What is your first memory of your first day on Emmerdale?
I remember driving on the M62 from Manchester, as that was where I was living at the time and on that journey I remember thinking ‘Oh my God, I’m going to be one of the Dingles’ because they were such an iconic family. There was Zak, Sam, Butch, Mandy, Lisa and Marlon, there were so many different Dingles and I thought I’m going to be part of this family, this is bizarre. I remember coming up to the village and driving down the track and I’m a bit of a nature square so I was marvelling at the birds and the deer and everything along the track. My first scene was at the Dingles set and I was shooting it with James Hooton who plays Sam and he’d been away for a few years so it was Jim’s first day back as well and we were playing brothers and we’d never done scenes before. I remember doing that scene and hearing James’ Notts accent and then hearing him snap into Sam, I thought oh my goodness, this guy is amazing and he blew me away. I was meant to be really nasty in the scene but inside I was feeling excited, nervous and trying to hold it together to make sure the scene worked.
What is your fondest memory about being on the show?
I did six years and I left the show and I was given the story with Patsy Kensit’s character to leave the show. We double crossed the Kings and got millions of pounds from them and then we were to fly off in an aeroplane and steal the money but right at the end Cain double crosses Sadie and pushes her out of the plane and just flies off. We had to do shots of me in the plane and on the ground and flying over the Dingles and to have done six years in this brilliant show and to get to see this beautiful countryside that I’ve been working on from an aerial view was the best way to finish my first six years on Emmerdale.
What is your overriding funniest memory of an on screen scene?
There was a scene at the back of Debbie’s house with Charley Webb, Emma Atkins and myself and it was the last scene of the day on a Friday, everybody had had a busy week and was feeling tired. Sometimes we corpse, we laugh and get giddy and once you start, you can’t stop. Between the three of us, we kept setting each other off and we were trying to compose ourselves but we’d just look at each other and she’d be crying with laughter and Emma was doing the same. The director came on set and had to be a bit of a school teacher and quite rightly because he wanted us to get it done but the more he did that, the more we laughed like naughty school children.
Give us some of your favourite scenes?
There was a great scene in the Woolpack when Cain got bludgeoned by Zak. He’s done things to Amy, he’s done things to Jai, he’s hated by everyone in the village and he comes into the pub and everyone is staring at him like they’re in a western. Nobody wants to speak to Cain but one by one he picks off people in there and says ‘You’re this, you’re that’ I think he even has a go at Edna’s hat. It was a really well written scene that I really enjoyed doing and it was a really memorable moment. The Cain and Faith Flashback episode was really special, what I liked about it is was that you got to see the history of Cain, Chas and Faith and why he became the person he was. Because Faith walked out on him and Chas when they were 10 years old. Their father was beating them up and their mother left them but she was also thinking about herself as well so it explained a lot. It was a lovely episode to do, really well written. I love working with Sally Dexter, she’s absolutely brilliant. I loved doing the live episode, it was a really special piece for us as a whole company because everybody on that floor from the boom guys, to the camera guys, to the make-up girls, to the props department, everybody had to be involved. The camaraderie between us as a company was so good and there was no chance to have another go. It was nerve wracking but we rehearsed it within an inch of its life and it went really well. The sense of euphoria we all had after doing that episode was really special. One that was a real challenge, which I didn’t think would be until I went and did my diving practice was the underwater stuff with Cain, Nate and Moira on the lake and they end up under the water. I’d never used a regulator before or been snorkelling and went into this pool in Leeds and went under with the mask on and took the regulator out, held my breath and did it again but then as soon as I took the mask off everything got really claustrophobic, I couldn’t see because it suddenly went full blurred. It was really stressful. I went back up to the top and the diving instructor asked me if everything was alright and I had to tell him I felt quite panicked. We did a few more sessions and it was fine but I was quite nervous going into that tank. Natalie told me about this book called ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’ and I thought about that on the first take we did, it was in Basildon, I thought I can’t wear the mask, I’ve just got to get used to this. The first time I went down, all I could hear was the breathing and it was nice and calm and I was floating down. I was with the diver and I’d got this weight belt on to keep me down there on this platform which Natalie was on. I could see Natalie giving me the thumbs up and on the mic I could hear Rachel, the first assistant director talking and it was really clear under the water which is bizarre, it sounded like she was at a bus stop or on the tannoy at an airport. I went down and grabbed onto Natalie’s leg to get into position for the shot but my body was trying to float up and my breathing was suddenly changing from calm to panicked and I was thinking I can’t do this! But I remembered Feel the Fear And Do it Anyway, held onto Nat and heard action, did the take then went up to the top and thought I’ve done it, there’s nothing to be scared of here and once I’d done that it became one of the best shoots I’ve ever done and the sense of achievement at the end of it was amazing. I think Nat and I would both agree on that. It was a real pat on the back moment for me.
