Agreeing to get a taxi home with George, Yvonne followed him up to his office to collect his briefcase as a leaving party for another employee raged on downstairs.
Once they reached his office however, he became violent and sexually assaulted her, snarling: “F**king move, even just a little bit, and I’ll hit you again.”
Steven Elder, who bravely took on the role of George, said he “felt a responsibility to learn as much as possible” while he prepared for the disturbing final scene and spent a lot of time on the website for the Rape Crisis Centre.
Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, he explained: “It’s just something you throw yourself into. But, you throw yourself into it bearing in mind that you’ve also got to, especially with difficult and potentially violent scenes, that you’ve also got a duty of care towards the people you’re working with.”
Steven's character George hit Yvonne before sexually assaulting her
George forced himself onto Yvonne in harrowing scenes in the first instalment
You go a bit mad and you allow yourself to go a bit mad
Apple Tree Yard's Steven Elder
He added that Emily Watson, who plays Yvonne in the adaptation, was “amazingly courageous”, and that they were both given a huge amount of “respect and shown sensitivity by the production team” on set.
Steven went on to explain that when it came to shooting the sexual attack, he had to find a balance between playing George and ensuring his colleague was okay with what was taking place.
“You go a bit mad and you allow yourself to go a bit mad,” the actor commented. “But you always have that awareness that you’ve got a responsibility towards your colleague. And, a duty of care towards your colleague.
“There’s always that element, at least speaking for myself, that there has to be an element of control. It’s a balancing act actually.”
The star noted that following filming they both “tried to find our own space as much as possible afterwards” to deal with the horrific scenes they’d just shot.
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Steven said the actors were shown a lot of respect and sensitivity on set
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The actor praised Emily for being amazingly courageous throughout filming
Speaking about the decision to include the sexual attack and the reaction that followed the episode, Steven commented: “Drama has got a right to embrace all aspects of life, the light and the dark, provided it embraces the darker aspects of life responsibly.
“I think viewers will have been shocked but it was done in a really responsible way. I believe it wasn’t filmed in a titillating way at all. It was what it needed to be, it was ugly and obviously violent and psychologically violent as well, rather than psychically explicit.”
He added: “I’m also very proud of the fact that it was led by and powered as a project by a team of women. Front and centre is the astonishing Emily Watson, she’s just one of the greatest.”
If you’ve been affected by these issues, you can find support at rapecrisis.org.uk or call the helpline on 0808 802 9999
Apple Tree Yard continues on BBC One on Sunday at 9pm.