Coronation Street star opens up about playing soap’s first lesbian Muslim character

Coronation Street star Bhavna Limbachia has opened up about playing a queer Muslim character on the long-running ITV soap.

Limbachia plays Muslim character Rana Haweb who is having an affair with best friend Kate Connor (Faye Brookes), in a storyline that has spanned several months.

Speaking to Diva Magazine, the actress opened up about telling her Indian mother about the storyline.

She said: “[My mum] is from India, she’s very traditional and from a Hindu family. At first she wasn’t sure what I meant and I had to explain to her in Gujarati, ‘Look mum, this is what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna be kissing women on screen.’

“‘How do you feel about that? How would you feel if I was telling you this for real?’ I thought, being from that generation, she would be closed-minded. But she said, ‘Look, if you’re gonna help people, go for it’.”

The actress also said that filming the emotional storyline had taken a toll on her.

Bhavna Limbachia (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

She said: “There were times when I was filming scenes, like 12 hours of sobbing.

“Then when the director said cut I literally had to run backstage and let out a really big cry, to the point where I was nearly sick because I couldn’t stop.

“You have to go there and it’s heartbreaking. Do you know what? I thought, ‘We’re two people in love, let’s just go for it’. And we did!”

Meanwhile, Brookes is hopeful that the characters will one day get married.

She told Diva: “I would love a big gay Corrie wedding! I tell the writers that on the set.”

Bhavna Limbachia (Photo by Jeff Spicer/Getty Images)

She added: “I felt like what we were doing was groundbreaking. We broke that barrier, just for a split second. We did it for the sake of our characters and for anyone out there who is feeling the exact same way.

“My chemistry with Bhavna is completely natural. It has to be that I’m OK to touch her and she doesn’t feel awkward if we have to hold a kiss or hold hands. We just bite the bullet. It’s a good job she’s so beautiful!

“We’re both very in touch with our feminine side. You don’t need to be gay or straight to feel that. It’s how you feel around that one person.

“I want to represent, from a personal perspective, that love is love and everybody should be accepted for who they are, no matter what.

“I have to pinch-me moments, where I have to really take a step back and say ‘We’re making history’.”

The soap, which has been running since 1960, has featured a number of LGBT storylines over the years.

Most recent LGBT characters on the soap include Billy Mayhew, a gay vicar played by Daniel Brocklebank, and Sean Tully, played by Antony Cotton.

The soap picked up a special award at the 2017 PinkNews Awards.

When picking up the award, Brocklebank honoured the show’s “wonderful” creator Tony Warren for his efforts.

“Thank you so much for this award. It is in honour of the wonderful late Tony Warren, who without, we wouldn’t be here today,” said the actor.

“We are sure that Tony would be proud of the LGBT stories we are still sharing in the show.”

PinkNews CEO Benjamin Cohen said: “We have decided to give two further PinkNews Ally Awards, to two television programmes who have gone out of their way to include LGBT characters.

“What is interesting is that both of them first broadcast when it was illegal to be gay.

“Coronation Street, created by the late Tony Warren in 1960, who said, ‘I don’t think it could have been created by a straight man, who would have seen the innate glamour in a back street in an industrial town. Because gays had been shut in the corner for so long, we found the oddest entertainment in the oddest places’.

“From early portrayals of gay couples to the first trans soap character, it has been a trailblazer for LGBT+ representation.”

Corrie star Daniel Brocklebank previously revealed that he struggles to deal with anti-gay abuse.

“Because I’ve been out professionally since I was 18, I’ve been aware that I was overlooked for roles because producers knew I was gay, and I’ve had to put up with homophobic abuse on social media.

Coronation Street

“People forget that you are a person, who still goes home to their family every night. I think they expect you to be thick-skinned.

“What they don’t see is when you shut the front door after a barrage of abuse and have to try to shake it off.”

He says he received a “backlash” after a scene last year showed the two characters in a hotel room together, and that he doubted himself over whether the scene was suitable for families.

“I have goddaughters aged seven and 12 and I phoned their mum and said, ‘Do you think we showed anything your kids shouldn’t have been watching?’ She said, ‘What do you mean? No. Why?’ And I thought, thank God.,” he adds.

The 37-year-old also reflected on growing up rurally in the Midlands on a farm, and coming out at 15.

“When I was growing up, the legal age of consent was still 21 and it was illegal for teachers to discuss homosexuality in schools,” he says. “I lived in a rural area, there was no internet and there were no gay role models on TV.

“It was the 1980s – all you read was gays were spread­­ing Aids and gays were paedophiles. It was hideous.”