In Emmerdale, troubled Lachlan has been caught with porn on his laptop and is forever peering at a computer screen. He clearly has issues and it became apparent that Lachlan is a danger to others when he sexually assaulted Alicia.
What were your thoughts when you first saw the script?
“There is a social problem that you don’t hear about. When Kate [Oates, Emmerdale producer] told me about the story, I did a search online and saw that there had been four high-profile cases involving children assaulting older women between October and December last year.”
How do you relate to this situation yourself?
“I find the world we are living in a scary place. In the course of my research, I found that alongside those attacks on women, there were countless pornographic websites almost glorifying them. Kids have access to all kinds of unsuitable content, but as a parent, what do you do?”
What happen between your character and Lachlan?
“Lachlan follows Alicia into the shop. He wants to have his say because he doesn’t believe what he did was wrong. He believes Alicia led him on. As the adult in the situation, Alicia thinks, ‘Why would a child think that is all right?’”
But the story goes deeper than just the assault itself?
“This is not a story about a sexual assault, it is a story about how a mother deals with a child who has issues and how a couple try and put their lives back together after an incident like this.”
What did you do when you heard you had this major storyline coming up?
“It was during the summer and I went back to basics. I bought a tent and I took Freddie camping a few times with family and friends. I was like ‘We are not having TV or iPads, we are getting a stove and we are cooking outside.’
“We really enjoyed it. He is two and a half now and I loved seeing him reacting to being outdoors so positively. When I was growing up, my mum used to take me walking up mountains in the Lake District and we went camping all the time. I didn’t go on a proper package holiday until I was 19.
How have things changed since you were a child?
“It was so different when I was growing up compared to how it is now. I didn’t get a mobile phone until I was 15 and there wasn’t such a thing as social media. The internet was something you used to locate a book or do your science revision. Me and my friends used to read Sugar magazine in my bedroom. It was all so much more innocent.”
As a parent, how do you keep Freddie safe?
“Freddie plays on our iPad under supervision. He knows how to use it and I know that if we leave him faffing around, anything can come up. As a parent, you can’t keep tabs on your children the whole time and it shocks me that there don’t seem to be any pass codes or privacy preventing access.
“There is parental control, but then kids will go to school and look at stuff on their phones. I find it very disturbing and I don’t know what I am going to do when Freddie is older. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.”
Did you find this storyline a challenge?
“I have never experienced anything like this in my life. It is quite draining, but I am relishing the challenge. I knew this intense period was coming up and I wanted to be mentally alert for it, so I started juicing in order to get lots of nutrients in my body quickly. It also helps with your moods. A lot of us do it at Emmerdale – ‘Juicy’ Lucy Pargeter [Chas] has given me some tips and Matthew Wolfenden [David] is doing it too.
“I haven’t had much time to exercise, but I rely on Freddie for those feel good hormones as I do a lot of running around after him.”
After an intense experience like this, how do you relax?
“When I have been crying at work all week, I really relish my weekends, when I am Natalie with my husband and Freddie who is the light of my life. We’re regularly outdoors and spend a lot of time laughing.
“I discussed the storyline with James as soon as I found out and he’s been amazing – he’s cooked me some lovely hot dinners. After filming heavy scenes, I come home and we talk it through. It’s like therapy. When I did the actual assault stuff, I’d come home and he’d have tea ready, a glass of wine poured and a hot bath run. I am very lucky – I have the most incredible husband in the land!”