Coronation Street star Kel Allen could barely meet her co-star’s gaze as she braced herself for some of the most heart-wrenching scenes of her career. The actress, from Wigan, was in pieces before the cameras started rolling for her final scenes on the cobbles as Laura Neelan.
Viewers will see her final episode air tomorrow, April 8, as Laura succumbs to cancer – with the secret murder of Weatherfield’s Gary Windass, in jeopardy of coming out. In an interview with The Mirror, Kel, 38, said: “Mikey and I were both emotional wrecks. It was my last day so it was a lot anyway, and then everything in these scenes was just so emotional.
“Normally, we’re laughing on set but that day we couldn’t look at each other because every time we did we started crying. We were like, ‘Someone has got to put these cameras on us and start filming as we can’t hold off much longer’.
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“The production team were the same, everyone was just falling apart with what was going on. It’s such emotional scenes – you definitely need the tissues on a day like that.”
Corrie fans have watched for weeks as Laura, a mum to troubled teen Kelly, has grown increasingly ill after a diagnosis of terminal stomach cancer. The hopeless mum has made steps to redeem herself by taking the blame for the murder of her de ella evil ex de ella Rick de ella so his de ella real killer de ella Gary can care for Kelly (Millie Gibson) after Laura’s death de ella.
Kel, who grew up in Wigan, added: “As an actor, you’ve got to be able to go to dark places for those scenes and it’s quite hard sometimes to put a lid on it when you’re done for the day. If you’re filming eight or nine scenes a day, you’re crying for hours at a time. It can be really draining.”
And, after experiencing loss in her own life, she says Corrie writers got the tone just right, balancing tears with laughter. She said: “We lost my grandma Mildred not too long ago. That was to bowel cancer. In her final days, we all got together as a family and we had a huge party with her to celebrate her life.
“She had her family around her chatting, singing, just how she always liked it. We had Gary Barlow playing – she loved Gary Barlow – and again we found that humor and light through it all.
“Going through everything I have with this storyline does bring you back to those times, and I think the balance in how we’ve done it makes it ring true for people. When this storyline was pitched to me I thought, ‘I’ve got to take this’.
“To be able to put all of those things together, the comedy with Laura getting drunk with Bernie, and you put it in the middle of something so tragic as this young woman losing her life. It’s very powerful.” Sadly, Kel’s gran, who relished the soap, did not live to see her granddaughter de ella as Laura.
But she says: “If my grandma was still here, she would have loved it. She was such a Coronation Street fan. Back when we didn’t have pausing or rewinding, my grandma would have the house full with 15 grandchildren and we would all be playing.
“When the Corrie theme tune came on, everyone would crowd around the telly. I know how much she adored it. She’d have been as proud as punch.”
Bringing her much-loved Wigan accent to primetime has been a stand-out achievement for Kel. “I tend to ham it up a bit for Laura,” she laughs. “I like to make it a bit stronger if anything. I think it works.”
Kel, who appeared briefly on the soap in 2018 as strip club manager Lulu Lockett and played a high-end escort in Emmerdale, is looking forward to her next challenge.
She says: “I’ve got auditions coming in and I’m interested in doing real gritty dramas. Something to get my teeth into. But I’d never say never to some theater and I love a sing song, a bit of musical theatre, so who knows?”
*Coronation Street airs on ITV, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 8pm.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.