Coronation Street actress Michelle Collins has revealed that filming the soap’s dramatic Rovers Return fire brought back memories of her own brush with death in a blaze when she was a child.
Speaking to the Mirror the 50-year-old recalled the terrifying experience of being trapped in a burning London flat when she was just four years old – and how only the quick thinking actions of her older sister Vicky saved her life.
“We lived with Mum on the bottom floor of a tall townhouse that was broken up into flats. We used to go and play with a little boy who lived upstairs,” she said.
“It was soon after Vicky’s birthday and she’d brought her cards to show him.I don’t know whether there was an argument or he was just being horrible but he was playing with a box of matches and suddenly started setting fire to the cards.
“I remember her pulling me away from the flames but the boy’s mum made feather hats for a living, which were stuck together with paraffin glue. That stuff is highly flammable and suddenly one of them went up in flames too.
“Soon the fire was all up the walls and catching the furniture. I was terrified. It was so hot and full of smoke but we were stuck because there was no way out… we couldn’t see.
Michelle revealed that her sister saved her life by making her crouch under a table in the room while she went for help – but added that the experience – followed by two further brushes with fires in the past – has left her with a lifelong fear of fire.
“It’s my only fear. I’m fine with heights and flying. I’m a professional so I just throw myself into it,” she said.
“But when it comes to candles and matches I’m really frightened. I don’t like being too close to open fires, barbecues or bonfires. It’s something that’s deep inside me now.”
However Michelle added that she confronted her fears head-on when it came to shooting the current scenes.
“I knew it would have to involve real fire because Corrie always does things as realistically as possible,“ she admitted. “Back home that night the horrors of the fire when I was a child came rushing back. But I knew I had to face my fear.
“I’m an actress, it’s my job. So I decided to give it a go.”
The dramatic scenes, to be screened this week, will result in the death of two characters including Sunita Alahan, played by Shobna Gulati.