Coronation Street

Coronation Street star Charlie de Melo reacts to Imran and Toyah’s car crash outcome

Coronation Street spoilers follow from Wednesday’s episode (June 1), which some readers may prefer to avoid.

Coronation Street has aired tragic exit scenes for Imran Habeeb.

Imran and Toyah have taken centre stage in a car crash storyline this week, as their journey home from the police station ended in disaster.

After the couple’s vehicle crashed into scaffolding, Imran heroically dragged Toyah out of the car and got her to safety.

As Toyah was rushed off in an ambulance, Imran’s own health suddenly deteriorated as he suffered a cardiac arrest and ultimately died at the scene.

Charlie de Melo, who played Imran, recently caught up with and other media to discuss his departure from the soap.

How does it feel to say goodbye to Imran?

“It’s uncanny, really. It’s a strange feeling because a lot of effort had been put into Imran’s final week. A lot of departments were pulling together to make sure that the scale of it was as big as it feasibly could be.

“For me, it felt like: ‘Oh no, I’ve got to get this right, oh no!’ So it was good that it seemed to go well. This also dovetails so much into what Georgia [Taylor, who plays Toyah] is going to be doing moving forwards, so the fact that she was happy with it, meant a lot.

“By the end of that final week, it was just a sense of relief that I didn’t bring the show into disrepute. All of those other departments worked so hard, but I don’t think I’ve done them dirty.”

Why did you decide to leave?

“It was a multitude of things. It was nothing to do with the job at all, but my first couple of years working there were trying. I did find it difficult, so as I was heading towards the end of that second-year option, I’d kind of made the decision to move on.

“I was ready to draw a line under my time in Manchester. It was a worthy but failed experiment to have made this big move and to have joined a job like this – and then that’s when COVID struck, so the decision got taken out of my hands.

“It meant that by default, it was the sensible choice to stay. My personal life got cleared up a little bit and there was an element of the camaraderie that was so strong. We had to band together to keep this ship afloat.

“I was put in the middle of the Geoff and Yasmeen abuse story, with Ian Bartholomew and Shelley King. Then, subsequently, I met and worked with Millie Gibson [who plays Kelly Neelan] and had so much more to do with Georgia. It meant that the subsequent two years since have just been such a joy.

“But then it got to a stage where I was enjoying myself so much over there and constantly being challenged and constantly being put in front of some of the most talented people I’ve ever worked with.

“That meant that I saw a version of myself that would literally be staying there until I was booted. I came to the realisation that I have no spouse, I have no car or mortgage or kids, or any of these kinds of things that would otherwise necessitate consistency.

“I thought if I didn’t close my eyes and step off into the void now, then I never will. So, it was nothing to do with the job. If anything, the job was really keeping me rooted and I had such a wonderful time there, but it was just a case of: ‘If not now, when?'”

How did you feel when you were told that Imran was being killed off?

“Initially, I was told on a Zoom call with Georgia. We were given a run-down as to what to expect over the coming months – this was heading towards Christmas last year.

“[Corrie producer] Iain MacLeod gave us this very detailed rundown about the degradation of Imran’s internal character, which I was all very fond of. It was like: ‘Okay, so we’re going to move onto this, then of course Imran dies’. Then Iain was moving onto all this other stuff! I was like: ‘Wait, wait, sorry, could you rewind just a little?’

“I thought it was amazing, but once the news settled in, it was like: ‘Oh no, is this them really salting the Earth because they dislike me that much? That they don’t want anything to do with me anymore, this is their opportunity to see me out for good?’

“A little while later, Iain did speak to me in regards to the decision-making behind it. He said it wasn’t an easy decision – that was good for my ego at least! But also, there really was no other option for Imran. He could turn and walk into the back of a cab, but that would have disregarded all of the fight that he’s had for his son.

“Imran could have left and taken his son with him, but then you’d be left with another childless Abi – you can’t do that. Imran could leave with Abi, but then obviously Sally Carman’s not going to leave. They’d be fools to let her go.

“So, the only other option was to bump Imran off. It’s the end of something for me, but it’s the beginning of something, certainly for Georgia – and Sally and Mike [Le Vell, who plays Kevin] as well, I assume.”

Does it put more fire in your belly now that you don’t have that safety net?

“It does. Because there is a version of me that in years to come, in a similar way that Georgia did, would like to have gone back. I could have settled back into a familiar place with friendly faces – all those kinds of things that I love about the place now. I would have been drawn back for those exact same reasons.

