EastEnders‘ consent storyline is the focus of a special episode next week set entirely in the Queen Vic and focused solely on the controversial plot that saw Ruby Allen (Louisa Lytton) sexually assaulted.
On Monday 26 November, Ruby receives confirmation both Ross Swinden (Ossian Luke) and Matt Clarkson (Mitchell Hunt) have been charged with rape. Ruby met the boys – old friends of Martin Fowler (James Bye) – on a night out clubbing and went home with Ross. She slept with him then passed out, before waking up with Matt on top of her.
Reporting the incident as non-consensual with the support of best friend, and Martin’s wife, Stacey Fowler (Lacey Turner), Ruby endures an awkward night in the pub on Thursday 29 November when Martin meets up with his pals as she overhears the locals discussing the case which has hit the Walford Gazette, but has not named her as the victim. RadioTimes.com spoke to Louisa Lytton about the hard-hitting story, and how a knight in shining armour is about to come to Ruby’s aid…
What’s the response been like to the consent storyline so far?
So many women have got in touch to say thank you for doing it, and how they were in a similar situation and it’s confirmed to them it was rape after initially not being believed. People have bought into the story, it’s sparked a lot of questions about ‘What is consent?’. EastEnders is trying to educate and open up the conversation among viewers.
Have you found it overwhelming to deal with?
As a woman you do think about these things. I can’t talk about these real cases to anyone, they are personal to them and I wouldn’t discuss them with anyone else, but in a selfish way it’s good the storyline has had the effect the show wanted it to have and has managed to support women in similar cases, and even helping them to move forward.
Has it made you reassess the subject for yourself?
It has made me talk about our experiences with my own circle of friends, they’re asking me questions about things we’ve been through. Its not something you ordinarily discuss, you’d think our generation would be the one to be open about it, but we’re not. I’ve never had those conversations with my friends before this storyline.
What effect has the response had on your performance?
Everyone reacts differently to a traumatic situation. The aftermath will go on for a long time and Ruby’s emotions change week by week, which is true to life. After doing research and seeing the response I found it easier when reading scripts to know what’s believable because of the other cases I’ve heard about.
How does Ruby feel when Ross and Matt are both charged?
She is shocked at first. In her mind she was raped by Matt, but doesn’t think what Ross did had anything to do with it – however, he is complicit in that he enabled it to happen and did nothing to stop it. There is a tiny bit of guilt they are Martin’s friends and she doesn’t want it to be awkward between them. Ruby knows it will go to a court case at some point but she doesn’t want to talk about it. She knows this is the right outcome but wants to put it to the back of her mind.
Does she fear people won’t believe her?
That self-doubt is one of the main reasons women don’t come forward. Ruby knows it didn’t feel right but for a long time doesn’t know if it was rape, or what she could’ve done to stop it. There’s massive paranoia everyone the whole world is looking at her, but no one is. Until the incident in the Vic…
What is different about the episode set entirely in the pub?
It’s one set, which is rare, and a smaller amount of characters interacting where we get to hear different views on rape and consent. The story is front page news but Ruby is not named, though that doesn’t stop everyone in the pub speculating about the case. She hears snippets of people’s views about young girls going out wearing short skirts and things like that, then sees Martin in the pub with his mates. Stacey is about to fly off the handle, Ruby doesn’t want to draw attention to herself, but also doesn’t want to storm off and arouse suspicion. Glenn comes in, the third guy from the night of the attack who wasn’t involved in the rape. She storms over to him and blurts it out, and everyone now knows it’s her.
Did you feel pressure of being the focus of the whole episode?
Everyone says how intimidating it is to film in the Queen Vic, even the likes of Steve McFadden an Letitia Dean – no matter how long you’re there, people still have the fear! I was really nervous doing it, my boyfriend didn’t understand the Vic fear with everyone looking at you!
How does Ruby react to the whole community knowing what happened to her?
She reverts back into herself again and doesn’t leave the house for a few days. Ruby is scared to face the world and thinks no one believes her. She has no one to turn to other than Stacey, she is really lonely, although after this you will see a support network start for her at last which involves Linda and Whitney. I have some nice scenes with Kellie Bright and Shona McGarty coming up.
Doesn’t she also find a friend in Jay?
Yes – he’s with her when she sees the newspaper story for the first time. They develop a nice friendship which becomes a safe place for her, he’s very soft and tentative and just a lovely guy. It becomes a bit ‘will they/won’t they’.
Could it turn into romance?
Initially, a relationship is the last thing she wants. But at the same time she needs the comfort of a man as she doesn’t have a father figure. So that’s how it starts – Ruby just needs a friend! It would be nice for the character to have a romance as we’ve not seen that since she’s come back. As fun as it is for Ruby to live the single life I don’t think that will happen so much after what she’s gone through. Jamie Borthwick is brilliant and like my little brother, we get on well. However, the fact Jay is on the sex offenders register hasn’t come up yet… If Ruby knew about that her reaction would be concern for what everyone else might think – it wouldn’t look good against her case going forward…
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