Honey Mitchell

Honey Mitchell

Infobox EastEnders character 2

character_name=Honey Mitchell
actor_name=Emma Barton
first=22 November 2005
last=2 September 2008 (on screen)
4 September 2008 (as voice)
classification=Former; regular
dob=29 February 1976
introducer=Kate Harwood
occupation=Laundrette assistant
home=Outside The Square
father= Jack Edwards
mother= Janet Edwards
husband= Billy Mitchell (2006—)
daughters = Janet Mitchell
sons=William Mitchell
aunts = Caroline Bishop

Susan "Honey" Mitchell (née Edwards) is a fictional character that appeared in the BBC soap opera "EastEnders". She was played by Emma Barton. She made her first appearance in the show on 22 November 2005. It was reported on 19 April 2008 that she had been axed from "EastEnders" [" [http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article1063193.ece Honey is axed from EastEnders] "] [" [http://www.whatsontv.co.uk/news/3168 EastEnders Honey gets the chop] "] Honey left the square on the 2nd of September 2008. Honey's voice was heard on Billy's answering machine on September 4, 2008.

Character creation and development

The character Honey Edwards was introduced in November 2005 by the executive producer Kate Harwood, as a love interest for Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick). [cite web|url=http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/pick_of_the_day/article227793.ece|title= BEST SO
publisher=The Sun|date=22 November 2005|accessdate=2008-04-19
] Actress Emma Barton was chosen to play the role in September 2005, after a successful screen test with Perry Fenwick. [cite episode |title= "Richard & Judy"|series= Richard & Judy|network=Channel 4 |airdate=2007] Barton commented, "I can’t wait to join "EastEnders" and play Honey. She’s a really sweet girl, who always wants to do the best for everyone but she’s not exactly the brightest star in the sky." [cite web|url=http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/soaps/a24557/honey-trap-heads-for-walford.html|title=Honey trap heads for Walford|publisher="Digital Spy"|date=21 September 2005|accessdate=2008-04-19]

Down's syndrome

A relationship between Honey and Billy was quickly developed and, within two months, an upcoming baby had been written into the characters' narratives, with Honey announcing she was pregnant in January 2006. [cite web|url=http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/showbiz/tv/article229327.ece|title=It's Billy the kid at last|publisher="The Sun"|author=Sra Nathan|date=21 September 2005|accessdate=2008-04-19] The pregnancy was the start of an on-going storyline about Down's Syndrome (DS) as, in September 2006, Honey and Billy's baby Janet was diagnosed with the disorder shortly after her birth. "EastEnders"' producers began to work on the DS plot in February 2006. Real parents with Down's children were approached to act as consultants in the making of the storyline, meeting with writers and the actors who play Billy and Honey. [cite web|url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/ouch/tvradio/eastenders.shtml|title=It's a disablity thing|publisher="BBC"|accessdate=2008-04-19] On-screen, Honey was shown to be devastated, rejecting her baby and wanting to have her adopted, while Billy wanted to keep his daughter, placing strain on the couple, who married in the serial the day of Janet's birth. [cite web|url=http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/woman/real_life/article71114.ece|title=Could you raise a Down's child?|publisher="The Sun"|date=14 November 2006|accessdate=2008-04-19]

The Down's Syndrome Association (DSA) worked with "EastEnders" on the storyline. Their medical advisers were consulted about possible health problems that Billy and Honey’s baby might encounter. According to the DSA in 2006, DS people are under-represented on mainstream television and "EastEnders" helped to redress that imbalance. The DSA used their influence to change certain elements of the scripts that they were unhappy with, such as persuading them to change the way Billy and Honey were told of their baby’s diagnosis; however, they had no influence over the characters' reactions or the plot in general. For the first two weeks after Janet's diagnosis, the DSA provided a helpline for worried parents or anyone wanting advice about DS. "EastEnders" also provided a link to the DSA website from theirs, to ensure that people looking for information could find the association.cite web|url=http://www.downs-syndrome.org.uk/pdfs/FAQ.doc|title=Eastenders - FAQs|publisher="DSA"|accessdate=2008-04-19]

The storyline was developed with characterisation in mind. Some characters, such as Peggy Mitchell, were shown to respond negatively towards the DS baby, views that were included so that the positive aspects could be voiced by the "more enlightened characters". The programme makers' main priority was to show the reality of having a child with the condition, "with all of its positives and negatives" and to "create awareness among thousands of people who know very little about Down’s syndrome, who might have out-dated or prejudiced views." "EastEnders" took advice from DS organisations and families of DS people throughout. Care was taken to ensure that viewers empathised with Billy and Honey, to portray their journey in a "realistic way".

