Emmerdale fans are in for an emotional week, with popular character Ashley Thomas, played by John Middleton, set to pass away on Friday in a heartbreaking episode following his battle with vascular dementia. Ahead of his final scenes, the ITV soap has released a moving trailer of a montage of the vicar’s happier times, including the birth of his son and his wedding to his wife, Laurel, with the voiceover: “To have something that makes saying goodbye so hard is a life lived.” Emmerdale also updated their cover photo to Ashley and Laurel on Twitter in tribute to the final chapter of the storyline, which even touched rival soap Coronation Street, who wrote: “We’re worried we’ll wear out our (heartbroken emoji)’s xxx.”
Emmerdale's emotional storyline has even touched rival soap Coronation Street!
Ashley's life flashes before viewer's eyes in Emmerdale's emotional trailer
Fans have also been reminiscing about their favourite Ashley scenes, who first arrived in the Dales in 1996. Emmerdale took to asking their followers: “It's been over 20 years since Ashley Thomas appeared on our screens for the first time. What's been your favourite Ashley moment?”, causing fans to take a trip down memory lane. “When he got locked in the van with Chas Dingle,” wrote one, while another questioned: “How DO you start with 20 years worth of Ashley Thomas?” A third added: “When he was in charge of the cricket team.” Another viewer praised John for his portrayal of the vicar, tweeting: “He has been the best character in Emmerdale bar none.”
John Middleton's portrayal of dementia sufferer Ashley has been hugely praised by fans
John recently opened up to What’s On TV about his final days on set, saying: “When we filmed Ashley’s death, the atmosphere on set was extraordinary. We were getting ready for a take, and what we call the ‘checks’ came on – where people check your costume and your make-up. One woman was leaning over me and her tears were dripping on to my cheek! The medical advisor was crying, too!”
Discussing his own feelings on leaving the Dales, the 63-year-old told the Radio Times: “There was this huge hit-you-over-the-head feeling of, ‘That’s it. It’s done. Also 80% of the time is spent having a chat with friends and I haven’t got that anymore. I keep storing up information for conversations at work and then realise that the only person I’ll be sharing that with is my dog.” However, John did admit that he has no plans to watch the show after his exit, saying: "I don’t believe in looking back; I’ve got to look forward, and actually it’s very exciting looking forward at the moment because there’s such a lot of amazing work being done on television for writers and actors.”
Emmerdale has been hugely praised for the portrayal of dementia and the effects it has on the sufferer and their entire family. The soap even made history by showing a one-off episode entirely from Ashley’s perspective back in December to highlight the struggles and challenges people living with the disease face on a daily basis.