John Middleton has opened up about the emotional impact his final scenes as dementia sufferer Ashley Thomas had on the entire Emmerdale crew. The actor, who has been playing the much loved vicar for 20 years, is due to bow out of the soap on 7 April, when his character will pass away surrounded by his family and friends at home. Speaking to What's On TV about his final days on set, he said: “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!”
John Middleton will be bowing out of the show after 20 years of playing Ashley Thomas
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.”
John has been hugely praised for his portrayal of dementia sufferer Ashley in many emotional scenes
Ashley's heartbreaking disease has had a huge impact on his entire family
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.
The episode prompted This Morning presenter Ruth Langsford, whose late father suffered from the disease, to praise John and the Emmerdale team during his appearance on the daytime show, saying: “It's not often that dementia gets represented so well and I think as a programme – and you particularly John, as an actor, have done it so brilliantly. So thank you.” Clearly touched, John replied: "That's the best award I could possibly imagine or ask for, thank you."