What do you think it is about Cain that appeals to viewers?
I think people tend to like a villain or a baddie and they like the underdog, which I think the Dingles are as a family, they’re certainly the lowest rung of the ladder on the social spectrum in Emmerdale. It’s that old adage of would you prefer your daughters to date a Beatle or a Rolling Stone and everybody chose the Rolling Stones because the Beatles were too squeaky clean.
Zak almost killed Cain – tell us about this storyline and you shaved your head didn’t you? They wrote that storyline really well, there were so many suspects and nobody was expecting it to be Zak but he was doing it to protect other people from his son because his son was out of control. That spurred another storyline for Steve and I where we got to do this brilliant two-hander episode, where hearts were on the table and it was about being honest and open with each other about our relationship.
Do you love being a Dingle and if so why?
I do because each one of the family are rounded, fun and brilliant characters but with that, the actor behind each one is a lot of fun in their own right and we all have a laugh on set. When there are Dingle family scenes they have to quieten us down a bit on set because we all get a bit giddy. Some of my earliest memories are of breakfast scenes at the Dingles, which was mayhem. There was so much toast, sausages and bacon, I’m sure I put on a stone in my first six months at Emmerdale, with Cain being the character that he is, he’s wolfing things down so if you’re doing six takes I end up eating so much. I do remember one scene with Lisa Riley who is very cheeky and funny, with her and Jim and just before we’re about to start Lisa leans over to Jim and puts a massive splodge of tomato sauce on his face and then they shout ‘action’. They were straight in it and I just thought ‘what is going on!’ That mayhem and fun we were having before I think got translated into the scene. Fun times.
What do you love about Cain?
I like the fact that the older he’s getting, certainly when I came back after a few years out, layers had been added to the character and they stopped him being this lone operator who lived at the top of the Dingles who didn’t have any friends. He had been integrated into the village and he started to work at the garage, he became more of a believable character who began to have friends in the village. The few years I’d been out of the show the writers had written a history for Cain and the brilliant characters he’s interacted with over the years, it keeps adding dimensions to him.
What other storyline has had you gripped?
The underwater stuff in the pub I thought was really good but I couldn’t be used in that storyline because I was away. They did a couple of scenes of me at a hotel somewhere in Yorkshire, I was meant to be in France. I watched that episode shot by Duncan Foster and thought that it was amazing. Mark, Charley, Lucy and Dom were all so exciting to watch and it kept you in suspense, at the end of each half you wanted to know what was going to happen next.
The best week of Emmerdale I think I’ve ever watched, and I wasn’t in any of it, was the Hotten Bypass. Every night when we got to the same point between whichever characters were featured in that episode that all culminated in them in the car crash, it was really clever storytelling and really beautifully shot, it was really exciting television and it made me really proud to be part of the show.
What do you love most about Emmerdale?
I love the crew, I love the people who work in the building and I have great laughs with the people I work with in front of the camera. I have a really close set of friends here and we’ll be friends for life. I love the countryside and the Yorkshire Dales and Yorkshire itself, that’s what I’ve fallen in love with and that’s what keeps me enjoying this show and keeps me happy.