Trevor Morgan (EastEnders)
|Portrayed by||Alex Ferns|
|First appearance||Episode 2047
21 December 2000
|Last appearance||Episode 2406
1 November 2002
|Created by||Tony Jordan|
|Introduced by||John Yorke|
Trevor Morgan is a fictional character from the BBC soap opera EastEnders, played by Alex Ferns. He first appeared in December 2000, and became a regular cast member the following summer, after moving into Albert Square with his wife Little Mo Slater (Kacey Ainsworth). He remained in the show until the character was killed off in the episode which aired on 1 November 2002.
Trevor is introduced as the abusive husband of Little Mo Slater (Kacey Ainsworth), when she agrees to return to him following a period of separation. Trevor promises to cease his violence towards her, but soon resumes his abuse, often beating and humiliating her. He is regularly apologetic after attacking her, but continues to isolate her from her family, especially her sisters Kat (Jessie Wallace) and Lynne (Elaine Lordan). When Trevor discovers Little Mo plans to attend her sister Lynne Hobbs's wedding, he rapes her as a punishment. When she arrives late for Christmas dinner, he pushes her face into her plate and forces her to eat the remains from the carpet. Little Mo's family constantly implore her to leave her husband, despising his treatment of her. Trevor frequently rows with her sister Kat Slater, and is attacked by her father Charlie (Derek Martin) when he learns that Trevor burned Little Mo's hand with an iron. When Little Mo finally leaves Trevor when she discovers he deleted a message from Zoe Slater (Michelle Ryan), he tries to win her back. She resists and he becomes violent, attempting to rape her again. Mo hits Trevor over the head with an iron in self-defence, knocking him unconscious. Mo believes she has killed him, but when she and her family return to dispose of Trevor's body, they find out he has gone. Trevor reports Little Mo to the police and has her charged with attempted murder, although she is released on bail until the trial in April 2002.
Despite strong evidence of domestic violence, corroborated by Trevor's mistress Donna Andrews (Paula Jennings), with whom he has a son, Sean, the jury at her trial find Little Mo guilty of attempted murder and she is sentenced to eight years in prison. Following Little Mo's imprisonment, Donna ends up in hospital as a result of Trevor's abuse. Kat cares for Sean, but Trevor arrives at the Slater family home, determined to take his son. When Kat stands in his way, Trevor attacks her, knocking her to the ground. The police arrive and arrest him, but Trevor makes a deal with Kat, agreeing to retract his statement against Little Mo in return for Kat not pressing charges against him. Little Mo is subsequently released from prison. Little Mo begins dating Billy Mitchell (Perry Fenwick), but Trevor again returns in an attempt to win her back. While he is dating Sam Mitchell (Kim Medcalf), he harasses her, beginning a campaign of intimidation which culminates in him taking Little Mo and his son hostage in the Slater family home attempting to kill them all in a house fire, but Little Mo stands up to Trevor by saying she is not frightened of him. He threatens to start the fire but she lights the match saying he does not have the guts. He grabs Mo, causing the match to drop and a fire to start. Little Mo and Sean are rescued by her neighbour Tom Banks (Colm Ó Maonlaí); however, when going back for Trevor, both men are killed when the house explodes.
Little Mo begins to plan a funeral for Trevor, but is convinced by Donna that she should be mourning Tom instead. This leads to Mo's family including Billy being angered at Little Mo after all the treatment Trevor has given her. However, when she attempts to get rid of his ashes, she says to Kat that she does not want to scatter them, as it is an act of remembrance and does not want to remember him, which makes Kat finally proud of her sister again. Later on she tells Billy in the cafe, that she saw a new chapter of her life and the doors to her previous one closing when the curtains closed on the coffin.
In her book Media and violence: gendering the debates, Karen Boyle states that Trevor's introduction to EastEnders follows a theme in British soap operas whereby abusive characters are never completely integrated into the soap community. Trevor's first appearance in EastEnders occurs months after the introduction of the core Slater family, and he is never given a permanent home on Albert Square. Boyle observes that Trevor's status as an outsider means that he is also expelled from the community with relative ease, and that there is "a whiff of divine justice" about his eventual death. In Social issues in television fiction, Lesley Henderson furthers the assessment of Trevor as an outsider with the observation that he was one of very few Scottish characters in the soap's history, and the sole Scottish character at the time.
