Chantelle Atkins (Jessica Plummer) is set to tragically die in EastEnders at the hands of abusive husband Gray (Toby-Alexander Smith).
In scenes which viewers will see next week, Chantelle attempt to escape from her abuser by setting off on what she calls a ‘last-minute’ holiday.
Her plans are scuppered when Gray insists the kids stay with him. Eventually, he joins them on the trip, but insists that they later return home, and — when they do so — Chantelle reveals that she’s leaving him.
However, the storyline reaches a tragic end, as Chantelle is killed by Gray in upsetting scenes.
The aim of the story is to highlight the harsh reality of what goes on behind closed doors, and to reflect how situations like that of Chantelle’s can and often do end in tragedy.
Speaking about the importance of this story — and why its even more important after lockdown — actor Toby-Alexander Smith said: ‘When I was speaking to Woman’s Aid, they were telling me how many women are contacting their Live Chat service to say their partners are using the pandemic as a tool to their advantage. I was shocked.
‘It was awful before, no doubt about it, but no one could have predicted how devastating Covid-19 would be to those in abusive relationships.
‘To even comprehend that something as devastating as this virus and people have actually used it to cause more harm is just awful.
‘And that’s one of the things that I really discussed long and hard with Woman’s Aid. Since lockdown, there has been a staggering increase in deaths, a staggering increase in people reaching out, so for Gray I think lockdown just catapulted his behaviour and his psyche into becoming as bad as it could possibly be.’
‘It’s certainly going to be a shock for the audience and I think that it is important that it concludes in such a tragic way. So we’re encouraging women to speak out before that does happen because sadly it is happening.
‘And it’s happening more and more frequently. And the importance of this storyline is to give the women courage to speak out and to know that people are listening and to know that there are services out there to help.
‘As shocking as it is to watch hopefully it will give the survivors out there the courage to reach out and get help.’
‘I hope it will encourage conversations and let survivors out there know that people are listening. I hope it gives them the courage to speak out.
‘We’ve all heard stories during lockdown of statistics rising, and I hope this storyline will spark a lot of conversation. It’s not just the fact that Gray kills Chantelle, it’s all the other little incidents along the way, I think we’ve covered the whole of that spectrum, that not one single bit of his behaviour has been acceptable.
‘ I just hope that anyone experiencing any sort of behaviour like that will talk about it and relate to it. I’ve already been told by Woman’s Aid that people have contacted them and said I think my friend is in a similar situation to the Gray and Chantelle situation in EastEnders.’
One to watch: Friday September 18 at 8:30pm on BBC One.
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