Hannah Ashworth

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Hannah Ashworth
Hannah Ashworth.jpg
Hollyoaks character
Portrayed by Emma Rigby
Duration 2005–2010
First appearance 3 October 2005
Last appearance 12 February 2010
Introduced by David Hanson
Book appearances Truth or Dare
Hollyoaks Later (2009)
Classification Former; regular
Other names Hannah Osborne (married name)
Occupation Student

Hannah Ashworth (also Osborne) is a fictional character from British Channel 4 soap opera, Hollyoaks, played by Emma Rigby. Hannah first appeared on-screen from 3 October 2005 until her exit on 12 February 2010.

Since inception the character became the centre of a controversial storyline in which she suffered from the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa. This storyline attracted much attention from the press and viewers along with the storyline resulting in Hannah's best friend Melissa's death from the illness, which was a first for British soap.[1][2] Actress Emma Rigby has won different awards for her portrayal of the character including Best Actress at The British Soap Awards 2008.[3]



The character of Hannah was part of a new family unit which was cast in the show called the Ashworths, they moved into the Hunter family's old home. Her parents are Neville and Suzanne and brothers Rhys and Josh in 2005. Hannah's storylines are initially fairly lighthearted, such as playing pranks on her brother Josh and cousin Fletch by pretending to be the fabled 'Hollyoaks beast'. (Although Hannah at this time was supposed to be 16, actress Emma Rigby was herself still 15 and therefore subject to the UK child employment laws which limited her availability for filming).


Auditions were held for the part of Hannah and actress Emma Rigby went on to gain the part. During some of the storylines the actress commented that playing the character was sometimes depressing and tiring but had this to say about one of her storylines: "I just threw myself into it, really. I didn't want it to be unrealistic or disrespectful to people who suffer from the illness and I didn't want to glamorise it, either.[4]

It was announced on 8 November 2008 that Rigby had decided to quit the show in order to pursue other projects, but her character would still be on-screen until June 2009.[5] On 2 March 2009 it was announced that Rigby had extended her contract by a further six months after new producer Lucy Allen convinced her to stay with promises of a 'juicy' exit plotline.[6] She was then scheduled to depart in December 2009.[7] It was later confirmed she would leave early 2010.


Personality and identity[edit]

Once sunny and outgoing, tragedy has taken its toll on the character. Channel 4 publicity commented that the character's storylines are the factors which affected the character's self-esteem with putting up with the constant drama revolving around her family, being dumped by her boyfriend, and Grace Hutchinson's death all contributed to her developing the illness bulimia.[8] Hannah later became much more confident and in control of her life. Hannah is also known to be slightly ditzy and sometimes spoiled.


The character's first relationship came when a storyline saw her falling for her classmate John Paul McQueen. Their friends at the time Sarah and Craig, were also dating and set them up as a couple. Although at first the relationship appeared to be going well, John Paul was clearly uneasy and his hesitance made the relationship turbulent. When they eventually slept together, John Paul realised he did not want a relationship with Hannah and broke up with her. Hannah had no idea John Paul was actually struggling with his sexuality, which he attempted to conceal by pretending to be attracted to Sarah. Though John-Paul publicly declared his love for Craig at Hannah's 18th birthday party, it was not until the following month that Hannah spotted the pair kissing. The character was reluctant to let John Paul go, until he finally admitted his sexuality, which left her devastated. In hope of reconciliation she remained friends with him. During this period she attempts to sabotage John Paul's new relationship with Spike. It was the breakup with John Paul that sent her into a spiral of bulimia and anorexia.

It was not until the character was on the road to recovery that she had a new on screen romance. Hannah started a relationship with Danny Valentine and their relationship was characterised by his frequent lack of tact in some issues. He also agreed to stand by her knowing she was fragile from her ordeal with eating disorders. The characters often broke up and reconciled but eventually they ended their relationship after he was unfaithful.[8]

Following the collapse of his relationship with Sarah Barnes, Elliot realised he and Hannah would be better suited. When Hannah decided to run for Student Entertainments Officer, Elliot rigged the vote in her favour. Hannah was furious when she found out but with time they became interested in each other. They later began dating; however Elliot soon exhibited sexual self-consciousness and avoided confronting the issue by spending more time with her father Neville, with whom he shared an interest in robots and rockets. Their relationship subsequently ended.

