Emmerdale star John Middleton is glad that the show is “exposing” the issue of elder abuse

As fans of Emmerdale will know, the storyline between Vicar Ashley Thomas and his elderly father Sandy is gathering a sinister pace as tensions between the pair get worse…

And John Middleton, who of course plays Ashley, has told TV Times magazine that when he first read the scripts, and heard what the show’s writers had in store, he couldn’t see his mild mannered character in the role of abuser.

However, he added that when he gave some thought to the issue, and having researched the controversial subject of elder abuse, he began to feel differently.

He said, “When I found out, my first thought was, ‘This isn’t Ashley’. But at the same time, I thought, ‘OK, let’s say that it is’, and I saw it as a huge challenge.

“A departure that takes me into a whole new area for the character…”

And of how he feels about working alongside Freddie Jones, who plays Sandy, John said, “My dad took me to see a play when I was 14. It was practically a one-hander starring Freddie and I was awestruck.

“At that moment, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I have an immense respect for him as an actor, but I also feel a deal of care towards him.

“There is this one nasty scene and the stunt double said, ‘I think Freddie can do this.’ I was having to treat him roughly and I did not like it.

“I took the stunt double, Rocky, to one side and said, ‘I want to do this with you’. They swapped and I was able to let go. Afterwards, I told Rocky, ‘You get paid for the pain.'”

And of the issue at the heart of the plotline, John – who previously played the role of PC John Jarvis who attended the raid on the post office in Emmerdale before he was cast in the role of Ashley – said, “A lot of people in my generation are having to look after elderly parents and they absolutely understand the pressure that Ashley is under.

“I am glad we are exposing this issue and if we get the message out that people are not alone, there is help out there for them, then I would be delighted.

“It’s a burning issue and it’s something people are too embarrassed to talk about.”

Finally, of the effect the whole situation will have on Ashley long term, John said, “It’s going to involve huge changes for Ashley, very traumatic changes.

“It will be the biggest thing that’s happened to him in the entire time that I’ve been on the show.

“It is very, very exciting for me as an actor, but I will be sad if his family falls apart because I have a wonderful working relationship with Charlotte Bellamy, who plays Laurel.”

He added, “I’m contracted until December this year and I hope that I am still there after that because I love this job.

“I adore working with the team and I don’t just mean the actors. Everyone from the make-up people to the sound technicians is in the business of telling stories.

“We’re all equals. That’s what I love about it here.”

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.