We fight to improve the lives
of everyone affected by epilepsy

Warning message

This article was published in June 2015. The information may be out of date. Please check our epilepsy information or our site A-Z.

Emmerdale’s vicar Ashley Thomas develops epilepsy

8 Jun 2015

After a first seizure last week, Emmerdale’s long-running vicar Ashley Thomas was diagnosed with epilepsy only minutes ago! Epilepsy Action’s Claudia Christie describes the organisation’s involvement in writing the storyline and talks to actor John Middleton about his role

There’s never a quiet week in the land of soaps, but it’s a rare thing to have epilepsy portrayed in not one but two of the biggest soaps on network television.

After Epilepsy Action consulted on Nancy Carter’s epilepsy in last year EastEnders storyline, it’s now the turn of ITV1’s Emmerdale to raise awareness of the condition.

Village vicar Ashley Thomas – who was critically injured in a car accident just last week – has now been diagnosed with epilepsy.

Ashley is played by the actor John Middleton, who says of his dramatic new storyline: “I thought it would be a challenge – I thought it would be good to get [epilepsy] out there as an issue. I was very happy it was me!”

John is no stranger to Epilepsy Action. Only last year, John was the organisation’s guest of honour at its Leeds Christmas Carol Concert.

John continues: “I had previously done something for Epilepsy Action at Christmas in Leeds Minster, so I was very happy to do it.

Ashley Thomas, played by John Middleton“I didn’t know that much about [epilepsy] until I did the research into it. I began to I realise there are many sorts of seizure, about 40 different sorts. As I read the script, I realised that what the people who’d written this had in mind was a tonic-clonic seizure – and it was carefully researched. ‘Now that,’ I thought, ‘is challenging… I’ve got to try and get this right.’”

Epilepsy Action’s advice and information team had assisted Emmerdale’s writers in making sure the scenes were medically accurate. Meanwhile – with extensive online research, including Epilepsy Action’s own website – John became much more confident about portraying Ashley’s condition.

He continues: “The more I found out, the more I realised that epilepsy is different for each person. Nevertheless, as an actor it’s one of those things that you‘ve just got to go for – you can’t do this by half measures. I hope I’ve got it right! I did have medical advice on the days that we shot this – they seemed to think it was accurate.”

Having learned more about epilepsy, John feels even more passionately about the work of Epilepsy Action. Particularly the organisation’s current Seize Control campaign helps empower people just like Ashley to seek out routes to better care and treatment.

John says: “The main thing I would like to highlight is the misdiagnosis of epilepsy and the fact that 70 per cent of the people with seizures could be seizure-free, if they had the right medication.

“It’s been worked out that 52 per cent do get the right medication – but unfortunately a good proportion of people don’t. About 108,000 people are not getting the right medication – they could be seizure free but they are not.

“I know that Epilepsy Action is highlighting this because of the Seize Control campaign.”

Read more about the Seize Control campaign.

You may also like...

Epilepsy in the East End

One of Walford’s newest and most popular characters had an onscreen seizure earlier this year and experienced a second only last night. Peter Fox speaks to Maddy Hill – the stubborn and fiery Nancy Carter – about epilepsy on EastEnders

There are no comments yet. Be the first to comment...

Question about your epilepsy?

Your question will be sent to our helpline advisors.

Have a comment about this page?

All comments are reviewed by a moderator before publishing. Comments will be edited or deleted if they are offensive, libellous, slanderous, abusive, commercial or irrelevant.

We ask for your email when you make a comment through this website. This means that we can let you know directly that we have replied to you. By making a comment through the website, you allow us to use the comment in our publicity without using your name. If we would like to use your name, we will email you to get your permission.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
6 + 12 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.