Ferns was surprised by the storyline which saw Trevor rape Little Mo, opining that EastEnders's executive producer John Yorke "really put his neck on the line by doing it." He found the rape and Christmas attack the most difficult scenes of his career, but found Trevor easier to play as he gained a better psychological understanding of the character. Ainsworth found the Christmas scenes equally difficult, and told Cosmopolitan magazine: "Even though I'm an actress, at that point when I was on the floor, I felt totally and utterly humiliated and sick. I felt Little Mo's degradation at having her head shoved into a plate of food. What was more frightening was I knew this scene could have been real, that it's all part of the power game these men play to make women feel as if they're worthless." At one time, Ferns considered leaving the acting profession to become a counsellor, but felt that he was prevented from doing so by Trevor's high profile, explaining: "It's difficult enough for people who are grieving without Trevor walking in."
Ferns won six awards for his portrayal of Trevor, and was nominated for a further four. In 2002, he was named "Most Hated Soap Villain" by readers of What's On TV magazine, with 21% of the votes. He won "Best Newcomer" and "Villain of the Year" at the 2002 British Soap Awards, "Best Actor" at the 2002 Inside Soap Awards, and both "Best Soap Newcomer" and "Best Soap Storyline" for Trevor's abuse of Little Mo at the 2002 TV Quick and TV Choice Awards. He was also nominated "Most Popular Actor" at the 2002 National Television Awards, and "Best Actor", "Villain of the Year" and "Best Storyline", again for Trevor's abuse of Little Mo, at the 2003 British Soap Awards. Karen Price of the Western Mail wrote in 2008 that Ferns as Trevor had "some of the most dramatic scenes in the history of EastEnders". The domestic abuse storyline received critical commendation for its "sensitive account" of sexual violence, however was also condemned for "symbolising the descent of popular television into distressing and inappropriate material." Boyle gave the storyline a mixed review, writing that Little Mo's attempted murder conviction served to highlight the inequities of the legal system, yet undermined "the more mundane, persistent realities of domestic violence that the soap - patterned on repetition and the deferral of closure - is otherwise well positioned to deal with." In 2012, Digital Spy listed Trevor as one of the "scariest TV characters of all time", saying he "gave plenty of soaps fans nightmares."
The episode in which Trevor attacked Little Mo over Christmas dinner was watched by 14.5 million viewers, and voted 57th in Channel 4's 100 Greatest Scary Moments. The storyline attracted so many complaints from the public that the Broadcasting Standards Commission undertook their first study of sex and violence in soap operas in twenty years. The Commission ruled that the Christmas episode, as well as the New Year's Eve 2001 episode in which Little Mo retaliated by attacking Trevor with an iron, should not have been broadcast before the 9 pm watershed. It was felt that the latter episode had a "stark and graphic quality unsuitable for pre-watershed transmission", and while the BSC stated that scenes of domestic abuse were permissible, there were "concern[s] about the intense, disturbing and protracted nature of the scenes portraying Trevor's attacks on Mo". A spokesperson for the BBC defended the scenes as "developments in well-established storylines". They claimed the depiction of abuse was consistent for the series, and that EastEnders viewers expected that seasonal episodes such as Christmas and New Year would always be "overshadowed by crises".
Ferns received a death threat whilst working on EastEnders, believed by police to have been sent from a "crazed fan". He was told to take extra security precautions, including leaving the EastEnders set via the back exit, and not travelling alone. Ferns was surprised by the strength of reactions to his role, and assessed that it was because of the domestic abuse: "You can have violence on screen and it's kind of an everyday thing but there's something about a man hitting a woman, within the confines of their own home, that people find hard to take." The aggression directed at him by members of the public intensified following Little Mo's imprisonment, forcing Ferns to wear a disguise when travelling on the London Underground.
- Boyle, Karen (2005), "The days of whose lives? Violence, (post-)feminism and television: soap operas and male violence", in Boyle, Karen, Media and violence gendering the debates, London Thousand Oaks, California: Sage, pp. 168–169, ISBN 9781412903790. Preview.
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