’t for a very long time so these are the things that are going to impact him along the way. He’s going to change, his whole world is going to change and the way he behaves is going to change. He is going through real trauma, real despair and real heartache. 

How important is it to show that Ryan’s recovery is going to be a long, emotional and psychological one?
I think it is one of the most important things to show in the storyline. Acid attack survivors can go through hundreds of operations, multiple skin grafts, years of facial reconstruction, a lifetime of trauma therapy and PTSD in trying to get to grips with certain factors, whether that be societal factors or identity factors. Trauma has this impact on people; it’s always there and you are always carrying a part of it. Ryan is still in denial and will probably still be in denial for the next year ahead. It is a very long process and we want to show this. Obviously in the parameters of soap you have to take into account the speed of the show, timings of things and how busy the show actually is, but one of the things that we wanted to be inclusive in the story is having a long term aftermath which shows the difficulties of going through something like this. The real road to recovery is the psychological road to recovery and that one never ends. And Ryan is starting to learn this. 

What has the reaction been like to this storyline so far?
It’s been massively positive and I have been blown away by the reaction, to be honest! I hoped people would be affected by this storyline as these attacks happen all the time and the more successful the storyline is, the more people it reaches and the more chance we have of bringing these issues into the dialogue of society. For example, we want this storyline to educate people on what to do if acid violence happens and how to behave and act around someone who has survived acid violence. Little things like that can change little things in people’s lives and that’s the reason why we do what we do in the first place.  Obviously when it comes to the internet, there are two sides to that coin, you always get a little bit of positive and a little bit of negative and that’s what I expected to be honest but we have had so much love from people and people have been really kind, especially about the acting and the quality of the story. On the whole, a lot of people have been saying that it’s a memorable episode which is so nice to hear because you never really know how something is going to look when you put it together. Having this kind of feedback at this point, when it’s so early in the game, is overwhelming and I am really, really happy.

Coronation Street airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm on ITV1