Emmerdale‘s controversial grooming storyline takes another tense turn this week when twisted teacher Maya Stepney (Louisa Clein) fears she is losing control over obsessed pupil Jacob Gallagher (Joe-Warren Plant) and he threatens to reveal their inappropriate relationship to his dad, and her lover, David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden). Deciding to flee the village before she is exposed, Maya ends up knocked unconscious – but how?
Manipulative Miss Stepney has been playing with schoolboy Jake’s affection for months, luring him into a forbidden romance and making him believe she wants to be with him, while emotionally blackmailing her pupil into keeping quiet about their illicit passionate liaisons as she enjoys the power she exerts.
- Emmerdale’s James Moore speaks out on diversity on TV after NTA win
- Emmerdale brings back Amy Wyatt… but not Chelsea Halfpenny
- Dean Andrews joins Emmerdale as new enemy of Cain Dingle
Now Maya worries she has lost control over Jacob as she grows increasingly close to pal Liv Flaherty (Isobel Steele), and meddled by telling Aaron Dingle (Danny Miller) the teens are alone at Mill Cottage knowing how Liv’s hot-headed brother will react. Storming in to find them cuddled up together, protective Aaron threw Jacob out and the besotted boy soon turns back to Maya again.
“Maya is not used to Jacob challenging her,” reveals Clein. “He adores her and she has the authority. When he’s with Liv that changes, Maya panics she has lost control. She interferes and because he is so utterly emotionally invested in May, Jacob doesn’t realise he is being manipulated. It’s a game of cat and mouse.”
After a comment from Aaron, Jacob realises that meddlesome Maya was the one to tip Liv’s sibling off leading to his dressing down, and he fumes at his crush for messing with his emotions. “Maya sees the relationships with Jacob and David as being two completely separate things,” continues Clein. “There are moments of guilt when the two cross over as she then has a realisation of the consequences of her actions.”
Those consequences could soon be very real when Maya tries to apologise only for Jacob to reject her advances before threatening to tell David about their scandalous romance – so she makes the impulsive decision to escape the village…
“It’s very cowardly – she can’t face the fallout and is panicking. She is frightened at losing control of the situation and is running away, but she hasn’t thought it through at all.
“In her panicked state as she’s packing she stands on a chair to pull a suitcase from the top of the wardrobe, but it flings back and knocks her to the floor. She’s unconscious so we don’t know what the damage is at that point. There is blood…”
Will Maya be arrested if she survives her fall?
Maya’s fate beyond the accident remains a secret until the episodes air next week, but even without this moment of jeopardy the plot about a teacher’s exploitation of a vulnerable pupil remains one of the most talked-about of the moment. “It’s a really important story to tell and I feel an enormous responsibility,” admits the actress. “It’s always interesting to play flawed characters, not to find a justification for the terrible things she’s doing but to try and understand the psychology of why someone behaves this way.
“Emmerdale has been incredibly supportive and done lots of research, including workshops with (children’s charity) Barnardo’s. We’ve spoken to victims of abuse and had the opportunity to ask them questions and advise on how people react in these situations. It’s had a strong reaction which is good, people find it difficult to watch and they should – we don’t want this to be romantic or titilating, it is uncomfortable and wrong.
“From the research, I’ve learnt women who behave like Maya are entirely single-minded in getting what they want with no sense of consequence or how it affects others. Maya is insecure and is constantly seeking support and encouragement, if she lacks it from David then Jacob offers it her.”
If she survives being knocked out, will Maya wake up to being arrested if Jacob sees through his threat of revealing their relationship? And how will David, and the village, react?
Visit our dedicated Emmerdale page for all the latest news, interviews and spoilers.