Nathan Graham exits Corrie: I was honoured to play homophobia in sport storyline

Nathan Graham said he got “emotional” filming his final scenes for Coronation Street having played a part in a number of the soap’s big storylines.

The actor made history in 2019 when his character was welcomed onto the famous cobbles as part of the first black family in the soap’s history.

His character James, the baby of the Bailey family, was a quick favourite with the street’s residents as he played for Weatherfield County football club.

Graham played a leading role in the soap’s racism and homophobia in sport storyline as his character hid his sexuality amid fears it could affect his football career.

Speaking about his storylines, he said: “It was such a special thing, it had taken a long time for the casting process to make sure they got the chemistry right and find a family unit, almost a year I think.

“So I can remember the first day we were all there to work together and then we did a publicity event to introduce the family and it all felt so surreal.

“We all just got on so well from day one. It felt like such an exciting time and there was such a buzz in the building.

Coronation Street
Coronation Street star Nathan Graham with LGBT+ rugby star Keegan Hirst who he met as part of his research for his storyline around homophobia in football (Danielle Baguley/ITV/PA)

“We are proud to have been the first black family on the street, the reaction was amazing.

“For me I also had the story about James coming out. It was such an honour to be given the opportunity to tell a story like that.

“For both stories I was excited, we all were but there was also a certain amount of pressure that we all felt to get it right. We all felt very grateful but we just wanted to deliver.

Graham was also part of the soap’s first on-screen kiss since the start of the pandemic during his time on the ITV drama.

The episode, which was written by Damon Alexis-Rochefort, saw character James Bailey, and love interest Danny Tomlinson, played by Dylan Brady, embrace as part of a storyline marking Pride month.

Coronation Street
Footballer James Bailey, played by Nathan Graham, and love interest Danny Tomlinson, played by Dylan Brady, embrace (ITV/PA)

Speaking about his exit, Graham said: “I have had some great storylines and I did wonder where the character could go next so I felt it was time to go and do something different for me.

“At this moment in time I only have myself to think of and that is the time to step out of your comfort zone.”

The actor, who took his characters Weatherfield County shirt from the set as a keepsake, said filming his final scenes were “emotional.”