Played by Shona McGarty
|First Appearance:||1st April 2008|
|Address:||31 Albert Square|
Whitney Dean is a fictional character from the BBC One soap opera EastEnders, played by Shona McGarty. The character is the adoptive daughter of long-running character Bianca Jackson, and was introduced in April 2008 when Palmer returned to the series after a six year absence. Whitney is described by executive producer Diederick Santer as both an equal to, and younger version of Bianca, and is the oldest of Bianca's four children. Her storylines have revolved around her fractured family life, and her sexual abuse by Bianca's partner Tony King.
In October 2007, it was announced that character Bianca Jackson was returning to EastEnders, after an absence of six years. The character of Whitney was created as part of her new family; the daughter of Bianca's deceased partner Nathan Dean. She was described as "a teenage drama queen, unable to engage brain before mouth and constantly finding herself in and out of trouble".Bianca sees Whitney as one of her own, and also as "a friend and confidante".EastEnders' executive producer Diederick Santer has said that his vision for the character was someone "quite spiky, quite gobby, a bit of an equal to Bianca, and in a way a version of Bianca at that age".Shona McGarty was cast in the role.
Considering the character's role in the wider context of the show as a whole, it was decided that Whitney would be involved in a sexual relationship with Bianca's partner Tony King. BBC News described the plot as an ongoing "predatory paedophile storyline", noting that this was the first time this subject matter had been tackled by a UK soap opera. The storyline was first conceived when EastEnders series consultant Simon Ashdown viewed a documentary about homelessness, featuring a mother and child at a bus stop with nowhere to go. Ashdown questioned what might happen if a paedophile were to befriend the mother in order to grow closer to the child, and related the scenario to Bianca's return to the soap. BBC Head of Drama John Yorke explained that the idea when presented "drew a sharp intake of breath. Most EastEnders stories that have been good and successful have been the ones that caused the sharp intake of breath, so they're always the kind of stories you look for."
The idea that McGarty play a child groomed for sex was put to the actress on 9 January 2008. EastEnders executive producer Diederick Santer has stated that, had McGarty or her parents objected to the storyline, they would not have gone ahead with it. In the event, McGarty's parents merely requested that their daughter not be asked to publicise the role, and the actress began filming her first scenes on 14 January 2008.
In order to develop Whitney's sexual abuse storyline, by March 2008 EastEnders researchers Libby Duplock and Cleo Bicat were in contact with the NSPCC's Tom Narducci, Jude Toasland, who deals with abused children, and Yvonne Traynor, CEO of the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre. Duplock has stated that: "One thing that was quite difficult for me to get right was the idea that she didn't want sex. It's Whitney's way of keeping Tony happy. If she lets him do it, then he's nicer to her and he makes her feel special." Research highlighted the fact that 12% of abused children go on to become abusers in turn, however Duplock explained: "We felt that to imply on TV that someone who has been abused is going to go on to abuse other people is not a message you want to give out. Those people have been through enough." Narducci for the NSPCC stated that importance was placed on making children viewing the show "feel comfortable about asking for help if they felt they needed it [and] for the wider community - to recognise the signs and let them know that they can do something about it. [...] We're not trying to cause a national panic. This is a responsible effort to try to get over an important story."
It had initially been decided that, alongside Tony's sexual abuse, Whitney would be seen to self-harm. This aspect of the storyline was discarded, after the NSPCC suggested that it may distract from the main issue of her abuse.Final approval for the storyline was sought from BBC Head of Fiction Jane Tranter on 2 June 2008. Tranter has explained that:
- "I thought it was a fantastically good idea. The big moments in EastEnders, those iconic pieces of television history, tend to be the things that are incredibly near the knuckle, and are actually quite difficult subjects to raise in the context of a family sitting room. [...] Soaps are meant to hold up a mirror to our lives, and sometimes that mirror will show ugly bits, difficult bits, taboo bits. But if a soap doesn't hold up that mirror, then actually, what is it? It will have no depth."