Hannah later had a brief relationship with a minor celebrity called Matt and Ash Roy later tried to win Hannah's affections. She was charmed by his good looks and his rich lifestyle. He took her to dinner with his sister Leila Roy and her boyfriend Justin Burton. It didn't go down to well when Justin and Ash had an argument. Hannah did not realise at the time that Justin was in love with her.[9] However, she soon realised that it is Justin she liked not Ash and the pair shared a kiss which led Justin to break up with Leila the next day.

After a motorbike accident left Hannah fighting for her life, the blame was put on Justin. Unknown to Justin at the time, it was in fact Ash who had tampered with the bike, intending Justin to be riding it not Hannah. It was later revealed however by Leila that it was Ash who caused the accident. This led to Hannah breaking up with Ash and apologising to Justin. Although at first Justin didn't want to know as he couldn't forgive Hannah for thinking it was him that almost killed her, Hannah admitted her real feelings at a concert at the SU Bar where Mcfly were playing. Justin then told Hannah how he felt and the two finally got together and shared a kiss, which Ash saw and walked out.

Hannah admitted to Justin that she did have a relapse, but it was after the whole Ash hiding the food in her room incident. Justin then went on to be honest with Hannah and confessed his darkest secret to her, that he helped Warren bury Sean Kennedy's body.

Justin and Hannah finally get together, but someone burns down the loft with Warren and Hannah in it. Warren is seemingly killed (although returns for a later storyline) but Justin manages to rescue Hannah. They hope to be together but Justin is blamed for the fire and decides to make a run for it. Justin says he will leave with Hannah, but tricks her and leaves without her because he doesn't want her to suffer with a life on the run. Hannah is distraught.

Much later on Darren and Hannah get married on a drunken road trip. Hannah arrives home and refuses to divorce because she is so young. They later move in together and begin to look out for each other.


Her first plot development of any real note came when Nancy and Hannah babysat Tony and Mandy Hutchinson's daughter Grace. Grace died that evening due to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Hannah was traumatised by the experience but in time Hannah managed to move on from Grace's death and get on with her life.

Controversial eating disorders[edit]

Hannah came to the fore in Hollyoaks between 2005–2007, at the centre of a controversial storyline which involved her suffering from the eating disorders anorexia nervosa and bulimia. This storyline attracted much positive attention from the press and viewers.

On New Year's Eve 2006, during her difficult relationship with John Paul, Hannah began binging and purging. When John Paul admitted he was gay, Hannah was convinced that she had made him this way and believed herself to be overweight and undesirable. Hannah continued binging and purging regularly. This quickly developed into a vicious cycle of behaviour, and had a terrible effect on her personality. After family meals Hannah made excuses to go to the bathroom, where she would throw up her food. Hannah was seen binging on chocolate and sweets and then making herself sick.

After six months Hannah's bulimia was exacerbated with the emergence of Sarah's model friend, Melissa Hurst. Hannah's bulimia turned into anorexia and Melissa (herself an ex-bulimic turned anorexic) offered her some tips to lose weight discreetly in order to become a model. Melissa added to Hannah's compulsive eating habits, even taking food away from Hannah so she was not 'tempted'. Melissa told Hannah they would only be drinking water and eating very little.

John Paul and Sarah became suspicious of Hannah's weight loss and change in behaviour, also believing mistakenly that she was on drugs after Sarah misinterpreted a private conversation between her and Melissa. Hannah then fainted due to her anorexia. Suzanne also became increasingly concerned about Hannah, and her anxieties were fueled by Sarah's claims that Melissa was a bad influence on Hannah and that she feared they were taking drugs to keep thin. Suzanne confronted Hannah about Sarah's accusations, but she denied everything and her mum agreed to give her the benefit of the doubt. Hannah then turned on both Sarah and Gilly and was cruel to them.