The DSA have expressed their desire to see a Down’s syndrome character becoming a permanent member of the "EastEnders" cast, as in their opinion "it would be a fantastic opportunity to bring Down’s syndrome into mainstream awareness, and to present a 21st century picture of family life for those who have children with the condition." In 2006, "EastEnders" pledged that they intended for Billy and Honey’s baby to grow up as any other baby would in the soap; however, it has been noted that the plot is dependent on the actors involved, and other practical problems that could arise. "EastEnders" pledged to make every effort to portray "a positive image of a family who have a baby with the condition."

Reception of DS storyline

The episodes received criticism for innaccuracy.cite web|url=http://www.24dash.com/news/Health/2006-09-13-BBC-soap-EastEnders-slammed-over-Downs-Syndrome-baby-birth|title=BBC soap EastEnders slammed over Down's Syndrome baby birth|publisher="24dash.com"|date=13 September 2006|accessdate=2008-04-19] Sue Jacob, a teacher at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said "EastEnders" presented a "poor picture of midwifery practice". During Janet's birth, Honey was refused an epidural while in pain, and later she was told that her baby had Down's syndrome alone, without her partner or family there to support her. Jacob commented, "Women are vulnerable after giving birth and they need support systems in place [...] The person caring for her is repeatedly referred to as a nurse in the episode but there is no way that a nurse would be in charge after birth. The midwife would also have been open and honest and said 'We need to get the baby checked out and we will get your partner' [...] What the soaps do is set scenes which prompt people to talk about things which are affecting their lives. We are concerned people will wrongly think this Down’s syndrome story shows what really happens, and that if you have a problem there is no one there to support you. Showing something like this is not helpful."cite web|url=http://www.staffnurse.com/nursing-news-articles/bbc-criticised-over-eastenders-down-s-syndrome-storyline-2137.html|title=BBC Criticised Over Eastenders Down's Syndrome Storyline|publisher="staffnurse.com"|date=13 October 2006|accessdate=2008-04-19] Furthermore, Jacob noted that Honey was left alone for a long time to worry about the baby, which appeared rigid, and not floppy, as Down's babies do. In Jacob's opinion, a midwife would have been repeatedly in and out of the room to check on the mother. Additionally, one episode showed a health visitor reprimanding Honey for refusing Down’s syndrome screening and Karen Reay, director of the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association called the episode "insensitive and patronising". She added that the episode contained "glaring anomalies", giving new mothers a "fictitious and misleading" view of health visitors, which could "damage relationships with health professionals".

The BBC responded by saying, "EastEnders" has undertaken a great deal of research to script the storyline of Billy and Honey giving birth to their baby daughter. "EastEnders" takes enormous care with its research and takes advice from experts in the given field. In addition, for this particular storyline "EastEnders" talked to numerous families with children who have Down's Syndrome. Some of their experiences were depicted in these early episodes. Also closely involved was a senior midwife from a large UK general hospital who saw all scripts. In relation to some particular points raised, Honey was not denied an epidural - she made the choice to put herself out of reach of communicating effectively with the midwife by locking herself in the bathroom. When the news was broken to Honey and Billy that their baby had Down's Syndrome, "EastEnders" has in fact drawn directly from one particular true-life story - and while this may indeed not be best practice it is worth saying that good drama does not necessarily come from best practice." Despite the BBC's "extensive search" to cast a real Down's baby for the birth episodes, they were unable to do so, resulting in the shots of the newborn baby being less authentic and limited. The BBC added, "In the coming weeks Honey and Billy's child will be played by a baby with Down's Syndrome. It is worth noting that "EastEnders" has received incredibly positive feedback from the Down's Syndrome Association following the first few episodes, whom we are continuing to work with very closely." Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, has confrimed that 40% of parents whose babies were diagnosed after birth were given no written or practical information about the condition, and 11% were told, as Honey was, by a midwife rather than a paediatrician: "The way in which Billy and Honey have learnt of their baby's disability, and their subsequent support from their health professionals, is not a best-practice model. However, neither is it an unrealistic situation. BBC researchers and scriptwriters have based the scenes on conversations with families who have children with Down's Syndrome, and the scenes have struck a chord with thousands of our parent members across the country. Some health professionals hold outdated or prejudiced views about people with Down's Syndrome that prevent them from giving parents a balanced picture of what the future will hold for them."

