Emmerdale actor John Middleton has said his screen alter ego, vicar-turned-takeaway-worker Ashley Thomas, could be left ‘shattered’ if his wife Laurel rekindles her affair with Marlon Dingle.

Speaking to Inside Soap magazine John said that his character had already been hurt by the couple’s fling – and a reconciliation, now that he and Laurel have separated, would do him no favours.

“If Laurel goes to Marlon, Ashley will be shattered. I don’t think he’d even try to fight for her. This time, he’d have to accept it’s over,” he said.

He added that there was a chance the two could get back together after Marlon, played by Mark Charnock, provided a shoulder for Laurel (Charlotte Bellamy) to cry on in the wake of her marriage split.

“Ashley’s dreadfully hurt because this whole situation began when Laurel and Marlon grew so close. Now he can see it being rekindled in front of his eyes, and thinks that Marlon is taking advantage of the situation,” John said.

The actor added that it has been challenging for his character to go from hero to villain – especially with storylines which have seen him abuse his elderly father Sandy.

“This storyline has taken me on a very different journey as an actor, and variety is the spice of life,” he admitted.

“But I have found it uncomfortable – I don’t like being horrible to people I like so much!”

And he added that he has been surprised by viewers’ reactions to the change.

“I honestly thought I’d have to go round with a paper bag on my head. But actually, it’s been a very mixed response.

“Some people aren’t very happy with Ashley, but others have spoken of the strain they felt at having to look after their own elderly parent. There hasn’t been universal condemnation.”