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Tina O’Brien: Star says being 2m apart brought Coronation Street cast closer together

© ITV plcTina O’Brien started playing fan favourite Sarah Barlow (nee Platt) in 1999
Tina O’Brien started playing fan favourite Sarah Barlow (nee Platt) in 1999

After a few months off work thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, the cast of Coronation Street have returned to the cobbles. And star Tina O’Brien admits she was “really nervous” about filming the ITV soap with social-distancing measures in the place.

The 36-year-old – who started playing fan favourite Sarah Barlow (nee Platt) in 1999 – had concerns about how difficult it would be filming certain scenes two metres apart from her co-stars.

Take, for example, having to depict a charged moment between Sarah and her ex, Gary Windass, played by Mikey North.

“We are very tactile, we have to get up close to people; it’s just part of the job,” elaborates the Mancunian, who has also appeared in BBC 1 series Waterloo Road.

“The idea of doing it from a distance was a little bit bizarre for me. But it was fine, and Mikey is so great to work with that it was just normal.

“And actually, we had a really good time, because we got to film everything in order, so it allowed us to really get into a great flow of it. Before Covid we probably wouldn’t have been able to film it in order, so it was a blessing, in a way.”

O’Brien and Windass also recently starred in what was described as the world’s first socially-distanced stunt.

The storyline, which was reworked to adhere to the new safety precautions, began with Sarah demanding answers from Gary about his involvement in the disappearance of loan shark Rick Neelan.

After Gary admitted the truth – that he killed Rick – Sarah was horrified and ran away to call the police, with Gary chasing after her. When he saw a car hurtling down the street, he realised Sarah was in danger and dived in front of the vehicle, while pushing his former flame to safety.

As the actors can’t have contact, O’Brien was replaced by a mannequin – which O’Brien quips was “a lot taller and slimmer” than her – in certain shots.

“Our director was incredible,” continues the star. “I even ended up with a little scrape down my arm where I threw myself on to the mat. I really thought I was in some kind of action film, I got carried away!”

Being reunited with her on-screen family – including Jack P Shepherd who plays her brother David – has been the best bit since returning to work after lockdown, O’Brien gushes.

“One of the directors asked the other day, ‘Which is your favourite set? and me and Jack, without even hesitating, both said at once, ‘The Platts’ house’,” she recalls, smiling.

“To be able to do normal scenes when there’s a bit of banter again, it’s been comforting for us.”

Coronation Street, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, ITV