Corrie’s Steve is so determined to keep his depression diagnosis a secret, he even puts his relationship with Michelle on the line. Actors Simon Gregson and Kym Marsh tell Susan Griffin why they’re so proud of the poignant storyline.
Steve McDonald has been Coronation Street’s affable goofball for so long that actor Simon Gregson admits he had reservations when he first found out his character was set to develop depression.
“I first found out a few months ago,” recalls the 40-year-old. “Our amazing producer Stuart [Blackburn] called me to one side and let me know about it. My first thoughts were, ‘Hmm, have you chosen the right guy for the job?’, because of the kind of comedy element and the silliness that Steve brings to the show.”
But it wasn’t long before Gregson realised it was a brilliant move. “If it could happen to Steve, it could happen to anybody,” he says.
Poignantly, the scene in which Steve is told he has depression was shot on the day the news broke that Hollywood star Robin Williams has killed himself.
“It was a bit like, ‘Wow, crikey, Robin Williams’. He was an unbelievably funny man, a genius,” says Gregson.
As audiences have seen, in recent weeks, Steve has been growing increasingly distant from his family and friends, and acting in an ever-more erratic manner, failing to show up for work and making rash decisions, including the purchase of a sports car and “a ridiculous Christmas” he’s set to lay on for his daughter Amy.
But unlike viewers, his partner Michelle has no idea what’s going on.
“She thinks he’s an idiot, but he’s her idiot. That’s why she loves him, but she can’t understand why he’s changed so much. He a shadow of himself,” explains actress Kym Marsh, who joined the soap as Michelle in 2006.
“She feels like he doesn’t want to spend any time with her. He’s not talking to her, and every time they get a minute together, he disappears. She thinks he doesn’t love her any more.”
Things are set to come to a head for the couple when she suggests they get away for the weekend - Steve’s reluctant so Michelle gives him an ultimatum: tell her what’s going on, or it’s over.
Although his doctor’s diagnosed the depression, Steve remains in denial.
“Basically, he’s not telling anybody what he’s going through. He seems to be embarrassed, he won’t even admit it to himself, let alone to his nearest and dearest. He pushes Michelle away really,” explains Gregson, who celebrates 25 years in the soap this December.
“I think he’s frightened of the whole thing. It’s a big label to put on somebody, so his initial reaction is, ‘I’ve just got a lot of stress, a lot of things on my mind, but I’ll be fine’. It takes a while for him to admit he has a problem, because obviously, it’s not as cut and dry as that,” Coronation Street continues on ITV on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays