Val and Eric Pollard are to split up in an upcoming episode after Eric rejects his wife’s advances in the wake of her HIV diagnosis.
In scenes to be shown on Monday 10 March, viewers will see Eric (Chris Chittell) turn his face away from Val when she leans in for a kiss – a sure sign that something is wrong between the pair of them.
“It’s devastating for Val,” says actress Charlie Hardwick. “He tries to say that she’s taken him by surprise, but inside something is dying for both of them. It’s Eric’s subconscious that’s doing it. On the outside, he’s thinking, ‘oh, here’s my lovely wife’. But, on the inside, he’s being repelled because he’s so terrified.”
And matters get even worse when Eric he sets about trying to stage a reconciliation, only for his efforts to backfire.
“Val and Eric have always expressed their love and passion for each other physically. But when he suggests they go upstairs, it doesn’t go to plan. He ends up nipping back downstairs, ostensibly to grab a bottle of wine. But he ends up sitting on the sofa with his head in his hands. He just can’t do it.
“Val realises that the situation isn’t going to change. She acknowledges that they love each other very much, but says that it will have to end. She knows that the only thing they can do is to be good to each other and separate. They know that being friends is not enough for either of them.”
Hardwick is under no illusions about what the future holds for her character, predicting spiralling angst and misery as Val fails to cope with the break-up:
“She says she’s going to stop drinking, as her doctor recommended. But the next day she goes on a bender. The road to Damascus doesn’t quite happen. But you never know what will happen. She could go wildly off the rails or she could quietly cope with it. People do have reserves that they can dig into – but I am a bit concerned about her.”
However, in the long term, the actress does hope that Val and Eric will find a way to get through their current problems. “The biological side of the HIV can be managed, but the big question is what it does to Val’s sense of self, which is very much hinged on her sexuality. Hopefully she and Eric will work this out.”