Emmerdale’s Moira Dingle is about to be reunited with the youngest Barton child as they make a shock return to the village – not as Hannah Barton but as Matty Barton, played by transactor Ash Palmisciano.
In what is believed to be the first time a soap has changed the gender of an already established character, viewers will discover the journey that young Hannah Barton has been on in the six years away from Emmerdale, and is now living life as a transgender male called Matty Barton.
Emmerdale predicts ’emotional times ahead’ for Moira Dingle, played by Natalie J. Robb, that will see ‘the Barton family once again in emotional crisis.’
Thinking that the farm has been broken into, Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) punches and knocks out Matty Barton mistaking him for an intruder. However, when Moira arrives she instantly recognises him as her daughter Hannah.
Whether Moira is already aware of the changes in Hannah’s life is not yet clear but it will be interesting to see how Moira, husband Cain and Hannah’s former best friend Victoria Barton (Isabel Hodgins) react to Matty as he begins his new life in Emmerdale.
Matty Barton will be played by transgender actor Ash Palmisciano, who has already begun filming with the show. Ash previously appeared in ‘Boy Meets Girl’, ‘Mum’ and the play ‘Summer in London’ and will appear on screen at the end of June.
Producer Kate Brooks said: “The character of Matty Barton certainly knows how to make an impact: cheeky, effervescent, quick-witted and headstrong, it’s not long before he’s charmed his way into the affections of all those who meet him. His tale of a man trying to shake off his past and find acceptance in the present is full of emotion, humour and ultimately hope as he settles back into rural village life, turning Moira’s world upside down in the process.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Ash on board to play this role. A skilful actor of great talent, he exudes charisma and there’s an unflinching honesty to his performance that adds real depth to this complex character. Ash has already proven himself to be a brilliant addition to the cast and we look forward to charting his journey as he reconnects with old friends and forges new relationships along the way.”
Hannah Barton, originally played by Grace Cassidy, was the youngest daughter of Moira and the late John Barton. Hannah left Emmerdale with sister Holly for a life in London in June 2012 after their father’s death and has never returned since, although she has been mentioned and Moira has been to visit her.
Her absence from Holly’s funeral was explained that she was doing charity work abroad when she heard of Holly’s death and couldn’t cope to attend her sister’s funeral.
Hannah also failed to return for Moira’s first Christmas without Holly too.
Ash Palmisciano added: “I’m very excited to be joining the very welcoming Emmerdale family. From nervous auditions to now working alongside the team daily has been truly amazing. Matty’s a ground breaking character to play and I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for him.”
Whilst some viewers may be shocked at the sudden return of the youngest Barton and the changes in their life but we think this could be a stroke of genius and is another positive step forward, not only for the ITV soap but all LGBT characters and storylines.
Emmerdale hasn’t always got it right on that front and former Series Producer Iain MacLeod admitted that they had taken on board some of the criticisms directed at the show and had taken them into consideration when making editorial decisions going forward.
We are very excited to welcome Ash and can’t wait to see Matty Barton on screen, especially as he integrates back into the village with old friends such as Victoria and Aaron Dingle (Danny Miller) as well as his family life.
Read more about Ash Palmisciano in a great interview he did for the play Summer in London.