EastEnders star Toby-Alexander Smith has revealed that he'd like the show to explore how Gray and Chantelle Atkins's disturbing home life has been affected by lockdown.
The Walford soap has been portraying a domestic violence storyline with Gray and Chantelle, which has been playing out on screen for nearly a year.
After the UK went into lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, there was a surge in calls to domestic abuse helplines.
Charities such as Women's Aid have highlighted the need for more support to protect women and children from abusers during the pandemic.
Speaking to Digital Spy about Gray and Chantelle's story having added poignancy in the current situation, Toby told us: "The show has been working with Women's Aid and I've been on the phone to them a lot.
"There's been a staggering increase in domestic abuse. I think this lockdown has given people a bit of a wake-up call as to how bad it actually is. It should be at the top of everyone's agendas.
"It was incredibly important before, but even more so now. I've heard that people are calling up saying that they're relating to the Gray and Chantelle relationship because it mirrors their own.
"People are watching it, relating to it and getting help from it. We're doing our jobs and that's why we do it."
EastEnders will reference the COVID-19 situation in future episodes, but it is not expected to dominate the show's storylines.
Asked about EastEnders potentially showing how the lockdown affected things for Chantelle and Gray's story, Toby told us: "I think it'd be an important thing to explore, because it's so relevant right now.
"We don't have any scripts at the moment, so I don't know if we will, but I doubt the story will go away. I think it would make it even more relatable for anyone who's going through what Chantelle is right now."
EastEnders has announced plans to resume filming by the end of June, with strict social distancing measures in place.
The show paused its filming schedule in March, shortly before the UK went into lockdown.
Asked how he has found the past few months, Toby said: "I've missed being at work. I love it so much there. It's such a brilliant family of people to work with and there's always such a great energy on set.
"I've tried to stay positive, taking each day as it comes. I've also been counting my blessings, because I know some people have been having a really tough time over the past couple of months.
"I'm counting my blessings but looking forward to getting back to work and learning this new process of social distancing filming, which we'll all have to adopt. That will probably carry on for a while so I'm excited to take on a new challenge."
On whether the cast has been brought closer while staying in touch with each other, Toby added: "Yeah, definitely. We've been having Zoom calls and there are multiple WhatsApp groups as well.
"We've got a 'Taylors' WhatsApp group and then there's a full cast one, so we're all checking in on each other, which is really, really nice.
"If anyone is struggling or just needs someone to talk to, there's a really close-knit community, which is really nice and important. I think it's only going to make us closer when we go back to filming together."
EastEnders currently airs new episodes on Mondays and Tuesdays on BBC One.
Readers who are affected by the issues raised in this story are encouraged to contact Refuge (www.refuge.org.uk) or Women’s Aid (www.womensaid.org.uk). Both charities run the 24-hour, freephone National Domestic Violence Helpline, 0808 2000 247. The US National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
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