EastEnders star Stevie Basaula has opened up about filming this week’s harrowing scenes, in which his character, schizophrenia sufferer Isaac Baptiste, had a breakdown.
Teacher Isaac recently stopped taking his medication for schizophrenia, which has caused him to behave irrationally and led to the development of auditory hallucinations.
He has become increasingly obsessed with the death of half-brother Paul Trueman, who was murdered in 2004, and believes Ruby Allen’s late gangster dad, Johnny, was responsible.
In scenes airing on Tuesday night, Isaac became fixated on keeping Ruby’s stepchildren Lily, Hope and Arthur away from her house, believing it to be dangerous, and tried to break into the property when he discovered Hope was still in there.
Ruby then called the police to report the break-in and the fact Lily and Arthur were missing, and a distressed Isaac then ran to the Trueman house and locked himself inside.
Dad Patrick coaxed him out, but police were concerned by the fact he had a broken bottle in his hand, and subsequently tasered him and arrested him on suspicion of affray.
Says Stevie, “[Mental Health charity] Mind were amazing. Their Media Advisory team advised on set, and I'm so glad they were there, because I would have felt a little bit lost without them.
“It was nice to be able to check in with them during times where I was a little bit unsure about the direction I should be going in, so they were amazing for that and I thank them. They were there at the end of every day to talk to; it was great.
“It's the most important work I've done. I feel blessed to be given the opportunity and to represent a community that aren't always seen and portrayed accurately.
“I'm glad that I'm able to tell this story, it's one of the reasons I wanted to go into the arts. I’ve felt challenged as an actor and I feel like I've grown as an actor, too.
“I hope it's received well, and I hope we got it right.”
Next week on EastEnders, Isaac’s girlfriend Lola pays him a visit at the mental health unit where he’s staying; defying the wishes of his mum, Sheree.
But Isaac is struggling with his new medication and feels betrayed by his partner, who had previously promised him she wouldn’t let him get hurt.
On a subsequent visit, Lola is then left heartbroken when Isaac’s health worker, Rafe, tells her that Isaac is refusing to see her.
Stevie adds that he hopes the storyline will ‘debunk’ assumptions that people may make about those suffering with mental health conditions.
“I always try to remember who Isaac is, who he started as, and how he's changed over time,” he says.
“I hope the audience remember that, too. He's funny (I hope!), charismatic and charming, and he's a kind person. I hope they understand that what's happening in his life, currently, does not define him.
“This isn't a true reflection of Isaac. The extremes he's gone to, he hasn't been thinking clearly.
“I hope people don't judge him too harshly. Isaac is not defined by his mental illness and we'll hopefully see more of that as time goes by.”
EastEnders airs Mondays at 8.05pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7.35pm and Fridays at 8.30pm on BBC One - see our TV Guide for full listings. You can also watch all of this week’s episodes on BBC iPlayer now.
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