As Pierce Harris is set to return to Emmerdale soon, actor Jonathan Wrather tells us his delusional' alter-ego is likely to try and 'wriggle his way out' of Rhona's rape allegation

Emmerdale’s much talked-about rape storyline, which has seen Rhona violently attacked by husband Pierce, is about to enter a new chapter in the coming weeks, as twisted solicitor Pierce returns to the village.

Actor Jonathan Wrather gives us a heads-up about what Pierce has been up to – and how his character is likely to react to Rhona’s allegation.

Pierce will soon return to the village. What do you think has been going on in his head whie he’s been away?
“The only word to describe Pierce is delusional. He has this capacity to switch off and believe his own narrative. If he says something enough, he’ll believe it, and it becomes truth to him. And he has a duality to his character, so he has the capacity to be very loving, caring and tender and a well adjusted, intelligent, coherent human being – all the things that, on the exterior, the other villagers see – but he is also quite sinister.

“So I imagine he’s just been carrying on life as usual, as if nothing has gone amiss. He’s just been going to work as normal, I suspect. In his mind, he thinks, ‘This is just normal. Everything’s just the same, as it should be.’”

So is it likely that he’ll have the cheek to just waltz back into the village and suggest Rhona has made everything up?
“Yes. At the time of the rape, he went back to the reception at the Woolpack, and he was able to just put a spin on it, telling people that Rhona was back at home, she’d had a little bit too much to drink, and wasn’t feeling too great. So he has the ability just to switch it off like that.”

This is a tricky storyline for Emmerdale – there’s a responsibility to encourage victims of rape to report the crime, but the truth is that it’s very difficult to get someone convicted. So how is the show approaching this?
You’re right. There is a great responsibility, and we have worked very hard on researching the whole subject. We’ve had access to various case studies and people who’ve experienced these kinds of relationships.

“I think most people’s idea is that the perpetrator preys on women, but actually this has been a sort of innocuous chipping away at Rhona, who is ostensibly a very confident, savvy, independent woman. She’s not the kind of person that one might immediately expect to get trapped into this kind of destructive, coercive relationship, but it just highlights that, actually, it can happen to the people that you least expect.

“Equally, Pierce is a seemingly well-adjusted, intelligent, professional. So we think it’s been dealt with very truthfully and very sensitively, and the response has been phenomenal.”

As a man who knows how to manipulate situations, is it going to be difficult to pin anything on Pierce?
Yes. We don’t know if he’s going to break. We don’t know if he’s going to wriggle his way out of this. But certainly we know that, as a solicitor, he has the wherewithal and the means to work the law to his favour, and we’ve seen him manipulate situations constantly.”

Is there a chance he might crack at some point?
We don’t know yet. If he does, it’ll be quite interesting, and then what will happen after that, I don’t know. Can he be rehabilitated? Can he live with himself? Could others? Could he be redeemable? I guess everyone is, ultimately, but it really depends how far he goes, I think.”

Is it fair to say that there’s no way back for Pierce and Rhona, as a couple?
I don’t think there’s a way back for them, as a couple, certainly not in Rhona’s mind. Pierce is still contesting that he loves her and everything he did was because he loved her; he was protecting her from meddling friends. But we’ve seen her see the light, as it were. I don’t think there’s any going back for her.”

Would you like Pierce to get away with his crime for as long as possible? Because presumably if he gets his just desserts, then that will mean you leaving the show…
I think there’s lots of scope for what can happen beyond this, as there is in reality. It’s a very complex situation. It’s never cut and dry because, from the victim’s point of view, not everybody reports these things straight away, and it’s a situation which isn’t straightforward.

“I think people would go, ‘Oh, just report it; dob him in,’ but it’s a lot more complex than that. We’ll see that unfurl as we go on. We see Rhona hesitating as to whether or not to name Pierce. She feels intimidated, she’s sort of ashamed, she doesn’t want to be pitied. And she wants to be in control of the situation because she’s been in a situation where she has been controlled. It throws up all sorts of issues which make it very difficult to work through.”

Are you enjoying this role?
“Yeah, it’s brilliant stuff to play because it’s very layered and textured. As actors, you usually take on a role or a job, whether it be on TV or on stage, and the script is there, and it’s a journey that you plot. This one is kind of open-ended, and it gives you the opportunity to mould it, whichever way you might. It sort of finds its own way, but at the same time, you bounce off what the writers provide, and the writers bounce off what you provide. It’s a great opportunity to create a character from scratch and I’ve loved that aspect of it. I think it’s wonderful!”