Chris Coghill was cast as Whitney's abuser Tony on 20 June 2008. Upon accepting the role, he commented: "Shona doesn't act, or look, like a little child. Which helps." He has added of their off-screen relationship: "Shona's fantastic to work with. She's very natural, very instinctive and a natural actress. There isn't any uncomfortable feeling at all." Having undergone a thorough characterisation session, Coghill began shooting on 30 June 2008, and first appeared on-screen on 12 September 2008. Coghill has explained that Tony began grooming Whitney as soon as he met Bianca, ingratiating himself so as to become the family's "hero figure" and "saviour". Discussing his character's relationship with Whitney, Coghill explained that: "The lie that Tony has spun to Whitney is that as soon as she's 16 they'll run away together and start a new life. But Tony's the type of paedophile who preys on younger children. Whitney is beginning to pass her sell-by date with him. [...] He feels like he's losing his little girl but needs to keep Whitney under his control and not speak out." Coghill has stated that: "This is the most challenging role I have had to play. But I hope by EastEnders tackling the sensitive issue of child abuse it can raise awareness." When asked how she felt about the abuse storyline, Palmer commented: "It would be brilliant if it helped somebody. If one person out there who’s been abused saw that [the legal system] go out of their way to make it easier on the victim – Whitney’s evidence is given by video link – it will be worth it."
Whitney first appears in EastEnders when she and her family — mother figure Bianca Jackson, half-sister Tiffany Dean, and Bianca's sons Liam Butcher and Morgan Jackson-King are evicted by their landlord for non-payment of rent. They sleep that night in a bus shelter, and are taken into care the next day after Bianca is arrested for assaulting a police officer. The children return to Bianca a week later, moving into Pat Evans' home, although Whitney is initially angry with Bianca for letting them down.
Over the next few months, Bianca becomes the beneficiary of a mystery "guardian angel", who is revealed to be Whitney. Whitney tells Bianca she found a winning lottery ticket lost by Dawn Swann's family and cashed it, but didn't tell Bianca as she knew that she would spend it. Bianca lives up to Whitney's fears by constantly shopping with their windfall, but after arguing with Whitney, reluctantly agrees to deposit it. However, knowing Bianca won't bank it after hearing about the holiday she has booked, Whitney hides some of the money in a box to be used in emergencies only.
It is revealed that Bianca met her imprisoned boyfriend Tony King in 2005, when she was expecting her youngest child, Morgan. Whitney warmed to him when he helped her remove a ribbon which was stuck in her hair. From then on, Tony groomed Whitney and they started a sexual relationship behind Bianca's back. Tony went to prison in 2007 after assaulting a boy who apparently harassed Whitney and was released on 12 September 2008. Upon returning home, he makes it clear to Whitney that they will resume their sexual relationship. Whitney in turn reveals that she has kept some of the lottery winnings so she and Tony can run away together. Tony, however, harangued by Bianca about the prospect of marriage, gives her Whitney's money to use as a down-payment on a flat.
When Whitney and class-mate Peter Beale are cast in the lead roles of the school play Romeo and Juliet, Tony is jealous of them rehearsing in private and punches Peter. Whitney convinces Peter and his sister Lucy Beale not to report the attack to the police, but Tony blames her for the incident and ends their affair. Whitney is devastated when Tony accepts Bianca's marriage proposal, locking herself in her bedroom. Not knowing what to do, Bianca accepts Dr. Poppy Merritt's help and she refers Whitney to a psychiatrist. Bianca takes her away on holiday, attempting to mend their relationship. When they return on Halloween, Tony and Whitney share a passionate kiss, and Tony informs Whitney that their relationship is back on.
Whitney becomes jealous when Tony begins showing an interest in Lauren Branning. She is relieved as her sixteenth birthday approaches and buys tickets for her and Tony's trip abroad. Tony, however, has lost interest in Whitney, and hides her passport but it is found and returned to her. On the day she turns sixteen, Whitney confesses everything to Bianca. Horrified, Bianca calls the police, and Tony is arrested. Whitney initially refuses to discuss her and Tony's relationship with the police, believing that they were in love but Bianca makes her realise that Tony abused her and raped her for years. Tony is released on bail and returns to Pat's house, hoping to convince Whitney to lie to the police for him, making Whitney realise Bianca is right, and agrees to make a statement against him.
Whitney decides to contact her biological mother Debra Dean, but discovers that she has the wrong address. Bianca claims not to have it but Janine Butcher steals it from Bianca's address book and gives it to Whitney. Whitney visits Debra and tries to discuss the past but Debra isn't interested and rejects her. She meets Todd Taylor and agrees to go on a date with him. It goes well until he asks about past relationships. She runs away and is found by Bianca's ex-husband Ricky Butcher, drunk. She tries to kiss him but he pushes her away. It is discovered that Whitney has been shoplifting. Prior to this, her problem had overshadowed Bianca and Ricky's news that he is Tiffany's biological father, meaning Tiffany is not in fact Whitney's half-sister. However, they catch her in the act after returning the goods she stole and she agrees to get professional counselling.
