“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.” – Executive Producer, EastEnders, Jon Sen
Following the dramatic events which took place on the Thames during the 35th anniversary, viewers are set to see Ben struggle to come to terms with his additional loss of hearing after suffering a head injury leaving him finding it difficult to communicate. In certain upcoming episodes, viewers will notice different audio differences when Ben is on screen and unable to hear other characters.
As part of the storyline, Walford is set to welcome Rose Ayling-Ellis, a deaf actress who will play a new deaf character called Frankie. This storyline will explore what it means to be deaf in the UK today, and shine a spotlight on some of the experiences and challenges deaf people go through.
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.
“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!” – Rose Ayling-Ellis, playing the character of Frankie
Upon the return of Ben last April EastEnders faced a backlash when the ‘sexed up’ character seemingly didn’t have a hearing problem anymore – a small hearing aid was later reintroduced into plots for Ben some weeks later.
Yasmine Maalik (Haiesha Mistry) was left deaf following a terrorist explosion that almost claimed her life in Hollyoaks last September.
Racist right wing extremist Jonny (Ray Quinn) blew up his racist bomb in scenes that saw Yasmine rushed to hospital where later it became apparent she would survive the attack, however she’d lost her hearing. The socially aware Channel 4 saga has seen the character using a voice app on her phone to talk to others.
In 2018 ITV serial Coronation Street aired a scene where extras were seen using sign language as part of Deaf Awareness Week. Last month the Salford produced soap also revealed that they would be bringing to screens a story around caring for a deaf child. In the scenes new parents of four, Chesney and Gemma, are to go through the steps of raising a baby without hearing and Corrie of course lead the way with a major onscreen presence of a deaf character when they introduced Freda Burgess in 2005.
“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. – Rosie Eggleston, who leads the National Deaf Children’s Society’s work with deaf young people