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Bill Roache reveals how he prepared for shock stroke storyline on Coronation Street

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Bill Roache
Bill Roache has spoken about the lengths he went to when preparing for the stroke storyline for his character Ken on Coronation Street.

When Bill was first approached about his changing storyline on the show he revealed he was worried for his job, after spending 56 years playing Ken Barlow.

Speaking to The Mirror, Bill admitted, 'When I found out about the storyline, I didn't feel paranoid about my health, but I did feel paranoid about my job. The first thing I asked was 'do I get better?'.'

But after new producer Kate Oates admitted she had big plans for the Barlow family, Bill was excited to start preparing for his character's new plot twist.

Bill's character Ken suffers a stroke just before going on holiday to Europe, and it was so important to Bill to portray this condition just right that he even brought in an expert to help him.


Bill's character Ken was seen having an argument with his on-screen son Peter during the epidsode
Image: ITV

Describing his acting style, Bill said 'I don't act, I try to be. So to be having a stroke is not good. You set things going in your body, but I do protect myself from that and tell myself I'm just an actor enjoying playing this. To have something positive to do is brilliant'.

Throwing himself entirely into his portrayal of a stroke victim, Bill worked with expert Pippa Tyrrell to get tips and tricks that would help him sound and look authentic.

Describing his understanding of the condition he said, 'I said the only thing I want is advice to make sure that I was medically correct, and Pippa was wonderful. I wanted to know about the onset. She said it was rapid. We did have some words after the stroke but she said 'no, you can't speak'.


Bill got help from stroke expert Pippa Tyrrell, from Manchester University
Image: ITV

Bill tried different ways to interpret these such as biting his tongue to give the impression of finding it difficult to speak.

'As an actor you don't act the deformity, you act how to speak through it. So I thought, if I bite my tongue and then try to talk like that... and Pippa said "perfect". So I was very happy. Later on I stopped biting my tongue and started talking out of the corner of my mouth.'

Because of the varied nature of a stroke, Bill's expert explained that it could take days or months for his character to recover, which left a lot open to the writers.

However, because of filming the scenes in non-chronological order, it got tricky for Bill to remember what stage Ken had progressed to.

Bill told The Mirror it even effected filming, 'we had to move two scenes further down the line because of the way I was speaking'.

What is a stroke?

Like a heart attack, a stroke is a 'brain attack' mostly caused by a blockage of a blood vessel to part of the brain. The NHS notes that in a minority of cases, a stroke can be caused by an area of bleeding into the brain, known as a haemorrhagic stroke.

Stroke symptoms

Although every situation is different, there are some main symptoms that identify a stroke as it's happening

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The most obvious ways to tell if you're having a stroke are:
  • Sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight
  • Sudden confusion, dizziness or unsteadiness
  • Sudden, severe headache

If you think that you or someone you know is suffering from a stroke, then call an ambulance immediately.

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