Raid on the Vic; Honey's second pregnancy

The scenes in which Honey was attacked were subject to heavy criticism in 2007, with Ofcom receiving 78 complaints from viewers about the level of violence displayed, and concerns for the safety of her baby. The media regulatory body stated that: "In Ofcom's view the violence was not appropriately limited for this time of the evening when many children are available to view television."cite web|author=John Plunkett|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/feb/25/bbc.television2?gusrc=rss&feed=media|title= EastEnders violence ruled out of order|publisher=The Guardian|date=25 February 2008|accessdate=2008-03-05] "EastEnders" was found to have breached the broadcasting code on this occasion, though the BBC defended itself by stating that there had been a gradual build up to the event over several episodes, and that a content warning was aired prior to the episode's broadcast.cite web|author=Matthew Hemley|url=http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/19929/ofcom-raps-bbc-over-eastenders-violence|title= Ofcom raps BBC over EastEnders violence|publisher=The Stage|date=25 February 2008|accessdate=2008-03-05]


Honey's mother, Janet, died of a heart defect while giving birth to her. She was raised by her father Jack, who nicknamed her after Honey Ryder from the film "Dr. No" when she was four. As a child, Honey was diagnosed with a heart condition, which made her father overprotective of her.

Honey was introduced in November 2005, employed by Yolande Trueman as a "honey trap" to seduce her husband Patrick and see if he was willing to commit adultery. Honey caused confusion by mistaking Billy Mitchell for Patrick, but truth prevailed, and Honey and Billy became friends. Honey had aspirations to become a model. Billy helped her find employment, acting as her manager. Billy and Honey were attracted to each other, and after a period of trepdidation, they finally confessed their feelings, becoming a legitimate couple in December 2005. The following month, Honey fell pregnant. Overjoyed, Billy proposed and despite initial objections from her father, Jack, Honey said yes.

When Jack discovered Honey was pregnant, he tried to persuade her to abort her unborn child, convinced that she would share the same fate as her mother. Not wanting to lose Honey, Billy forced her to enquire about abortion, but after a check-up, she was told that she did not have the same heart defect as her mother, and there was no danger of her dying from the same causes. Honey was furious with Jack for allowing her to be unnecessarily fearful about her health for her whole life, and she chastised him for not taking her for a check-up when she was a child. She eventually forgave her father, and began to enjoy the prospect of becoming a mother.

Honey and Billy's first attempt at getting married in June 2006 ended in disaster when Honey was hospitalised due to food poisoning. The following month they tried again, but due to a series of unfortunate events — starting with a prank performed on Billy's stag night — the groom was unable to get to the ceremony on time. Their third attempt in September was arranged as a surprise by Billy's relative Peggy. Honey was heavily pregnant and while they were saying their vows, she started having contractions. She grabbed Billy and launched into a breathing exercise, then urged the vicar to continue. As Billy leaned in for a kiss after they were pronounced husband and wife, Honey revealed that her waters had broken.

Honey gave birth to a girl, Janet (after Honey's mother), but her happiness was short-lived, as the following day she was informed that Janet had Down's syndrome. Devatsted, Honey admitted that she felt no love for the baby; she changed the child's name to Petal, as she was not the "perfect" Janet she had wanted. Honey and Billy attended a support group for parents of Down's children, but this made Honey more depressed; she broke down and destroyed Petal's nursery, admitting to Billy that she wanted Petal adopted. Billy was adverse to this and his relationship with Honey suffered as a result. Honey tried, but could not accept her baby, and at her lowest ebb she considered smothering Petal with a pillow, but could not bring herself to do it. Petal was fostered by Tony and Kim Smith in December 2006, but the next day, Dr. May Wright told Billy that Petal needed a heart operation. Billy arranged for Petal to be baptised in case she did not survive the operation, and after reading a heartfelt letter from Billy to Petal, Honey changed her mind about giving her daughter away; she attended the baptism and informed the vicar that she was naming the baby Janet after all. Janet's operation was a success, and Honey began to bond with her.