Melissa later proudly modelled the size zero dress in front of Hannah, who was sad she couldn't fit into the dress herself. She was then reassured by Melissa that Hannah would one day be able to get into it. As Hannah and Melissa continued to starve, Gilly was even more convinced that Hannah was taking drugs. Annoyed with his interference, Hannah threatened Gilly that unless he kept his nose out, she would claim that he sexually assaulted her. Nonetheless, Gilly expressed his concerns to Suzanne, who reacted by throwing Melissa out the house after Melissa told her that she and Hannah had taken speed to try to cover up for their eating habits.

The character later turned her back on her friends and began to fall further under Melissa's influence. The situation came to a head when Rhys returned from France and decided to have a barbecue. When Melissa attempted to hit on Rhys and refused to let Hannah eat a burger, Rhys told Melissa to leave. Melissa then fell into a coma in the street caused by her anorexia and was rushed to hospital. Hannah was shocked to find she was in intensive care. With Suzanne still convinced Hannah was taking drugs, Hannah tried to convince her mother her recent behaviour was because Gilly had been sexually abusing her. Rhys then threw Gilly out. When she visited Melissa in hospital she was shocked to see Melissa sickly thin and hooked up to a drip. Hannah started applying make-up to Melissa's face, as Melissa was so weak she could not open her lip gloss. Melissa asked how she looked to which Hannah replied "Stunning". Melissa told her that she thought so. There was a montage showing the machines, drips and Melissa's bones stuck out. Hannah also told Melissa she was the best thing to ever happen to her.

Anorexia death and public reaction[edit]

Emma Rigby (pictured) said it was a real honour to take part in such a "good" storyline.[10]

Her family then found out about her condition. After days of abuse from Rhys, being hounded by Suzanne and having her condition misunderstood by Neville, Hannah felt she needed to escape, and engineered a plot to escape the country with Melissa, in fear that if Melissa kept getting force-fed she would get fat. Breaking her friend out of hospital, the duo had to return to Hannah's home to retrieve her passport. Confronted by a confused Suzanne, Melissa collapsed of a heart attack, brought on by lack of food and body abuse, and died shortly after. Hannah then cradled Melissa's lifeless body and began crying hysterically.

Off screen the storyline gained much press attention as the character was the first to die on screen in any British Soap Opera aired as a result of an eating disorder[1] but was garnered with praise for showing the harsh realities of the disorders. Some media coverage wrongly reported that it was to be the character of Hannah that would die.[11] Then producer of the show, Bryan Kirkwood stated: "If a single viewer gets help as a result of this storyline, then it will have been worthwhile."[11] With actress Emma Rigby giving a message of advice stating:


On screen the character Hannah then found it hard to get over her best friend's death and lived by everything she had once told her to carry on losing weight herself. Hannah began to hide the seriousness of her illness from her family. In an attempt to hide the truth from her mum, Hannah tried a new look and style, even asking for food, but hiding it. It all becomes too much when Hannah is caught in the middle of an argument between Sarah and John Paul, during which Hannah starts having panic attacks. Both Suzanne and Sarah try to convince themselves it's a delayed reaction from her condition, after a search of her room initially finds no sign of hidden food. Later, after noticing the carpet has been pulled up, Suzanne discovers the rotting remains of food Hannah had been hiding under the floor boards.

After many attempts to talk to Hannah by her family and the doctor Hannah continued not to co-operate so Suzanne had Hannah sectioned under the Mental Health Act and she's taken to hospital against her will, despite Rhys' objections. Hannah locked herself in her room, but was talked out by Rhys, who was the only member of the family who had tried to support Hannah after Melissa's death. Hannah was held in an eating disorder unit but finally deemed fit for release after two months. The Ashworths began family therapy and Hannah was forced to confront the issues which led to her problems. Hannah was finally well enough to start to further her education at the HCC.

The storyline also saw the actress pick up a prestigious award honouring Hollyoaks and her work for portraying eating disorders realistically and showing that people can recover.[12]

Neville's interference in, and disapproval of, Hannah's relationship with Danny caused him to dump her. This caused Hannah to have a small relapse. She over came the hurdle with the help of her brother Rhys. Hannah and Danny had an on and off relationship up until Danny was unfaithful to her which led to the end of their relationship.

