The storyline has shocked and divided Emmerdale fans in equal measure – middle-aged teacher Maya Stepney seducing her 15-year-old pupil and stepson Jacob.
Some have seen being wooed by an older woman as every lad’s fantasy come true.
Even veteran Emmerdale star Chris Chittell, who plays Eric Pollard, tweeted that it was “every young man’s dream”.
Other horrified fans have rightly seen the relationship for what it is – sexual exploitation.
Louisa Clein, who plays scheming Maya, says: “This story is fascinating because it’s an older woman and a younger boy.
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“We see it on social media – a lot of people are like get in there, lad, you’ve got yourself an older woman, a cougar.
“But it is still abuse, it is still sexual exploitation.
“If it was an older man to a younger girl or boy, immediately people would be saying that is wrong. We are also getting a lot of that on social media. People are really reacting strongly.
“But there is a sense of a relatively normal older woman, she is a teacher, she is educated, she is not stupid, she doesn’t seem like she would be a threat, she doesn’t seem like the stereotypical dirty old man.”
To research the storyline, Louisa, who turns 40 this year, and the Emmerdale team worked with charity Barnardo’s, meeting young male victims of abuse and their social workers.
Research has found that sexually exploited boys often miss out on the support they would receive if they were girls because professionals don’t always recognise them as victims.
Louisa met three young men, now aged 17, 18 and 25 who experienced sexual abuse and exploitation from adult men and women.
She says the experience brought her close to tears as she realised the life-long impact grooming and abuse can have.
“It was heartbreaking,” she says.
“We met victims who had been through experiences like this. Often these kids think that they won’t be believed, or that they are partly to blame.”
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She says the way Emmerdale approached the storyline left viewers conflicted about who is to blame.
Teenager Jacob was the one who started flirting with Maya, but she was the adult and hasn’t put a stop to it –with devastating consequences.
“Maya doesn’t think she is doing anything wrong,” she says.
“She is obviously damaged, she is desperately insecure, she is needy.
“One of the social workers from Barnardo’s was telling me often abusers have been abused in their childhood, It is almost as if the emotional part of their brain is stilted.
“Another thing Barnardo’s said is that with an older woman and a younger boy or girl, it is not often sexually motivated.”
This rings true on the show, which won Best Serial Drama at this year’s National Television Awards.
Louisa says: “It is emotionally motivated. There is a sexual element to it, but it isn’t about sex.
“She could go and get sex from anywhere, it is an emotional lacking that she is searching for.
“It is so damaging. These kids are 14, 15, 16 and they are at such a vulnerable age, so confused. He doesn’t know what he is doing – he is 15 years old.
“He is in this social media world, sex is so accessible and he doesn’t know the boundaries, and she’s not showing the boundaries.”
Louisa says she has been astounded by the impact the storyline has had.
She has been inundated with messages from viewers – some praising it and others repulsed by it.
But she believes it is an important story to tell – particularly if it can help just one person seek support.
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“I’ve had a lot of amazing messages of encouragement and people saying you’re telling a great story because this happened to me and it is so true.
“We have also had people saying this is utterly disgusting. People are finding it very difficult to watch.
“If we can help one person – if just one person watches it and thinks, ‘I am going to say something, I am going to get help’ then it is worth doing.
“This story has to show the child is believed, she has to get found out.”
Louisa was thrilled to take on the challenging role after having her children – two girls aged six and five, and a boy, nearly two.
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She grew up in a musical family – her mum was a violinist and her sister is cellist Natalie Clein.
But acting was where her passion lay. She says: “As a child they couldn’t get me off the stage.”
She got into drama school with Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy and Michael Fassbender, and landed her first TV role in Judge John Deed the year after graduating.
The Emmerdale role means a commute from London and time away from her family but Louisa believes it is worth it.
“I felt excited for the challenge,” she says.
“As a woman of my age working, to get a character like this, to get a story like this doesn’t come around that often.
“It is tough, but there came a point where I thought I love work, I want my kids to see me working.”
While she is away in Leeds her husband, barrister and part-time judge Jeremy Brier holds the fort with help from grandparents.
They have been married for eight years after being introduced by mutual friend Judge Rinder who was best man at their wedding.
Louisa has been pals with the “fabulous” Robert Rinder for years after shadowing him for her role in Judge John Deed.
She laughs: “I was working with Benedict Cumberbatch and he introduced me. We became best buddies. He’s done loads of match-makes!”
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