Acid attack victim Ross Barton’s life hangs in the balance in next week’s Emmerdale when he attempts to take his own life. Pete finds him in the woods after a booze and pills binge – but is he too late to save his brother?
Since the violent attack with a corrosive substance that left him with extreme facial scarring, traumatised Ross has become a shell of his former cocky self as he struggles to adapt to his altered physical appearance and endure the pain of his scars, as well the fear of the incident itself.
When he hears the attack suspect is pleading not guilty, the anxious mechanic is tipped over the edge. “Ross is constantly living in fear and this throws a lot of things into question,” reveals Michael Parr, who plays the beleaguered Barton brother. “Have they got the right guy? If he gets off there’s more of a chance of him still being out there.”
Well-meaning Pete encourages his sibling to step outside and face the world and gets him to agree to a trip to the Woolpack, but it takes much convincing. “Ross has found it difficult to leave the house, never mind go to a public place where he feels everyone is looking at him,” continues Parr. “He meets these girls and thinks they’re interested, but they tease him and it makes things even worse.
“Ross knew it was a bad idea and it knocks his confidence, which was very low in the first place.”
The day after the disastrous excursion to the Woolie, Pete panics when he realises Ross has gone missing. Fearing he may have done something drastic considering his unstable state of mind, he sets off to find him – but where is he?
“Ross goes to a place he used to visit with his dad and his brothers to reminisce about a time when he was happier,” sighs Parr. “So much has happened, not just the scarring but also he lost his dad, mum and brother in a short space of time. He’s in constant agony and is reliant on pills and starting to drink to numb the physical and emotional pain.
“He also develops an infection on his wounds which gets into his bloodstream, causing even more problems.”
Pete eventually tracks down Ross’s abandoned car and finds an empty whisky bottle and a pack of painkillers, then spots his brother nearby rapidly losing consciousness. “Ross has been spiralling out of control and by now he is practically suicidal and definitely in self-destruct mode,” says Parr. “The old Ross is gone and it’s all about discovering what is left of him. He’s got to keep soldiering on, he’s still a dad to Moses and has that animal instinct to look after his dependent.”
As Pete cradles his broken brother, viewers will have to wait to discover Ross’s fate and the long-term effects of the acid attack on the character, and Parr admits the demanding storyline has been more challenging than he imagined.
“It’s been incredibly difficult and new territory for me. At times I’ve not felt very confident in my performance because I don’t want to make any mistakes and get somebody’s real story wrong. I’ve done lots of research and I hope I’m portraying this as truthfully as I can.
“As an actor playing this role you can escape that mindset, but for a real victim it is constantly there. The pain and reminders never go away for these poor people.”
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