EastEnders is to introduce a brand-new character called Frankie who will join the soap as part of a storyline involving Ben Mitchell.
Fans were left stunned when Ben – who’s played by Max Bowden in the BBC soap – appeared to be struggling with additional hearing loss following a head injury during the dramatic boat crash on the Thames last week.
The soap has confirmed Ben’s fresh struggle and announced that Frankie – played by deaf actress Rose Ayling-Ellis – will be arriving in Walford as part of the storyline.
Ayling-Ellis said: “I am so excited to be joining the cast of EastEnders and I am equally proud to be one of the first Deaf actresses to be part of this iconic soap. I can't wait for everyone to meet Frankie!”
EastEnders has worked closely with the National Deaf Children’s Society as well as experts in the field to ensure the storyline is portrayed as accurately as possible.
Rosie Eggleston, who leads the society’s work with deaf young people, said:
“From my work with so many deaf young people up and down the country, I’ve heard time and time again how demoralising it is for them to never see themselves, their stories or their life experiences reflected in the TV programmes they love.
“This major new storyline on EastEnders could turn that on its head, and it’s an important step towards making deaf people’s lives more visible and better understood.
“It’s been brilliant to put the team at EastEnders in touch with deaf young people because they’ve been able to hear first-hand what it’s like to grow up deaf in the UK today. For the UK’s 50,000 deaf children and young people, representation like this is just so important.”
The show’s executive producer Jon Sen said: “It has been a long-time ambition of EastEnders to reflect the experience of the deaf community and Ben’s new story was the perfect opportunity to do that. We are thrilled to be working with Rose, who will play the part of Frankie.”
EastEnders continues on BBC One at 7.30pm on Monday.