Todd returns and Whitney eventually relaxes in his company. One of Tiffany's caterpillars disappears and crawls up Todd's shirt. Todd takes it off in a panic, and Ricky throws him out, thinking they were undressing for sex. Whitney apologises on Ricky's behalf and they agree to be friends. Whitney also agrees to another date. They talk in his car until he goes to get some chips but forgets his wallet. Whitney finds it and, looking inside, sees a condom. Whitney runs off, thinking Todd wanted to have sex with her. Todd is later scared off by a man who is interested in Whitney, and after he saves her and several other locals from a hostage situation, Whitney calls him a hero (he turns out to be her older half-brother). She fails to attend her GCSE exams and argues with Bianca. Debra turns up unexpectedly, claiming she is homeless, but reveals she is planning to move to Greece when she has enough money and says Whitney can come with her. Whitney accepts, but later realises that Debra is using her, and she is only there to hide from someone. After being tracked down, Debra leaves. On Bianca's birthday, Stacey Slater accuses Whitney of having an affair with Bianca's uncle, Max Branning, when he was really helping her bake a cake. Whitney is then upset when Bianca confronts her about this and immediately packs her things. Her mother, Debra, suddenly returns - banging on the front door, panicking. When Whitney opens it, she sees Debra scared with cuts and bruises on her face, saying that someone is after her. This person is the same man Whitney had called a hero, who tells Whitney he is her half brother, Ryan Malloy. He has stabbed someone and Debra is keeping the knife for him. Whitney hides the knife and later disposes of it in a canal. Whitney and Ryan later steal Max's car for a joyride and return it, not realising that she has left her earring in it. When Lauren discovers it, she knows it belongs to someone else and suspects Max is having another affair. Lauren tells her mother, Tanya Branning, but Whitney confesses the truth. She and Lauren watch movies at Janine Butcher's flat, and get drunk.
Whitney learns of Sam Mitchell's return, now engaged to Ricky, much to Bianca and Whitney's displeasure. Someone calls the police and Sam is arrested for perverting the course of justice. Whitney tells Ricky she called the police, and Sam's mother Peggy Mitchell is furious to hear about this, and confronts Whitney, who runs off in tears. However, Ricky discovers that it was actually Bianca who called the police.
In November 2009, Whitney decided to design her own t-shirts as suggested by her family and after she obtained start-up finance from her adoptive great-uncle Jack Branning, an order for 500 units came in. It turned out that it was Ricky who had meant to order five but messed up. She was hurt when she discovered the news but eventually sold the t-shirts with the help of Bianca, Ricky, Ryan, Janine and Sam.
Whitney begins to feel vulnerable when Tony's trial is about to commence. She asks Bianca about the trial and asks her if she will see Tony. Thinking that Whitney is worried, Bianca states that they will see Tony, but he will be in a separate and different room location. Whitney is disappointed to hear this and she desperately tries to contact him so she decides to secretly write him a letter. She also tries to visit him in prison but is refused. She is upset and gets angry when Ryan does not understand how she feels. Ryan tells Ricky and Bianca that Whitney was upset and does not think she is coping. He tells them that Whitney is trying to visit Tony. Bianca confronts Whitney who says Tony needs her. She storms out and a man named Mark gives Whitney a mobile phone from Tony. She ignores a call from Tony and he leaves her a voicemail begging her to call him back, saying he loves her. Bianca says she will never let Tony near Whitney again. Whitney's birthday is approaching and Tiffany hides a birthday card in Whitney's drawer where the phone is hidden. She accidentally spills tea on it, breaking it. Whitney shouts at her and Ricky tells her not to, saying that she can use another phone. She tells Ricky to leave her and Tiffany alone as they are nothing to do with him, but Ricky reveals that Tiffany is his daughter. Whitney runs off and gets drunk. Ryan finds her and promises not to tell anyone where she is, telling Bianca they are not in Walford. Whitney says she wants her mum and Ryan goes to find her but goes to Tony's trial instead. She agrees to come home for Tiffany but is upset that Tiffany does not know her true paternity.
