Rhona’s addiction to painkillers is to take her to new lows next week when she burgles the surgery, making it look like robbery by smashing the medical cabinet. It’s a desperate act from someone growing increasingly single-minded in her pursuit of pills, but actress Zoe Henry suggests that this is merely the tip of the iceberg:
“She’s reached a point where the cold turkey and the withdrawal are so bad that she’s just blinded by her need. It just takes over. It’s such an extreme thing to do but she’s just driven by the drug. She’s not herself, but it’s all going to get so much worse. We’ve already seen Vanessa be slapped by Rhona. For me, if I was Rhona’s friend, that would have been a wake-up call. But it does get way worse!”
The surgery break-in comes in the middle of a fraught week for Rhona who is told in no uncertain terms by best friend Vanessa (Michelle Hardwick) that if she fails to stop self-medicating, she will either overdose or die. But after Vanessa hides Rhona’s pills, a horrible confrontation ensues.
“Rhona is furious. She thinks Vanessa is just trying to interfere and control her,” says Henry. “But Rhona is just thinking about the drugs. It’s as base as that. Her behaviour is awful – god only knows why Vanessa puts up with it. I suppose it’s because they’ve got this history and are old friends, but I’m not sure I’d go the extra mile like Vanessa. She’s being treated appallingly.”
And then comes the possibility that Vanessa’s feelings for Rhona could run deeper than just friendship. So does Rhona realise that this could be the reason why Vanessa has been covering for her all this time?
“No, she doesn’t see that coming. She thinks they’ve been mates for 20 years and have been at uni together, so she doesn’t think that there’s an ulterior motive from Vanessa at all. But this is just the type of thing that Rhona could use to her advantage as she’s become manipulative and a great liar. She’s become everything that you don’t want in a best friend.”
Rhona’s degeneration into addiction has shocked viewers, but has Henry been surprised at the lengths her character will go to? “Well, we met with a guy a few months ago who’d been through something similar himself and he said not to underestimate what an addict would do to get what they need. That’s really stayed with me.
“What we also found from the research is that the majority of people addicted to painkillers are middle class, middle-aged women who are professionals and high achievers. And that surprised me. If I’d been asked who the biggest addicts to painkillers were, I would not have said people in that bracket.
“Soap operas need to tell relevant, popular stories that reflect what’s going on in people’s lives. I didn’t think I knew anybody that had a painkiller addiction, but it turns out that I do and that they just hadn’t talked to me about it. So doing this storyline has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done – mainly because I don’t want to let anybody down. Not just my colleagues and the people at ITV but also anybody who’s been through this kind of thing and is watching it.”