In March 2007, Honey discovered she was pregnant with her second child. Billy was apprehensive, fearing they might love the new baby more than Janet, but Honey was quick to reassure him and they both looked forward to the arrival of their new baby. However, in November 2007, Honey was knocked down whilst trying to prevent an attack on Jase Dyer. This caused her placenta to become dislodged from the uterine wall, and Honey went into labour. She was rushed to hospital where she gave birth to a boy, who appeared to be stillborn, but he survived after resuscitation, and Honey named him William, after Billy. The Mitchells remained happy until December 2007, when their landlady, Manju Patel, threatened to evict them from their flat. Billy was unable to raise their rent money and despite attempts to barricade themselves in the flat, Mrs Patel threw them out, leaving the entire family homeless before Christmas. They were forced to rely on the kindness of relatives and friends for accommodation, before being rehoused at Walford Towers.

Money became an issue for the Mitchells again in August 2008. Desperate, Billy took a job as a getaway driver for Jase, who was in league with Terry Bates, the man responsible for the pub riot that caused Honey's injury the prior year. The job was a ruse, set up by Terry as means of revenge on Jase; Jase was stabbed and killed. Honey was devastated to learn that Billy had been indirectly involved in the incident that lead to Jase's death, particularly when Billy lied about his heroics — instead of trying to rescue Jase, he had hid in the bathroom in fear. She was further incensed to discover that Billy had kept Jase's "blood money". She threw Billy out, only agreeing to take him back when Billy donated the money to charity. Honey told Billy she could only continue the marriage if he promised never to lie again. Billy did so, but when Honey discovered that Billy still had some of Jase's money, she decided she could no longer trust him. She ended her marriage and left Walford with his children in the back of a black taxi on 2 September 2008.

Honey told Billy that she will never stop him seeing the kids because she doesn't want to see them suffer because of their father's mistakes. It was revealed on 5 September 2008 that Honey and the children are now living with Honey's father Jack.


In September 2006, Steve Frost, head producer of "EastEnders"' rival soap "Coronation Street", publicly branded Honey and the Down's syndrome storyline as "Painful to watch [...] wooden and emotionless - crap." "EastEnders"' executive producer, Kate Harwood, defended the storyline, saying "We had incredible feedback on our Down's storyline. Fans were moved." [cite web|url=http://www.mirror.co.uk/archive/2006/09/20/exclusive-eastender-crap-jibe-89520-17784879/|title= EXCLUSIVE: EASTENDER 'CRAP' JIBE|publisher=Daily Mirror|date=20 September 2006|accessdate=2008-04-19]

Grace Dent, television critic for "The Guardian", described the trio of "doomed weddings" between Billy and Honey in 2006 as an excuse to watch other television programmes "without ever feeling adrift from the Walford gossip [...] It was like Groundhog Day in a Pronuptia showroom. After a series of unfortunate events, the wedding would be scuppered. Honey would sob, Billy would do one of his "I try so hard to do the right thing" soliloquys and everyone in the Vic would be forcing down marzipan-coated fruit cake for weeks." Referencing the surprise third wedding when Honey was heavily pregnant, Dent said, "No one said that springing acute stress on Honey, a heavily pregnant woman, was plainly daft [...] each 30-minute episode spent with Honey and Billy now felt like an endurance test." [cite web|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/sep/09/tvandradio.theguide|title= World of lather|publisher="The Guardian"|date=09 September 2006|accessdate=2008-09-04] She has also described the coupling of Billy and Honey as akin to Billy and his former wife in the serial Little Mo Mitchell, saying "It's Billy and Little Mo all over again. Two dim-witted people, week-in, week-out, making lots of mistakes and getting the wrong end of the stick with farcical consequences. Everyone else is doing Brecht-lite, they're doing "Terry & June" [...] They're what the fast-forward 30x option on the Sky+ was made for." [cite web|url=http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2006/jun/10/tvandradio.theguide1|title= World of lather|publisher="The Guardian"|date=10 June 2006|accessdate=2008-09-04]


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