What was your reaction when you were told about the storyline regarding Summer’s diabulimia?
I think it’s a really great opportunity, because so many young people – not just young girls – go through body image issues. It’s very prevalent in young people now, the way that you think you should look. So I think it really does affect a lot of young people, even if you don’t have diabetes. But then if you add that on top of what’s already going on in a young person’s head… it just sort of explodes. So Summer’s really going through it all.
Have you had to do quite a lot of research for this plot?
Yeah, initially even Summer just being diagnosed with diabetes took a lot of research – like I’ve always said, I’ve obviously heard of diabetes. And if someone said to me, I’ve got diabetes, or my cousin’s got it, or whatever, you go, yeah, I know what that is. But then when I got the story, I thought, actually, I don’t know what diabetes is, I don’t know what happens in someone’s body. So I’ve had to do a lot of research just to understand the condition. But actually, to understand what Summer’s going through now, alongside of diabetes is a whole other kind of ball game. So yeah, it’s taken quite a bit of research.
Summer’s under so much stress with her exams, why do you think she puts so much pressure on herself?
That’s a really good question. I think she’s always been the kid who has been quite good at things, and she’s naturally quite intelligent. People noticed that from a young age, and then you kind of get that persona of yourself of going, oh, I’m the smart one, so I need to maintain that. Also I think being Billy’s daughter is so lovely. When you see Billy beaming with pride at Summer, which has happened so often in their relationship, he is very proud of her. I think that she loves that he is proud of her and wants to maintain that as well. She doesn’t want to let him down, and she doesn’t want to let anyone else around her down. So I think it’s sort of just built on top of her from being quite young.
Has she got her head around her diabetes diagnosis, or is she still struggling with it?
I think when you get a diagnosis that is never going away, that’s always a bit of a battle. Some weeks, you might feel really on top of it, and you feel like you’re managing your condition well. And we’ve seen Summer do that. But then some weeks, it can all get on top of you. If life is getting on top of you as well, like she’s focusing so much on her exams, and on her revision and things like that; or another week, something might be going wrong with her friends, then I think that you find yourself not managing the condition that well. That’s when it kind of piles on top of you. With any kind of long-term condition, there’s always kind of peaks and troughs.
Summer’s friends are worried about her. How does she react when Aadi pops in to check on her?
She knows deep down that people are just caring for her and actually, that’s really lovely, because she’s got people around her who do care about her. But on the surface, it’s like, I’m just trying to do what I want to do. I’m just trying to revise for my exams. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I’m just trying to go out with my friends. And there’s nothing wrong with that. And I think sometimes when you’re ill, attention to it becomes frustrating. She doesn’t want to be different, she doesn’t want people to treat her differently. So I think there’s a level of frustration with it of people coming around to check in on her. Yes, it’s out of kindness. But actually, it’s frustrating because she feels like she’s not being allowed to just live her life normally. I think that’s what she’s feeling anyway.
Amy does manage to persuade her to take a break, and that eventually leads to her catching Summer being sick. Can you talk us through that scene and how it all plays out?
Yeah, so Amy convinces Summer to come to Roys with her and just have a little bit of a break. So they do, and they get a coffee and they get a bacon roll. And then they eat it together and go back to Summer’s. But when you’ve got diabetes, I think there is such a big focus on food and what you can eat and what you can drink and things like that to maintain your blood sugar levels. There is a huge focus on food. So she hasn’t scheduled to eat that bacon sandwich – it sounds really simple and daft to anyone who has a normal relationship with food, but for Summer she hadn’t planned that meal. She hadn’t planned that bacon sandwich. So I think she just goes into panic mode and tries to get rid of Amy out of the flat as soon as she can so she can make herself sick to try and balance out what she’s eaten in the day. Amy walks back in on her and Summer’s quite unsuccessful in covering it up and pretending that it’s just a bit of an icky tummy. But Amy’s not daft, is she? She knows what’s happening. So she kind of blows her cover.
Is she quite worried at this point that Amy knows what’s going on?
Yeah, definitely. I think with the people that I’ve spoken to about this storyline, we’ve discussed how people who are going through similar things with eating disorders, that the most important thing they can do is conceal it from everyone. And they get really, really clever with hiding what they’re doing. I think Summer’s worried that Amy’s found out, because she knows that Amy’s not daft and she knows that Amy probably knows the right thing to do is to tell Billy, and get Summer the help that she needs. But obviously, Summer’s not prepared to do that. She doesn’t want to do that. So I think she’s just panicking. What will Amy do with this information? Is she gonna go and tell Summer’s dad?
If you were in Amy’s shoes, what would you do?
Summer definitely doesn’t want to admit that there is an issue, so it’s tricky because she doesn’t want the help at the moment when Amy catches her. I think the best thing Amy could do is just to try and talk to her and try to make Summer see that getting help is the best option. And that will help her more than keeping it a secret and trying to manage this on her own. I think just talking about it would be the best thing.
Coronation Street airs hour-long episodes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8pm on ITV.