EastEnders character Stuart Highway is suffering from breast cancer, which he believes is eroding his masculinity. It’s a tale rarely covered in soaps but one that is affecting the hearts of many.
Stuart has struggled to comprehend the diagnosis and has oscillated between dread and venomous hatred since receiving the news.
With Rainie (Tanya Franks) in the loop, Stuart’s valiant fight can finally begin.
However, for actor Ricky Champ, the storyline is more than simply drama — he intends to raise awareness that males, too, can get breast cancer and that watching these episodes could even save lives.
We spoke with the actor about his research, his hopes, and the contrast between serious and comedic scenes.
Did you do much research into male breast cancer?
Yes, I had several options, but I didn’t want to do so for the first portion of the story. I wanted to portray Stuart’s shock in real life when he’s astonished and has no idea what’s going on. I didn’t want him to have any data or information since I wanted him to be absolutely new to it.
I’ve spoken to a number of males who have breast cancer as the narrative has evolved. Doug, a wonderful man who shared his breast cancer journey with me, was introduced to me via Macmillan Cancer Support. I was also invited to a virtual meet-up for men with breast cancer (VMU). This was an opportunity to sit and listen to men share their stories about their lives.
Do you hope that the storyline will encourage men to seek help when they need it, whether it’s cancer or something else?
If it happens, it will be a once-in-a-lifetime event. I work on a television show, and I’m well aware that we have millions of viewers, so we can swiftly raise awareness. I recently learned some distressing information concerning men’s cancer.
With only a little understanding, the mortality rate can be reduced. Actually, it’s all about that. This has the potential to save lives. That’s what awareness can accomplish, so if just one person can do it, that’s fantastic.
Do you enjoy tackling more serious storylines like this in comparison to comedic antics?
What’s amusing is that everyone assumes that comedy is a lot of fun and that it’s light. In truth, people take comedy quite seriously. Comedy is a difficult and serious endeavor. Anything that has been amplified is exhausting but gratifying. For me, one of the most fulfilling things is to be able to make someone laugh. If you’re doing anything serious, you want to make someone think, ponder, or move them, which is the polar opposite of that. It’s as satisfying to make people feel things if you can move them. That’s the game I’m playing, and I enjoy both of them equally.
What are your biggest takeaways from working on this storyline?
Breast cancer affects men just as much as it affects women. That’s the message I’d like to send out.
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