John Middleton gave the performance of a lifetime as he portrayed dementia sufferer Ashley Thomas in Emmerdale. The talented actor, who left the show in 2017, has now spoken out about his exit, revealing that the choice wasn’t his alone. Talking on Tuesday's Good Morning Britain, he said: "Kate Oates was the producer at the time – she's now the producer of Coronation Street – and she pitched the [dementia storyline] to me. She said: 'You will probably want to go away and think about this, because if you do [agree to it], you will have to leave in about two years' time.'" John continued: "I said, 'I don't have to think about this at all, this is the best story anyone has ever pitched to me. Of course I want to do it!'"
Actor John Middleton opened up about his Emmerdale departure
Since leaving Emmerdale, John – who picked up awards for Best Actor and Best Male Dramatic Performance at the 2017 British Soap Awards – has embarked on a new acting challenge, seeing him star in the touring stage adaptation of Strangers on a Train. The 64-year-old said that he was very much enjoying it, although admitted that he was shaking on the first night as it was a completely different experience to working in a soap. He went on to say that he couldn’t possibly say whether he preferred working on TV or on the stage. He said: "I don’t prefer either. It's the same job, but the thing about theatre is that it's an event that takes place between you and the audience, which takes place every night." John is joined in the play by fellow former soap star Chris Harper - who played groomer Nathan Curtis in Coronation Street, and ex Hollyoaks actress Hannah Tointon, who played Nathan Fox's little sister Katy.
John's alter-ego Ashley left Emmerdale in emotional scenes last April, and the actor has previously spoken about his final day of filming, revealing that both the cast and crew were in tears at the end of it. Speaking to What's On TV about his final days on set, he said: “When we filmed Ashley’s death, the atmosphere on set was extraordinary. We were getting ready for a take, and what we call the ‘checks’ came on – where people check your costume and your makeup. One woman was leaning over me and her tears were dripping on to my cheek! The medical advisor was crying, too!”
The actor gave an emotional performance playing Ashley Thomas
Discussing his own feelings on leaving the Dales, the TV star told the Radio Times last year: "There was this huge hit-you-over-the-head feeling of, ‘that’s it. It’s done. Also 80% of the time is spent having a chat with friends and I haven’t got that anymore. I keep storing up information for conversations at work and then realise that the only person I’ll be sharing that with is my dog." However, John did admit that he has no plans to watch the show after his exit, saying: "I don’t believe in looking back; I’ve got to look forward, and actually it’s very exciting looking forward at the moment because there’s such a lot of amazing work being done on television for writers and actors."