EastEnders airs a special episode on Thursday 29 November focused entirely on the rape storyline involving Ruby Allen (Louisa Lytton), unusually set in a single location and delving deep into one plot.
With a rape case making headlines in the local paper, punters in the Queen Vic gossip and speculate on the identity of the anonymous victim leading to a heated discussion on the topic of sexual consent among the locals – with Ruby forced to silently listen as she tries to enjoy a quiet drink with best mate Stacey Fowler (Lacey Turner).
Ruby’s efforts to ignore the chatter are not helped by the fact Martin Fowler (James Bye) is in the pub with his mates, the men who have been charged, and a showdown exposes Ms Allen as the rape victim mentioned in the article. RadioTimes.com spoke to Louisa Lytton about why EastEnders chose to break with the norm with this single-strand instalment, and the challenges of being at the centre.
What was different about the making of this episode?
The main thing is we have a director just for this episode, whereas usually it’s the same director for the whole block so immediately when they told us that I knew it was going to be different. It’s entirely set in the Vic with a smaller amount of characters, and lots of interaction with people I don’t normally see. It shows different characters’ views on rape and consent, trying to show it from everybody’s angle. It’s also shot slightly differently as you’ll see when you watch it.
Is it hard for Ruby to hear the locals discuss the case not knowing she is involved?
Everyone is speculating about the case. She thinks they’ll work out it’s her and hears snippets of people’s’ views which is uncomfortable. Then she sees the boys, Ross and Matt, are with Martin in the pub. Stacey is about to fly off the handle, Ruby wants to keep her quiet so as not to expose her, but she also doesn’t want to leave and arouse suspicion. Eventually Glenn comes in, the third guy out the night it happened but who wasn’t involved in the rape. She storms over to him and blurts it out, and then everyone now knows what happened to Ruby…
Did you feel added pressure being the focus and it being on one set?
I’d not been back on the show that long and hadn’t worked with half the people in the episode before, or not for many years. Everyone in the show says filming in the Vic is scary and intimidating, even the likes of Steve McFadden and Letitia Dean, actors I’m in awe of, no matter how long you’re there you still get the Queen Vic fear! I was really nervous in the lead-up, my boyfriend didn’t understand why – everyone was looking at me and I my knees would go weak!
Which newer cast members did you particularly enjoy working with?
Kellie Bright. Linda and Ruby share a really nice scene in the episode. Shona McGarty (Whitney Dean) and I have done some stuff together since then. After this you will see a support network start for Ruby.
What’s it like for Ruby after everyone knows?
She reverts back into herself again and doesn’t leave the house for a few days. Ruby becomes scared to face the world and can’t deal with it, and thinks no one believes her. From this point she goes back and forth with that for a while.
Why has EastEnders chosen to tackle a hard-hitting subject like this?
You hope it opens up conversations within families, in schools – a wide range of ages watch the show so you hope it reaches as many people as possible. We are just trying to educate. It’s pre-watershed so it’s not a graphic, difficult thing to watch, even though some have said it has been.
What has 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.
Visit our dedicatedEastEnders page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news