EastEnders is set to introduce a new deaf character as part of an upcoming storyline featuring Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden).
During the dramatic 35th anniversary special, Ben was involved in a boat crash on the River Thames which left him with a head injury, resulting in additional hearing loss.
As he learns to cope with his condition, Walford will welcome a new deaf character called Frankie, portrayed by Rose Ayling-Ellis (Summer of Rockets).
She said: “I am so excited to be joining the cast of EastEnders and I am equally proud to be one of the first deaf actresses to be part of this iconic soap. I can’t wait for everyone to meet Frankie!”
The storyline will explore what it means to be deaf in the UK today, depicting the experiences and challenges that deaf people have on a daily basis.
The BBC soap has worked closely with experts in the field of hearing loss, as well as the National Deaf Children’s Society, to ensure the story is as accurate as possible.
The Society’s Rosie Eggleston said: “From my work with so many deaf young people up and down the country, I’ve heard time and time again how demoralising it is for them to never see themselves, their stories or their life experiences reflected in the TV programmes they love.
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“This major new storyline on EastEnders could turn that on its head, and it’s an important step towards making deaf people’s lives more visible and better understood.”
Charlie Swinbourne is part of the soap’s writing team and pitched this storyline, which has a personal connection to him.
“Being deaf myself, and a fan of the show from an early age, I’ve always looked out for Ben Mitchell’s character because he was the one who wore hearing aids!” he commented.
“I wanted to explore how losing more of his hearing affects Ben, as well as how it makes him see the world – and his deaf identity – a bit differently as time goes on.”
The new story will begin to unfold in the long-running soap opera in the coming weeks.