Emerdale veteran Chris Chittell has controversially called the show’s child grooming storyline a “young man’s dream”.
The veteran actor – TV’s Eric Pollard – was commenting about scenes showing a woman teacher grooming and kissing a boy pupil aged 15.
Chris, 70, wrote on his personal Twitter page: “Come on it’s a young man’s dream, okay okay I know, behave et bloody cetra! Don’t they ‘play’ it well!! Convincing don’t you think!!!!.”
The comment was even liked by his co-star Bhasker Patel, 62, who plays Rishi Sharma.
But it caused fury among critics who feared Chris has stepped out of line.
In recent weeks, viewers of the ITV saga have seen teacher Maya Stepney, played by Louisa Clein, 39, grow close to Jacob Gallagher, alias actor Joe-Warren Plant, 16.
Jacob Gallagher kisses his teacher Maya
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Emmerdale has been working closely with children’s charity Barnardo’s on the storyline and young survivors of sexual abuse have advised actors and producers.
And despite the sensitive nature of the issue, programme chiefs say it’s a story that needs to be told.
Producer Laura Shaw said: “It was important for us to tell this storyline authentically, so we approached Barnardo’s for advice on scripts and character behaviour.
"Our researchers, story team and actors met with Barnardo’s experts and young men who have been supported by the charity.
“We met some incredible individuals and were moved by their courage and willingness to help us tell this story sensitively.
“Hopefully it will make young people and their parents more aware of these issues and their impact.”
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Tonight, when told about Chris’s tweets, Emmerdale declined to comment.
The twice-married father of two has been in the soap since 1986 and is its longest-serving star.
His character Eric is a wheeler dealer turned bed-and-breakfast king who has romanced a string of ladies.
Chris’s first acting stint was a movie role at the age of 19.
He appeared as Potter in the 1967 Sidney Poitier classic To Sir, With Love – which includes a plotline about a girl pupil infatuated with her male teacher at a school in London’s East End.
Apart from Emmerdale, Chris also featured in two seasons of 1970s science fiction drama The Tomorrow People.
And in the past he has owned up to a secret career in X-rated Swedish films.
He has said of the roles: “I did films like Let Us Play Sex and Swedish Sex Games when I was on my uppers, after running up terrible bills and seeing various ventures fail.”
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