“But that option has been taken off the table, so I have no other option but to look forward. On the one hand, it is quite a scary thing, stepping into the unknown, but that was what I was always doing from the beginning anyway.

“So it hasn’t changed things all that much – certainly not at this stage. Because it would be bizarre after three weeks to go: ‘Can I come back?!’

“But what it does mean is I have to come to terms with the fact that, chances are, I’ll never work with Georgia again, I’ll never work with Millie again, I’ll never work with Jane [Danson, who plays Leanne] or Ben [Price, who plays Nick] again – or any of these wonderful actors that I’ve had the joy of working with in such close proximity and with such frequency.”

Imran was hero of the hour in the Geoff story, but we’ve seen a more villainous side to him this year. How did you feel about that?

“I wouldn’t have necessarily pitched it as something that I would have imagined happening, but it’s the exact same impetus that he had in the defence of Yasmeen and the defence of Kelly as well. It’s the same impetus that’s driving him now.

“It’s just the way that the story is being told and the way the audience, rightly so, are being shown where the line is. He is now on a different side of it than he was in the previous heroic moments.

“Thinking of it that way, it does make total sense because it’s not the drive that changed – it’s just the way in which he’s being presented. Which I completely understand and it’s not something I’m precious about.”

What sort of reaction have you had on social media – and in real life?

“It’s vitriolic at the moment. I’m grateful that it’s not something I’ve gotten used to!

“Hopefully it’s a good thing that it’s getting a reaction. But what I have noticed, and this is something I’m quite grateful for, is that there does seem to be a distinction between people going: ‘Oh, Imran is awful. Imran is a dirty snake boy’. They’re not going: ‘Oh, Charlie, you’re awful. You’re a terrible person’.

“That is something, because I have a remarkably thin skin for someone who has been doing this job for as long as I have! So the fact that that distinction is being made is something I’m grateful for.”

What were your favourite moments?

“The stuff for the 60th anniversary, that’s a real feather in my cap. I’m loath to watch myself in anything I’ve ever done, but that is something I have seen once or twice now. Those scenes came together really well.

“Particularly, I remember the stakes feeling very high, because it was the anniversary and that was my first time ever being involved in stuff like that. So that’s something I will always look back fondly on.

“I also enjoyed the scenes where I was able to just be daft. Like the scenes with Leanne and Toyah, when they realised that Imran had been sleeping with the two of them at the same time.

“There were also the scenes where Imran was in the thick of the Geoff and Yasmeen story.

“There was a wine tasting at the Bistro, where it was just being on set with Peter Gunn [who plays Brian Packham], pretending to be drunk and having endless terrible wine-based puns – the man’s hysterical. So, to be honest, being on set with him was a huge highlight for me.

“I’ve got so many, so I won’t bore you by just listing all of them – it would be quicker for me to count the days that I didn’t enjoy. It’s the thing that everyone says when they’re in my position and they’re on the way out – it just seems so earnest and so insincere, but it’s so true.”

Have you taken any keepsakes with you?

“I’ve taken many. I’ve taken a few bits that aren’t specific to me, including a Rovers beer mat.

“Also, before I left, the costume department were having to spread themselves apart across different parts of the building in order to be COVID compliant. So there was always a real lack of space.

“They said to me: ‘Look Charlie, you’ll be doing us a real favour if you just took all of it?’ I said: ‘Guys, I’m a team player. I will do this for you!’ (Laughs.)

“I’ve also been wearing Imran’s wedding ring ever since ever since I left. I haven’t taken it off! And I now realise now how people get so attached to them.”

What is next for you? Do you have any specific career ambitions?

“I am ambitious in my own way, but I’m also sort of directionless. It’d be a shorter list to say the kind of things I didn’t want to do. I by no means say this disparagingly, because it genuinely isn’t, but the main thing is just not to do another job like this.

“Because, one, I’ve done it. And two, whichever one of the other shows that would be there, will never have a Georgia there, there will never be a Millie there, there will never be a Jane there.

“The experience that I’ve had here is incomparable. So to try and match it by going to another place like this, it would just be diminishing returns. So the priority is to be in an environment – a studio or a set or a theatre or anything like that – where I’m learning and going: ‘What’s that? What does that do? What’s this?’

“It’s ambition without direction. That’s my thing at the moment. I kind of want to do everything.”

Coronation Street airs at the earlier time of 7.30pm all this week on ITV and streams on the ITV Hub.