Emmerdale star John Middleton talks to TV Times magazine about his recent controversial storyline…

We’ve been shocked to see Ashley taking out his anger on his dad, Sandy. It’s such a transformation in character…
“When I found out, my first thought was, ‘This isn’t Ashley’. But at the same time, I thought, ‘OK, let’s say that it is’, and I saw it as a huge challenge. A departure that takes me into a whole new area for the character.”

Freddie Jones, who plays Sandy, is such a great actor. It must have been hard filming those violent scenes with him…
“My dad took me to see a play when I was 14. It was practically a one-hander starring Freddie and I was awestruck. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be an actor. I have an immense respect for him as an actor, but I also feel a deal of care towards him.”

Have there been any particularly tough scenes?
“There is this one nasty scene and the stunt double said, ‘I think Freddie can do this.’ I was having to treat him roughly and I did not like it. I took the stunt double, Rocky, to one side and said, ‘I want to do this with you’. They swapped and I was able to let go. Afterwards, I told Rocky, ‘You get paid for the pain.'”

Abuse of the elderly is an incredibly sensitive issue…
“A lot of people in my generation are having to look after elderly parents and they absolutely understand the pressure that Ashley is under. I am glad we are exposing this issue and if we get the message out that people are not alone, there is help out there for them, then I would be delighted. It’s a burning issue and it’s something people are too embarrassed to talk about.”

What else can you tell us about this storyline?
“It’s going to involve huge changes for Ashley, very traumatic changes. It will be the biggest thing that’s happened to him in the entire time that I’ve been on the show. It is very, very exciting for me as an actor, but I will be sad if his family falls apart because I have a wonderful working relationship with Charlotte Bellamy, who plays Laurel.”

Will we be seeing more of Ashley after this, then?
“I’m contracted until December this year and I hope that I am still there after that because I love this job. I adore working with the team and I don’t just mean the actors. Everyone from the make-up people to the sound technicians is in the business of telling stories. We’re all equals. That’s what I love about it here.”