The stakes have been raised for Stephen Reid's loved ones in Coronation Street as his return continues to become increasingly dramatic.
Stephen, played by Todd Boyce, recently returned to Weatherfield after living in Italy where he had run into financial difficulty.
It first appeared as though his return came just at the right moment after his mother, Audrey Roberts, had experienced a difficult time enduring a bout of depression and attempting to take her own life.
However, Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod revealed that Stephen is actually set to make Audrey’s life a whole lot harder.
As viewers of the ITV soap opera have witnessed Stephen’s kiss with Jenny Bradley and will see his subsequent involvement in the death of Jenny’s partner Leo Thompkins, MacLeod said: "He will continue to get more and more desperate, and more and more dark as the story unfolds.
"The beauty of this character really is that he’s got this huge longevity in terms of his connection to the show and to a heritage family, but actually is a bit of a blank canvas that if you think back through his archive scenes, we don’t really know a lot about him.
"So, we thought, well, actually, if we’re going to fill in those blanks and we’re going to learn more about him, shouldn’t we make him dark, dangerous, interesting and scheming?"
Speaking about the effect Stephen’s return will have on his mother – one of the show’s most recognisable characters – MacLeod was not able to put viewers’ minds at ease, adding: "I always worry about Audrey, I think any Coronation Street fan should, and does, worry about Audrey, especially because she’s quite fragile at the moment in terms of what we’ve seen on screen recently.
"She has been through this depression story. She’s attempted to take her own life and that makes her particularly vulnerable to Stephen because she’s clinging on to him as something positive, the light at the end of the tunnel for her emotionally. And he’s really not that.
"She won’t come to be in any physical jeopardy, I should say, but emotionally, the stakes for her are incredibly high, because she’s put all of her sort of maternal eggs in Stephen’s basket."
Boyce, the 61-year-old American actor who plays the role of Stephen, revealed what might be next for the character after his involvement in Leo’s death.
"He could have just said, 'hey, you know, my money’s dried up and I’m in trouble’, but he just keeps digging himself deeper all the time.
"So, Leo, I mean, he didn’t really murder him, I guess it’s manslaughter, but he doesn’t phone the authorities and say there’s a dead body in a bin, because he’s got too much to hide."
Despite his dark and Machiavellian tendencies, Boyce explained that Stephen does not necessarily always have cunning intentions like viewers may be inclined to believe.
"I think he’s always been a successful businessman and it’s just like a gambler," he said.
"He just thinks if I can just get that money in, then I can just make that money grow and then I’ll give it back to [Audrey].
"So, I just think he thinks he’s going to take her money out of her house, turn it into something bigger and pay it back."
Reflecting on why Stephen has become a lying and scheming character, Boyce said: "I want my mother’s approval. I’m too proud.
"I was always the guy with the cash and the cars and the factories, and it’s crashing.
"I just don’t want that facade to disappear. So I’ll do anything to keep it up and get it back."