EastEnders newcomer Jonny Labey has revealed he’s received homophobic abuse over his controversial storyline in the show.
The 22-year-old actor has shot steamy scenes with co-star Harry Reid on the BBC One soap, as their characters Paul Coker and Ben Mitchell embark on a passionate secret affair.
Ben Mitchell and Paul Coker are having an affair (BBC)
“People would have been fine if it was a guy and a girl kissing. We need to move on from discrimination against gay men,” he told the Gay Times.
“It (the reaction) was all very positive, I thought, but it wasn’t until I got curious and started nosing around that I found the negative ones.”
One scene, which showed them stripping to their boxers in a funeral parlour in front of an open casket, attracted nearly 50 complaints to TV watchdog Ofcom.
Paul and Ben getting it on, in the Chapel of Rest, in front of Mrs Birch no less? That’s quite an undertaking… pic.twitter.com/yXT7yI4ndO
— BBC EastEnders (@bbceastenders) July 17, 2015
Jonny said there needs to be more understanding towards the issues gay people face.
“We’re not representing gay men in general, that’s something we’re certainly not doing. What we’re representing is people that felt uncomfortable coming out to their parents,” he explained.
Jonny Labey joined EastEnders in June (BBC)
“This is just the story of two gay men, and that story for us is that Ben is uncomfortable in coming out, and it’s the reaction of people who’re wanting him to come out.”
He continued: “No matter what the storyline is, there’ll be a backlash. But it doesn’t matter if it’s a rape storyline or a murder; there’s always people that are affected by them.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s gay or not, there’s people that don’t agree or aren’t comfortable watching. It’s 2015, you need to move on from this stupid discrimination against gay men!”
The actor announced he would be making his Albert Square debut in April, before he appeared on screens in June.
— Jonny Labey (@jonnylabey) May 27, 2015
“The first two weeks were unbelievable,” he said. “I had a topless scene, a crying scene, an argument and a kissing scene. It all went off.”
Harry previously admitted the pair had fun shooting the funeral parlour scenes.
He told What’s On TV: “Jonny and I loved filming Ben and Paul’s passionate scenes in the funeral parlour and did what we had to do. There was a lot of concentration needed and it was a cold day to be semi-naked!”