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Coronation Street star Cherylee Houston has spoken out about the struggles she faced during lockdown and why she doesn't like being referred to as 'just vulnerable'.
The 46-year-old actress plays the role of Izzy Armstrong in the ITV soap and was forced to take more time off work than most cast members during the pandemic.
However, she's now returning to the Cobbles from the comfort of her own home and will be joined by her real-life partner Toby Hadoke, who is also an actor.
Toby will play the character Fergus, a concerned neighbour of Izzy, who faces an upsetting situation when Underworld boss Carla Connor (Alison King) threatens to sack her unless she comes back to work.
Coronation Street star Cherylee Houston has spoken out about the struggles she faced during lockdown
(Image: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Women in Film and TV)
Speaking about the experience of working with Toby from home, Cherylee said: "It was interesting because Toby is doing the angles and things. We were using part of our house and it was nice to figure things out to make it as smooth as possible.
"In the scenes that have already been out, I did live conversations with the other cast and it was so lovely to see friends.
"When me and Toby started to do our bits, we did it to the first ADs [assistant directors] at Corrie, so it could be much better quality. It was to ensure that it looked the best that it could on screen."
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She continued to Digital Spy: "It was lovely, because the team have been great and so supportive. We've really been helped through this process the whole way."
But looking back on lockdown and the fact that she had to shield for so long, Cherylee admitted that it wasn't easy.
"I didn't think it would be this long at all. I'm a chronic pain sufferer, so the first few months were quite nice – to have a stop and not have to go anywhere," she explained.
A new storyline will see Cherylee's character Izzy working for the factory but from home
"We had Mo, who's a disabled friend of mine, staying with us. We said that she couldn't be on her own for two weeks, which is all we thought it was going to be at the time. It was four months before she went home!
"I've kept myself incredibly busy and I think that's the best way to do it.
"If I'm honest, I'm a really strong person and I never expected it would happen to me – but I found the concept of going outside more and more difficult. That is probably what happens to human beings if they're trapped in one place," she added.
Cherylee will be joined by her real-life partner Toby Hadoke in upcoming Corrie scenes
(Image: Manchester Evening News)
"I think that's really important and that's coming across in the storyline as well, because it's surreal what it does to your emotions – what that does to your confidence and your identity, really.
"But I've tried to always be busy and achieve things, so it doesn't take you under," Cherylee said.
At the age of 23 Cherylee was diagnosed with the rare connective tissue disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Type III hypermobility type, and has used a wheelchair ever since.
Cherylee has starred as Izzy in Coronation Street since April 2010
Asked what she hopes her upcoming storyline will achieve, she said: "I just hope that people see our lives as much more valuable. I want them to get rid of that word that they used at the start of the pandemic – when people said it's 'just the vulnerable and the elderly'. I'm one of those, how dare you say I'm a 'just'?
"I want to get rid of that attitude of the 'just'. Even locally, walking the dog with my mask on in a wheelchair, I see people ahead of me who move out of other people's way and not mine.
"We've all got a massive unconscious bias towards disabled people and I really hope Corrie will do it – get into the hearts of people so they see us as humans."
Coronation Street airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on ITV, but times and days will vary during Euro 2020.