At the trial, Whitney's witness statement is played in court and when she says she was 12 years old when their relationship started, Ryan leaves in disgust. He storms back into the court calling Tony a monster. The judge stops the tape and Whitney, who is watching from another room, asks what is going on. After Ryan talks to Whitney, calling him sick and saying he will get out of prison when he is an old man, she runs into the court shouting that he is not an animal and they love each other. She says she will refuse to testify saying her witness statement was lies and she was forced to say it. Whitney's barrister, Vivien Easley QC (Geraldine Alexander) gives Bianca five minutes to talk Whitney round. Tony's barrister, Mrs Taylor, cross examines Whitney, trying to imply that she pursued him for several years, saying she refused to take 'no' for an answer and lied about the accusations. Tony shouts out that he is innocent but Whitney says she trusted him and he abused her. After leaving the courtroom, Whitney hands over the mobile phone to her barrister with Tony's messages on it. Back at home Whitney says she is still Tiffany's sister and they hug.
Todd goes to see Whitney to give her a Christmas card. He says he hopes they are still friends and she lets him in. He cooks mince pies and says he wants to be a mechanic. She realises that Ricky has put him up to spending time with her to take her mind off the trial. Whitney and her family later go to the court to hear the verdict, though Whitney is not allowed inside. Bianca tells her Tony has been sentenced to 13 years' custody. Whitney starts to ignore Todd's calls and is upset when Ricky invites him to his and Bianca's engagement party. However, at the party, she apologises to Todd and they kiss. Lucy Beale invites Todd to a party and he brings Whitney. Lucy makes advances on Todd which upsets Whitney, so she takes him to a bedroom where she finds a condom that fell out of Todd's pocket. They kiss and decide to wait until the time is right before having sex.
Bianca's half-brother Billie Jackson arrives back in Walford for Bianca's wedding and Whitney enjoys getting to know him. She shows interest in his moped so he takes her for a ride on it. Todd sees them, and Whitney later breaks up with him. Whitney and Billie nearly kiss but they are interrupted by Bianca. Whitney is upset when Billie's mother Carol Jackson arrives to take Billie home, but the next day he attends the wedding after Carol and Bianca reconcile, deciding to stay following the death of Billie and Bianca's cousin Bradley Branning. Billie takes Whitney to his flat in Balham to collect his things and they bump into a girl named Kylie, and he introduces Whitney to her as a member of his family. The next day Whitney thinks Billie is ashamed of her, and he insists that Kylie is just a friend. Later, he graffitis a wall with Whitney's name as a gesture. They kiss and she tells him she wants to go all the way. The next day Bianca catches them in bed and demands they get dressed, but after they explain they are not doing anything wrong, she tells them to be careful. When Whitney realises Billie lied about his college commitments, they argue and Billie rides off on his moped. Whitney goes to his council estate to find him but meets Kylie. They argue and Whitney calls her a skank, so Kylie chases after her and she is cornered by her gang and attacked. They tell her they want their gun back from Billie, and when Whitney goes back to Walford she tells him to get rid of it. They dispose of it in a bin but later on after Billie goes back to Balham, he still has the gun in his bag.
Kylie and her friend Connor track Billie and Whitney down in Walford, where Kylie tells Whitney she will look after her. At a grime night at The Queen Victoria, Kylie and Connor get Whitney drunk, which gets them thrown out. Billie is angry with his friends for getting her drunk. Although upset with Whitney's behaviour, Bianca says she is acting just how she did at the same age. Whitney asks Billie to choose between her and his former gang, and when Billie chooses her, gang member Kylie makes threats to Whitney, and then takes revenge by attempting to shoot Billie, but hits Jack instead. Jack is hospitalised with major injuries, and Whitney struggles to help Billie deal with his guilt and subsequent anger and rejection from the Branning and Jackson families. She is further deeply upset when Billie decides to join the army for his own punishment of the recent events and in an attempt to make his uncle Jack proud. When Billie is accepted into the army, Whitney decides to make the most of their two weeks together, so books a holiday to Alton Towers, however, Billie is unimpressed. She enlists Leon Small's (Sam Attwater) help in printing and selling her t-shirts and he kisses her, though she does not reciprocate. Billie finds out about the kiss but Whitney insists she did not cheat on him. She tries to talk to him but he refuses to accept her apology.
Whitney takes a trip to Hampshire with Lucy, Peter, Leon, Zsa Zsa Carter and Fatboy where she fears the house they are staying in is haunted after Fatboy tells a story and she finds an old doll. The next day Billie turns up and apologises, and they reunite.
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