Emmerdale actor John Middleton is set to appear in a one-off hour special, it has been confirmed.
John, who plays Ashley Thomas in the ITV series, will lead an episode dedicated solely to his character’s struggle with dementia.
The Emmerdale bosses and production team have worked very closely with Alzeimer’s Society and MHA (Methodist Homes) to produce the episode and will give viewers a chance to see what it is really like to have the disease on a day-to-day basis.
The writers are however, keeping the storyline tightly under wraps.
Producer Iain McLeod says: “People living with dementia face challenges most of us can barely imagine. So, I took it as a challenge to help people picture this experience – to put them inside the mind of someone living with this condition.
“With this chapter of Ashley’s story, we set out to give people an insight into how ordinary, day-to-day experiences can become disorientating and distressing when refracted through the lens of dementia.
“Catching a bus, the apparently simple act of buying something in a shop, holding a conversation – all of these become tasks of Herculean scale.
“By telling the episode solely from Ashley’s point of view and seeing things the way he sees them, I hope we’re showing a side of dementia that is seldom represented on television.”
The episode will focus on Ashley leaving hospital and heading out into the streets alone. We can already tell this will be an emotional watch.
Iain added: “At its core, this has always been a love story between Ashley and his wife Laurel, and this episode is a heart-breaking landmark in the evolution of their relationship.”
Kathryn Smith, the director of operations at Alzheimer’s Society, was thankful that the soap was delving into what it’s really like to have the disease: “We are incredibly moved that Emmerdale will be filming an episode dedicated to showing the audience the world from Ashley’s point of view.
“Storylines like this can help people raise awareness of dementia and help them to understand how dementia can impact a person’s ability to think, communicate, process new information and break down the stigma that is still associated with the disease.”
Theresa Knight, from MHA, added: “We have been closely involved with Emmerdale since the team contacted us wanting John to visit one of the care homes for people living with dementia.
“Since then we have been involved in feeding back on scripts and storylines involving Ashley as his condition deteriorates.
“We have been delighted as to how seriously the whole team at Emmerdale is taking the storyline and the lengths they are going to in their research.”
The episode will be out next month.
Get the tissues at the ready!