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EastEnders' Aidan O'Callaghan discusses male rape storyline

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The following article contains discussion of themes including sexual assault that some readers may find upsetting.

EastEnders spoilers follow.

EastEnders newcomer Lewis Butler has certainly made an impression in Walford as the new barman of gay bar The Prince Albert, but that is all about to change for the worse next week when he is involved in the sexual assault of Ben Mitchell (Max Bowden).

A groundbreaking storyline concerning the issue of consent within the LGBTQ+ community, the actor who plays Lewis, Aidan O'Callaghan, has spoken about taking on such an important role and the sensitivity required in portraying the events and their aftermath.

"I knew from day one. I had discussions with my agent and with EastEnders in terms of what the storyline would contain and the mature sensitivity of it," O'Callaghan told the Irish Examiner. "We worked closely with various organisations, such as Male Survivors Partnership and Survivors UK, in order to make sure this story is told in an accurate way.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Related: EastEnders to clash with Coronation Street during Britain's Got Talent week

"You want to build up that character. You want to have an idea of the storyline that's coming. But some parts of the building of that character mean you have to forget [what's coming for Lewis]. You want people to see depth to that character. We were working closely to ensure the arc is built. It's my first experience of playing that genre of a storyline, with that depth."

The Witcher: Blood Origin star also spoke about the significance of this story for queer representation on screen.

"You want to have that representation because it's important to have it [on television]. But in the same breath, you want to portray a character where sexuality is not a massive thing – it is one part of him. You're constantly trying to juggle those things. As an actor, you are thinking about it all and the importance of showing a complex character and multiple parts of him."

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Related: 15 EastEnders spoilers for next week

Opening up on being involved with the storyline, Bowden recently spoke exclusively to Digital Spy about the pressure he felt to honour those who had experienced such a situation.

"As with everything, there's an element of excitement that you're being trusted within these situations, but also an element of fear because we have such a duty to tell the story correctly. You're very afraid to get to get it wrong because it's not my story I'm telling, it's the story of the survivors, and that was what was brilliant about working with, in particular, Duncan [Craig, CEO of Survivors Manchester]. He was meticulous about the detail that he'd gone through and it made me appreciate just how pivotal and important this story was."

EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One and streams on BBC iPlayer.

Read more EastEnders spoilers on our dedicated homepage.

If you've been affected by the topics raised in this story, then numerous organisations can offer help and support including SurvivorsUK (0203 598 3898 or help@survivorsuk.org), Survivors Manchester (0808 800 5005 or support@survivorsmanchester.org.uk) and the Male Survivors Partnership (0808 800 5005 or hello@malesurvivor.co.uk). In an emergency, please dial 999.

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