CORONATION Street star Cherylee Houston is making her comeback to the soap after 18 months – by filming from home.
The actress – who plays knicker stitcher Izzy Armstrong in the ITV soap – has worked with bosses on a landmark disability storyline about how disabled workers have been treated in the pandemic.
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Viewers have already seen Underworld bosses Carla Connor and Sarah Barlow come up with a scheme to help Izzy work from home.
However, behind the scenes Izzy has been struggling to keep up with the workload and things come to a head next week.
In scenes shot in Cherylee's own home – viewers will see Izzy at home, while her real-life partner Toby Hadoke joins the cast as Izzy's neighbour Fergus.
With Carla increasingly frustrated by what she sees as substandard work from Izzy she tells Sarah that the situation is untenable and if Izzy refuses to come back to work, they’ll have to get rid of her.
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When Sarah video messages Izzy, Fegus steps in and tells Sarah that Izzy is struggling and needs to put her health first.
The reactions of Carla reflect the real life experience of many people in Izzy’s position – something actress Cherylee has been keen to show.
Cherylee, who has been shielding since last March, said: “I have been unbelievably fortunate that my employers enabled me to continue shielding after the official shielding guidance ended in March.
"I’ve been so supported by ITV, but I’m aware that many of my disabled peers who were previously shielding haven’t had that safety and have been forced to make the decision to earn money to survive whilst facing the real fear of death or serious illness through Covid.
“There’s 14.1 million people in the UK, that’s 1 in 5 of us. We are employees, carers, front line workers, volunteers and a key part of every community.
"The pandemic has had an incredible impact on many disabled people due to social isolation, certain services being unavailable and a lack of understanding.
“There’s currently 4.4 million disabled workers in the UK. We experience almost double the unemployment statistics compared to our non disabled peers (mostly due to prejudice or lack of reasonable adjustments).”
Coronation Street Producer Iain MacLeod added: “We had to think outside the box in order to tell this story, devising new protocols and ways of scripting scenes that would allow Cherylee to film the scenes herself in her home.
"It certainly helped that her partner Toby is a fabulous actor!
"Despite all the technical challenges we had to overcome, this was a story that needed telling and I hope it will resonate with millions of people who have found themselves in a similar position to Izzy – and perhaps open the eyes of millions of others who had little awareness of the issues facing disabled people during COVID.”
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