EastEnders star Shona McGarty admits she cried over sad new baby storyline

Whitney Dean confides in Kat Slater in EastEnders
Uncertain future: Whitney's baby is not developing as normal. (Image credit: BBC)

EastEnders star Shona McGarty has spoken for the first time about her heartbreaking new storyline, in which her character Whitney Dean discovers that her unborn baby has a life-limiting genetic condition.

In recent scenes, pregnant Whitney had a scan after experiencing some spotting and was told that some of her baby’s organs were growing on the outside of its body — known as omphalocele.

Later this month, following further tests, doctors will break the news to the mum-to-be that her baby has Edwards’ syndrome. Also known as trisomy 18, it’s a condition in which the baby has three copies of chromosome number 18, rather than two, which then affects the way the baby grows and develops. 

According to the NHS website, most babies with Edwards’ syndrome sadly die before or shortly after birth. 

EastEnders Whitney Kat

Support: Kat (Jessie Wallace) was with Whitney at her baby scan when the doctors realised all was not well. (Image credit: BBC)

Speaking exclusively to TV Times magazine about Whitney’s reaction, Shona says, “She just can’t believe it. She has wanted to be a mum since she was eating chicken nuggets with [adoptive mum] Bianca, so this is heartbreaking. 

“And she feels so guilty. She thinks maybe it’s her fault, maybe she didn’t eat the right thing. 

“She doesn’t know what to do. She has already bonded with this little ‘peachy’ as she calls it.  

“Sonia’s bought her teddies and outfits, and she’s been looking at nurseries — all the things you would do as a mummy-to-be.” 

EastEnders is working closely with the charities Antenatal Results and Choices and SOFT UK (Support Organisation for Trisomy 13/18) on the moving plot, which will see Whitney and her baby’s father Zack Hudson (James Farrar) forced to make some difficult decisions.

EastEnders Whitney Zack

In this together: Zack (James Farrar) has promised to be there for Whitney. (Image credit: BBC)

Adds Shona, “I had a zoom call with a few ladies who have been through a similar experience to Whitney. 

“They were so open with me, and I was so appreciative of that. I wanted to know the facts about Edwards’ syndrome, but also understand their emotional journeys.”

She continues, “Whitney has had quite a few storylines that have dealt with important issues, and EastEnders is always brilliant at doing its research. 

“The whole thing is so beautifully written. I cried when I read the scripts, and so did James. 

“The writers have really listened to these women. It’s like their stories are laid out on the page.”

Zack Hudson asks out Whitney Dean

Night of passion: Whitney and Zack slept together in December. (Image credit: BBC)

Whitney discovered she was pregnant shortly before Christmas, following her and Zack’s one-night stand.

After initially reacting badly to the news, Zack promised to support the market trader. However, he subsequently discovered that he was HIV positive and pushed Whitney away as he struggled to process his diagnosis.

Learning that the pregnancy isn’t progressing normally, he has since apologised for his behaviour and vowed to be there for Whit, moving forward. 

Says Shona, “I’m excited for viewers to see their journey. I don’t think they’re invested yet, because they haven’t seen what we’ve done. 

“As a viewer and a fan, I hope they can bond… but tragedy can also pull you apart.”

EastEnders airs on Mondays - Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.

For information and support on Edwards’ syndrome and other genetic conditions, go to soft.org.uk or arc-uk.org

Alison Slade
Soaps Editor
Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine.  She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way. There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.