Emmerdale producer Iain MacLeod has revealed that Emma Barton's death wasn't in his original storyline plans.
Emma was killed off in Friday night's episode as her dark storyline finally came to an end, but Iain had actually been considering other options for the character until Gillian Kearney told him that she wanted to bow out from the role.
While it was obvious that Emma's killer plot would need a dramatic ending after she pushed James to his death last year, the show's top boss even hinted that she could have potentially stayed in Emmerdale to be redeemed.
Speaking at an Emmerdale press event, Iain revealed: "When a character kills, you have to have potential end games in mind. When Gillian started talking about leaving and we knew we had another big week to do in the autumn, that crystallised things for us.
"You've got to have a narrative that keeps them in the show and one if they want to leave. You have a broad idea where it might go, then you improvise along the way. When Joe Gill said he was leaving, that added another layer of it.
"It wasn't in the plan to begin with to write Gillian and Joe out, so those were two big changes in terms of how it progressed. So most of the changes occurred when people said they wanted to leave at the end of their contracts.
"It's sad, but great for us because you can blow stuff up and burn stuff down! We knew the story would be big and there'd be some kind of peak in the autumn."
Iain also revealed that he had Emma falling from the viaduct in mind as soon as Gillian revealed her decision, wanting to mirror the way that she'd killed James one year earlier.
He continued: "I've given away a bit of a trade secret here, but as soon as an actor says, 'I think I want to leave at the end of my contract', even as they're talking, my brain is going, 'How are they going to leave? Is it going to be a death?'
"There was just a nice symmetry between James's and Emma's deaths. This week was also designed to be the final chapter in the 'No Return' story from last year, so there is a deliberate parallel to be drawn there.
"So that was pretty much the first thing that popped into my head after 'Oh I'm so sorry to hear that'. It was: 'How am I going to kill you off?!' It was very deliberately an echo of all of that. Emma's death was a bit like James's death but less anguished. She's not screaming in terror in quite the same way he was."
Asked whether he ever considered killing off more than two characters, Iain replied: "It does sound like I'm very bloodthirsty, but the way my job works is that it's very story led. People tend to live or die depending on what stories the writers pitch at conference.
"So once all of the contractual issues had been built in, I didn't really feel the need to up the body count particularly. I wanted Finn's exit to be a big surprise to the audience.
"As you'll have noticed from the little flash-forward scenes we did with Emma, I sort of wanted the audience to know that this was going to be the week in which she died.
"Beyond that you can get quite trigger happy, so unless anyone else had come to me and said they wanted to leave, I was always keen not to go too gung ho with it, because then it just starts to lose its currency.
"Also, if lots of people die, then you don't have ample time or room in the show to really explore the truthful aftermath of the grief reactions. So I think two was plenty."
Iain also promised that there's still a big future for the other Bartons in Emmerdale, despite losing two of their closest family members in a week.
He said: "They're still central to the show. Pete, Ross and Moira will soldier on. Moira is in a massive story for the rest of the year. Adam is caught up in the aftermath.
"They're more united than not. I love Pete and Ross's relationship, which we explore in detail later. Pete left Ross for dead, yet now they're all each other has got. There's love and hate in equal measure, but they've got to get through this. As a family they've been through a lot. This will test them but ultimately will bring them closer together."
Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.
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