Later storylines[edit]

The character's later storylines included a dealing with her cousin Beth Clement's death, a role at the HCC as Student Entertainments Officer, her boyfriend choosing to spend time with her father over herself, a trip to the MTV Europe Music Awards where she met love interest Matt who gave her a celebrity lifestyle and friendship with Leila Roy. Hannah started dating Ash Roy whom lured her with presents including a car. Despite being with Ash, Hannah started to become aware of Justin Burton and Justin himself developed feelings for her. Hannah chose to work with him at the SU Bar and called him to save her from an over friendly mechanic. The two developed a relationship but the departure of Justin had a lasting effect on Hannah. This will ultimately lead to her departure in December 2009.

With Hannah's developing relationship with Justin, competition between him and Ash intensified. The two arranged a winner takes all motorbike race. Hannah stole Justin's bike but whilst riding it she crashed. Justin initially received the blame for the accident until Leila and Justin exposed Ash as being the one responsible because he had tampered with Justin's bike before the race. Consequently, Hannah dumped Ash and a few weeks later the character finally got with Justin Burton. Her family disapproved of her new relationship and she had a minor relapse of her anorexia in May 2009. Ash hid food in Hannah's room to try to convince her family she was still ill. She ate all the food until she was sick but later realised that she did not want go down that road again.

Hannah and Justin planned on running away together until the return of former character Clare Devine. As part of Warren Fox's exit from the show in episodes labelled 'Stunt Week' the local night club 'The Loft' was set ablaze. Clare was seen in many stunts taking place in the scenes. Hannah survived after Justin saved her whereas Warren died. Justin later received the blame for the fire and the pair tried to convince others that it was Clare who started the fire. Justin left Hollyoaks and left Hannah, believing it was what's best for her. Hannah's parents still did not believe her when she said she did not hide the food in her room which was planted by Ash, so she moved in with Nancy Hayton and Zoe Carpenter.

Still feeling down after her split with Justin, Hannah got drunk and met band member Stav who took both her and Darren on a weekend to Denmark. Upon returning, Darren revealed that the pair had in fact got married. They later agreed to get their marriage annulled. However, Cindy told Darren (with whom she was planning to con Tony out of his money) that being married to Hannah he could regain control of The Dog. After realising this, Darren raced to Hannah and convinced her to re-think the annulment. Darren and Hannah eventually slept together and Hannah thought that this could lead to a proper relationship. Darren let her down by telling her she's too sensible for him. In September 2009, Ash's sister Leila told Gilly Roach it was Ash who planted the food in Hannah's room to make everyone think she had had a relapse. Consequently, Suzanne and Hannah had a heart to heart and Suzanne apologised.

Hannah, Rhys and Josh went away to a music festival. At the festival, she met Imogen, Kev and Jamie, drug dealers who groomed Hannah and Rhys into joining their gang. Hannah slept with Jamie and began to fall in love with him. However, when she discovered his drug dealing, Hannah tried to leave but he eventually convinced her to stay. That night, the pair shared an ecstasy tablet. Hannah found out Imogen was a prostitute, who Kev was using to get money. He then attacked Hannah and told her she would do the same in the future, causing Jamie to hit him and let Hannah escape. Hannah and Jamie drove off in his ice-cream van. Unbeknownst to them, Kev had hidden drugs in the van. Kev kidnapped Rhys and threatened to kill him if Hannah and Jamie did not return with his drugs. However, Jamie and Hannah returned without the drugs. Jamie lied to both Hannah and Kev saying he didn't have the drugs and this led to Kev threatening to kill Hannah with a gun to her head. Jamie had called Kev's bluff and Jamie and Hannah returned to the beach. Hannah eventually discovered the drugs in Jamie's bag and left him. She got onto a coach where she texted Sarah Barnes, unaware that she had died in her parachute jump as her girlfriend Lydia Hart unintentionally sabotaged her parachute. When she returned to the village, Mike told her of Sarah's death and she broke down in tears.

When Nancy's ex-husband Jake Dean returned from a psychiatric unit, he revealed that Hannah had been sending him letters. However, Hannah told Nancy she had only sent one, telling him to stay away. This led to a fall out with Nancy, but they made up when Hannah broke down during her speech at Sarah's funeral.

