EastEnders star Gurlaine Kaur Garcha talks Ash Panesar racism storyline

·3-min read

EastEnders spoilers follow.

EastEnders star Gurlaine Kaur Garcha has revealed more on Ash Panesar's upcoming racism storyline.

Next week, Ash will be left shocked and upset when a patient refuses to be treated by her because she's not white.

"She's definitely in disbelief and in denial," Gurlaine said about Ash's reaction to the incident. "She knows what the woman is saying but she's thinking 'surely she can't mean it – surely this isn't happening'.

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

"It doesn't matter how many times it happens to you – it's always a shock and the denial and disbelief is always there. It's like your worst fears are coming true, so you try to deny it but she's definitely in shock."

Gurlaine went on to say that Ash will have encountered racism before in her career and in her life but she's "always dealt with it by being the bigger person and putting on a smile but how long can that smile last before the cracks start to show?"

After work, Ash then has to deal with cab driver Harvey Monroe on the way home, days after she vomited on his cab after a night out.

Speaking about the scenes with Harvey, Gurlaine said: "She's already feeling awkward and uncomfortable because she's thrown up in his cab, she's ready to rectify it until he says something to her that is offensive and on top of the day she's just had – it really doesn't help.

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

"I think you'll see Ash in a new light in this scene, this is when things crack for her and she's had enough. We've not really seen that with Ash yet. It was a difficult scene to film because you want to do it justice for people watching at home who have sadly encountered something similar – how Ash is feeling is how they felt. It was difficult to film but Ross, who plays Harvey, was brilliant."

Gurlaine said that reading the week's scripts made her emotional because she had recently encountered a racial verbal attack.

Earlier this year, Gurlaine had opened up about the abuse she experienced, saying it was "deeply, deeply shocking".

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

"In a completely unprovoked attack, I was told by a woman to go back home, to return to wherever I've come from, and to stay there," Gurlaine said in June. "The initial shock was that someone was so comfortable to say this to me in public, not once but several times. It made me feel angry, sad, and embarrassed.

"It upset me, and as a result of being upset, I felt weak."

Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC
Photo credit: Kieron McCarron/Jack Barnes - BBC

Speaking about the importance of EastEnders doing this storyline, Gurlaine said: "We need to bring awareness to it, there are so many different things that people say – slurs or microaggressions that are played off as a joke or throwaway comments, when really it's all racism.

"In Ash's case she experiences two very different situations, one is directly about where she's from and the other is more throwaway but they both have the same impact so it's important to highlight that neither are okay.

"I think EastEnders did a great job of highlighting the two very different incidents."

EastEnders airs on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays on BBC One.

Read more EastEnders spoilers on our dedicated homepage

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