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Steph does her TV homework; Emma Johnson sees how Hollyoaks deals with epilepsy.

Byline: Emma Johnson

Life's been hard for one of Chester's toughest teenagers,Hollyoaks'bad girl Steph Dean. After being attacked and left for dead by the show's serial killer the 17-year- old has now been told she has epilepsy, leaving the normally couldn't-care-less schoolgirl distraught.

For Carly Stenson, the actress who plays her though,Steph's ordeal has given her the chance to dispel the myths surrounding an often misunderstood condition.

She admits portraying epilepsy, which affects one in every 133 people in the UK, was a daunting task.

``It was a lot of responsibility but the producers would not go into something like this without doing their research,and they were keen for me to portray it in the right way.''

So was Carly. So much so that be fore filming any of her scenes she found out as much as she could about epilepsy.

``I went on the internet and read about epilepsy and I asked people what they knew about it.

``A teenage girl who had had epilepsy spent the day with us in the studios.

``She was the right sort of age for my character and was very helpful in telling me what she went through.''

When it came to acting out epilepsy seizures it was still nerve-wracking for the 20-year-oldactress.

``In the end the first one could not have gone better because the director had witnessed them first hand. He used to work in a hospital so he knew exactly what he wanted me to do.''

Barbara Pinder of Epilepsy Action is delighted to see Hollyoaks taking on the subject of epilepsy. So far they have been impressed with the show's and Carly's handling of the subject matter.

Barbara said: ``We were contacted by the researchers from Hollyoaks when they originally started looking at this storyline.

``It is great to see a soap opera, specially one that is watched mainly by young people,look at the issue of epilepsy as it often gets ignored.

``We have no control over the individual character's involvement but from what has been seen so far they are getting across the impact of the diagnosis.''

Barb ara adds that Steph's angry reaction to her diagnosis is not unusual among teenage epileptics.

``The character is going through stages that someone with epilepsy is likely to go through.

``Teenagers can have terrible trouble coming to terms with epilepsy at a time when they have a lot of other difficult things to deal with. It can also be quite a blow to their independence.

``They can worry about telling their friends and dealing with overprotective parents.''

Carly, who still lives at home in Billinge with her mother and stepfather,has also been praised by viewers.

``The feedback on the Hollyoaks web page has been really good,'' she says. In the show Steph's epilepsy was triggered after she received a blow to the head during the serial killer attack.

The character has already suffered a number of seizures and the experience has left her very distressed. Carly says she is glad they are going in hard on the storyline.

``We are not skirting around it,'' she says. ``Steph has epilepsy and it is a problem. She has been having seizures because she refused to take her pills.''


TOUGH GIRL: Hollyoaks actress Carly Stenson found playing an epilepsy sufferer a demanding role
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Copyright 2003 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 26, 2003
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