Relapse and exit[edit]

Whilst working at The Dog, Hannah catches Anita Roy being sick due to excessive alcohol consumption. However, Hannah believes Anita is bulimic. Wanting the attention, Anita deceives Hannah, making her believe she has an eating disorder. Hannah gives Anita her diary of when she was anorexic. This leads to an argument with Nancy and Anita's sister Leila. Feeling at her lowest, Hannah has to stop herself from binging. When Anita catches Hannah being sick, she feels guilty and confesses she made the illness up. Angry at this, Hannah tells Leila and Anita's brother Ravi. Anita then informs Suzanne and Rhys about witnessing Hannah being sick, realising she has made her relapse. Hannah moves in with Darren following her family's interference and she starts to make herself sick. When Anita tries to tell Hannah to get help, she becomes angry, and throws her out. Darren catches her being sick and tells Rhys and Josh. Hannah later attacks him, before he tells her to leave the flat, which she does. Moving back in with her family, the Ashworths begin to become overprotective of Hannah. In order to convince them that nothing is wrong with her, Hannah gets Nev and Suzanne to take her to hospital, where the Ashworths are informed of her weight loss. Hannah then escapes the hospital. Darren finds her, as she is making plans to flee the country. When he realises his own family will not forgive him for several reasons, Darren steals money from Steph Cunningham and tells Hannah he will leave with her.

During their time on the run from their families, Hannah collapses, and Darren questions whether she has eaten. Later on, she collapses again and seizures. Rhys and Josh discover Hannah and Darren's whereabouts when he calls them. An angry Hannah tells her brothers to leave as Darren calls an ambulance. Hannah is admitted into an eating disorder unit of the hospital, where she refuses to let her family believe she is ill. Later, she tells Darren she wants to die. Hannah slowly recovers in hospital and bonds with Zoe Carpenter. She is relieved when doctors tell her she is well enough to leave. In February 2010, Hannah makes a life changing decision that she leaves Hollyoaks to be independent. At first, her family refuses to let her go, thinking she's not ready and mature enough to go on her own. However, they think she would learn things in life, so they let her leave. Hannah goes to see her husband,Darren, and leaves him a present, telling him not to open it until after she has left. When he opens it he finds a photo of himself and Hannah, a message which says that he is the best husband ever and £5 000. Hannah is unable to attend her brother Rhys' funeral in 2012 as it is revealed she is suffering from shingles due to stress.


Disordered Eating, a website dedicated to the awareness of eating disorders said that the characters storylines had succeeded in raising awareness and provoking much discussion of the huge problem of eating disorders.[1] Actress Emma Rigby has won numerous awards for her portrayal of Hannah and the storylines given, including Best Actress at The British Soap Awards 2008,[10] and another from The Mental Health Awards.[12] Different media sources reported the character is the only one to raise the issue of eating disorders and size zero, stating that Hollyoaks were not afraid to do so and praising the team for using the character to break the ground.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d "Hollyoaks Anorexia Storyline". Disordered Eating. 7 September 2007. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  2. ^ a b Liza Williams (31 July 2007). "Hollyoaks breaks new ground with anorexia plot". Liverpool Daily Post. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  3. ^ "British Soap Awards 2008: The Winners". Metro. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  4. ^ "Hollyoaks' Emma depressed by role". Metro. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  5. ^ Kris Green (8 November 2008). "EXCLUSIVE: Emma Rigby quits 'Hollyoaks'". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  6. ^ Kris Green (3 March 2009). "EXCLUSIVE: Emma Rigby extends 'Oaks contract". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  7. ^ Kris Green (11 May 2009). "Emma Rigby confirms December 'Oaks exit". Digital Spy. Retrieved 2009-07-06. 
  8. ^ a b "Cast: Girls: Hannah Ashworth". Channel 4.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  9. ^ Digital Spy: Producer's Perspective 2008: Bryan Kirkwood
  10. ^ a b "Hollyoaks triumphs". Metro. 4 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  11. ^ a b Sara Nathan (8 August 2007). "Hollyoaks in anorexia warning". The Sun. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  12. ^ a b "Hollyoaks wins mental heath [sic] award". Metro. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

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