EASTENDERS star Jessica Plummer has admitted that she is heartbroken her character Chantelle will be killed by husband Gray in a harrowing domestic abuse storyline.
The 27-year-old actress went on to admit that she hopes the tragic end to the plot will “save lives”.
Taking to her Instagram page earlier today, the beauty shared a behind-the-scenes photo with Toby-Alexander Smith, who stars as Gray, and Jaz Deol – who plays Chantelle’s friend Kheerat Panesar.
Jessica is pouting at the camera while holding up a peace sign, and she shares her heartache for her character in the post’s caption.
She wrote: “CHANTELLE The news is finally out
“More than anything, I hope this storyline will help save lives. It’s been such a privilege playing Chantelle Atkins and telling her story.
“Thank you so much for all the kind messages. No one should have to suffer alone like Chantelle ”.
Jessica went on to share the National Domestic Abuse helpline for others in Chantelle’s position, which is 0808 109 9238.
EastEnders confirmed last night that the distressing domestic abuse storyline will meet a tragic end later this month, with Chantelle being murdered by her husband just as she tries to finally escape him.
The BBC One soap broke tradition by revealing the key character’s death weeks before the scenes air in order to give fans advance notice of the difficult viewing.
The storyline hopes to raise awareness and conversation around domestic abuse – with Gray’s behaviour in the run-up to Chantelle’s death just as crucial as her murder.
Executive producer Jon Sen previously explained: “Chantelle’s story is such an important one to tell accurately and upon both characters’ inception we planned her tragic ending with the intention of embedding the stark reality of domestic abuse at the heart of the Atkins family.
“Being able to shed light on the realities of what goes on behind closed doors has never been more crucial given the harrowing statistics as a result of the current pandemic and hopefully Chantelle’s story will encourage people to speak out to someone they trust and get the support that they need.
“Jessica’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary and even in her final scenes, the audience will be moved by Chantelle’s strength. We’re very sorry so see Jessica go but hope that her impact on viewers is long-lasting.”
It was first revealed that Chantelle is mentally and physically abused by her husband last year, and fans will see that this has only worsened during lockdown.
EastEnders has worked closely with Women’s Aid and Refuge on the storyline, and the soap said the prevalence of domestic abuse in society meant it was important to represent the issue as accurately as possible.
Refuge, which runs the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline, has seen calls and contact soar during the pandemic, while Women’s Aid said more than two thirds of survivors reported their domestic abuse escalating in lockdown.
Other research showed more than three quarters of women living with an abuser said they felt they could not leave or get away because of the pandemic.
This will be mirrored in Chantelle’s storyline, as she has been isolating with Gray and the show picks up as she makes the big decision to file for divorce.
After attempting to escape, she will be killed by her abuser.
Jessica said: “It’s been such a privilege to play Chantelle and to be able to tell her story.
“Sadly what she goes through is all too common and her death is a reminder of the devastating effect of domestic abuse.
“I’ve known it wasn’t going to end well for Chantelle for a while now and although it was a shock to find out her fate, far too many men and women suffer in silence so I hope that by raising awareness we can ultimately save lives.
“I am so grateful to all the team and my lovely cast members for being so supportive, I’ll miss Albert Square!”
Lisa King of Refuge added: “The Covid-19 crisis has magnified the reality that many survivors like Chantelle face every day.
“Domestic abuse is the biggest issue affecting our society and millions of women and girls remain trapped with an abusive partner.
“Sadly, Chantelle’s murder is not an isolated incident – on average, two women a week are killed by a current or former partner in England and Wales.”
EastEnders returns to BBC One tonight at 8.05pm and will air four nights a week.
If you have been affected by this article, contact Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247 or click here