In the final week of special lockdown episodes showing life in Emmerdale for the village residents, Al Chapman finds himself staying with son Ellis and Marlon Dingle. Actor Michael Wildman explains how Al tries to build bridges with his son Ellis.
Given how much he’s clashed with Marlon Dingle since he arrived in Emmerdale, Al Chapman is the last person you’d expect to find as his housemate during lockdown. Ellis invites his father Al to stay with him and Marlon, as he has nowhere else to go. But Al and Marlon couldn’t be more different and soon tension between them rears up. They are both fathers but very different. The deeply strained relationship between Al and son Ellis will also be tested by lockdown. Ellis has so many questions for his father? Will he finally get to learn why Al wasn’t a better father? Actor Michael Wildman explains…
How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special Lockdown episodes?
I jumped at the chance, I like to work and after 8 weeks of lockdown I was starting to get itchy. As nice as it is to be at home, I wanted to get back into the character as soon as I possibly could.
Was it hard to learn the script, given not only the amount of dialogue?
I’m still learning it! Only Mark Charnock has the ability to learn the script within two days, I don’t have that necessary skill. The amount of scenes to learn isn’t that different from those who are given lots on the show. I know Mark usually has about 14 scenes a day and we’re shooting 13 scenes that day so when times are busy, it’s not too far off the norm in terms of amount. My first year on the show, a lot of what I was filming was to do between Al and Kim and we’d have those marathon days of eight or nine scenes back to back just the two of us, so it isn’t too dissimilar. What’s so different is putting Al and Marlon together in such close proximity.
Tell us about the rehearsal process.
That’s life outside of the soap. Rehearsal time is what I was used to prior to coming into Emmerdale. On Emmerdale I’ve had to get used to generally not having rehearsals. We shoot so much and shoot so quickly in the show. Our rehearsals come during set-ups so this has been a luxury. I have loved coming in and talking through things, although we didn’t have a huge amount of time but it was refreshing having the time to talk things through.The ability to have a rehearsal process was lovely as it was so nice to read and hear it and feel it. So by the time we come to shoot it, it really will be in our bones
Tell us about the script.
The episode has been written so well. We made a tweak in one scene but it’s a great script and really clever.
Tell us how the filming process differs from normal?
It is a bit weird, as actors we’re tactile people and the job we do is very tactile, it’s about being in close proximity to one another. Social distancing is going to change things for however long it needs to be, so it is weird having people on set with two metre sticks just in case we get too close! We actually had to move to a different set for this episode as it gave us more space and more freedom to move around making it a lot easier to maintain the two metre distance. The blocking is very technical. We had to work out who could cross first when usually we just naturally move about each other in a scene.
Are you interested in how this episode is received? And will you watch?
Absolutely, this is something that is reflecting real life, something that we’re all going through. In reality there are people stuck with people that they didn’t want to be stuck with in lockdown. What’s really nice about this episode is that we’ve had a lot of Al trying to get close to his son, doing the bad things and trying to claw him back.
Tell us about the episode.
The whole point of the episode is that it’s about fatherhood. Strange things happen throughout the episode which we’ll see.
Why is Al so down on his luck so he has had to move in with his son Ellis?
I think it’s just pure logistics, he has nowhere else to go. He wants to be with his son at this time.
Do you get more insight into Al in this episode?
Any insight into the character for an actor is always exciting and helpful. For me the luxury is that playing Al is always a pleasure, even without knowing what his background is, it’s intriguing to me because I can play him either way. Al is a 47 year old man and is pretty set, sometimes you can’t change people and it’s just too ingrained. This episode could try and help Al be a better person. Whether he can do that, we’ll have to wait and see.
Have you largely loved or loathed lockdown?
Being an actor in lockdown, this is what we do. We’re masters at filling days and making the best of a bad situation. Not being able to see my family and my Mum has been very hard. I do worry that kids aren’t socialising with friends and others their own age. It’s unprecedented for everyone, not being able to interact as you normally would, that’ll take a lot of getting used to.
Tell us about homeschooling.
It’s been interesting and I have even more respect for teachers now. My son has done a lot of work in two months for a six-year-old. He has written his first story and I can see his writing has improved and some really positive things have come out of this time.
See Al Chapman in lockdown with his son Ellis and Marlon Dingle on Wednesday 24 June