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'Emmerdale' Gemma Oaten: 'Ashley, Sandy abuse plot is heartbreaking'

By
Rachel Breckle from Emmerdale

© ITV

Emmerdale star Gemma Oaten has admitted that the soap's elder abuse storyline has been "heartbreaking" to film.

The actress's character Rachel Breckle has recently become concerned that village vicar Ashley Thomas (John Middleton) is mistreating his frail father Sandy (Freddie Jones).

As Sandy is reluctant to accept Rachel's help and nobody else believes that anything is wrong, the plot will continue to progress for some time to come.

Oaten today (March 19) told Lorraine: "I think when it first came up, I didn't actually realise the scale of the storyline. To prepare for it, I started looking into Action on Elder Abuse, which is a charity for the protection of vulnerable older people.

"I realised that this is a subject that [there isn't much] awareness of, and it was quite heartbreaking to film, really, because I'm very close to my granddad and my grandparents. My grandma died with Alzheimer's a couple of years ago, so it's really touched me."

Ashley is shocked when Rachel comes downstairs having heard him arguing with Sandy. When Rachel shows signs of being suspicious, Ashley tells her they won't be needing a cleaner for a while

© ITV

Rachel visits Sandy after she hears Ashley say he is not well enough to come to the pub. When she arrives, she discovers he did not come because he could not get himself there

© ITV



Oaten said that viewers can expect a complex portrayal of the issue as Ashley will not be painted merely as a villain.

"It's really not a black and white storyline, as it pans out over the next few months," she explained. "It's not clear-cut at all that Ashley is being 'evil'.

"It can affect so many people, and there's a thing called passive abuse, where people are actually neglecting their elders without really realising what they're doing. It's about holding your hands up and saying, 'I can't cope anymore'."

Oaten, who joined Emmerdale last summer, added that she is hoping for a long future with the programme.

"I don't want to go anywhere. As long as they'll have me, I'm very happy at Emmerdale at the minute," she said. "I hope to take Rachel further. The viewers seem to be really getting behind her and I'm loving it. I wouldn't want to go anywhere else at the minute."

Emmerdale airs weeknights on ITV1.

> Emmerdale spoiler pictures - Sandy left injured by Ashley
> Read more Emmerdale spoilers and news

Watch a preview of tonight's (March 19) Emmerdale episode in the video below:

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