Natalie Anderson has defended her latest shocking storyline on Emmerdale, which received complaints from some viewers after it was broadcast. Recent episodes showed Natalie's character Alicia Metcalfe sexually assaulted by a minor.
Speaking on This Morning, Natalie, who has been a regular cast member of the soap since 2010, gave her views on the reaction.
"We knew that there would be [complaints], it's a very contentious, sensitive storyline," she said. "Emmerdale and our producer were quite prepared for the fact that this would be shocking."
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Natalie Anderson said there had been 'more praise than complaints' for her Emmerdale storyline
Natalie added: "Obviously everything was implied and nothing was explicit, and there was so much research that went into it. But to be honest, in the grand scheme of things, there's been more praise for the storyline than complaints, which has been brilliant for us because essentially we want to open up debate about why a 14-year-old boy would do this.
"If you look at the internet, it has such an impact on young people – they are sitting in their bedrooms and not really going out and connecting with each other – and what that leads to."
Natalie Anderson praised her teenage co-star Thomas Atkinson, who plays Lachlan White, for his 'professionalism'
Natalie also praised her young co-star Thomas Atkinson, who plays the troubled teen Lachlan White. "It has been difficult at times to film but Thomas is brilliant," she said. "He's 16 and has approached this with such maturity and professionalism. He's a real credit to the show."
The actress admitted that her initial reaction was one of surprise too, but Natalie soon saw the benefits of the controversial storyline. "[It's] amazing for me as an actor to have that challenge," she said. "We are dealing with the impact on young people and when I started looking into that I was really shocked. We had to tell this story, it's so important."
She also encouraged fans to "stick with it" to see how the story unfolds, as details of the attack becomes Alicia's word against Lachlan's.
Natalie Anderson previously admitted on her HELLO! Online blog that she was 'nervous' about the episode airing
The episode was aired before the watershed at 6:45pm, 15 minutes earlier than its usual time because of the Europa League football. While viewers had been warned that they may find the content "distressing", an Ofcom spokesman later said they'd received 47 complaints.
This was the first time that a soap had tackled the sensitive issue of a minor sexually attacking an adult pre-watershed.
Prior to it airing, HELLO! Online blogger Natalie also wrote about her storyline, admitting in her blog that she was feeling "quite nervous" but that "fingers crossed people will find the story both interesting and intriguing."