Coronation Street star Alison King talks to the TV Times about the challenges of her most traumatic storyline yet as Carla…

The build-up to Carla’s torment at the hands of her fiance Frank begins on screen this week; how do things develop?
“It starts a sequence of events that will have devastating consequences down the line. She is drowning in it all and hits the bottle as she usually does. She tries to pretend everything is ok and then Peter turns up – he is the only person who knows what is going on in her head.

“Frank’s mum and dad are visiting and Carla’s not a family bird. She can’t cope and it goes horribly wrong. Can you imagine waking up with a hangover and remembering that you rowed with your fiance’s parents at your engagement party and ran someone over? It would be your worst nightmare.”

What is it about Frank that holds her in his thrall?
“He was pressing all the right buttons at first and then he did the proposal and Carla felt suffocated. She presses the destruct button and it puts her in a different dimension – panic! And that’s where she stays. Frank takes charge and Carla hasn’t got the faculties to undo him at any time.”

With an attack looming, Carla is about to see the other side of Frank – the one Maria saw, but Carla who didn’t believe her story, did she?
“She thought Maria was getting it wrong and for Carla, Frank has been nothing but a tower of strength so far. She knows he’s controlling, but the men who aren’t controlling like Peter don’t want her or, like Liam, they die! I am getting bored of her picking the wrong men.”

How is it on set when you’re filming a storyline like this?
“I’ve got on really well with all the actors I have had intense on-screen relationships with. I am quite easy going, although I am a bit of a ‘mare sometimes. I have a lot of fun with Andrew Lancel who plays Frank.”

He’s a scary on screen, but what’s Andrew like off-screen?
“He is a big softie. I want to get that across as he has a big, horrible, heavy storyline and the last thing he needs is people thinking it’s him. He is an amazing bloke. He always has some trivia up his sleeve to bore me with. He’s like a Liverpudlian version of Stephen Fry. I just switch off and close my ears after half an hour. He’s very supportive and generous and so far, it’s been a really lovely experience working with him.”

How do you approach the scenes where Carla is vulnerable and distressed?
“I feel a sense of responsibility to get it right. We all do. Half of it has been instinct and half of it is talking to other people and doing your research. Things look very bleak for Carla in the aftermath and it’s been one of the most mentally challenging storylines I’ve ever done. I have felt absolutely drained.. But it’s always heavy when you have a big storyline – I was pregnant when we did the Tony Gordon story.”

The long hours must put extra pressure home life, too…
“I do try and take an hour when I can, to switch off and play with my daughter. But when the hours meant I couldn’t do that, I would stand over her like a stalker at night, watching her, having a little smell and listening to her breathing. I can’t go a day without at least being in the same room as her – it’s ridiculous.”

You must be looking forward to taking a holiday when it’s all over?
“I’ve booked a couple of weeks off. We’ll probably go the Lakes or Spain. A lot of our friends are in London and we don’t get to see them when I’m working like this, so we will probably get a group of us together and go away. Do some swimming, play with the kids and get some sleep!”