Emmerdale’s Samantha Giles and Jonny McPherson aka Bernice Blackstock and Dr Liam Cavanagh #Cavastock, talk about Bernice’s Botox botch job, their new couple status and on-set shenanigans.
They haven’t been together long but you can already tell Emmerdale’s Bernice Blackstock (Samantha Giles) and Dr Liam Cavanagh (Jonny McPherson), or #Cavastock as fans call them, will be one of the show’s iconic couples. With their brilliant comedy timing, the pairing have fans rooting for them, especially against Liam’s evil daughter Leanna – who’s latest escapade is to play on Bernice’s insecurities about turning 50.
Feeling fragile about her age, Bernice’s interest is piqued when Kerry Wyatt (Laura Norton) mentions Botox in the salon. When Liam goes to Priya’s aid while she’s exercising, a fed-up Bernice purchases Botox online with disastrous results…
“Obviously I am younger than her by a few years,” actress Samantha Giles points out. “So she’s turning 50 and is very insecure about that. She doesn’t think that Dr Cavanagh knows her age, and she wants to keep it that way. Because he’s a bit younger than her.
“So it’s the birthday thing that kind of prompts it, and then they see Priya out jogging, looking really tiny and perfect and everything. And that makes Bernice go, “Oh my God.” But she falls over, doesn’t she, and she hurts her ankle.”
“She does,” co-star Jonny McPherson adds, “and I come to her aid, and start manipulating her ankle.”
“And actually, Priya’s doing it to wind Bernice up a bit,” says Samantha. “But it works. So she’s kind of thinking, “Oh my God, I’ve got to hold back the years. Once she’s made her decision with what she wants to do, she does go to Kerry and Kerry’s attitude is— well, everybody has Botox. Loads of people, you know… it’s what people do these days. They just do it.”
The next day in the village Diane and Gabby are amused to see Bernice attempting to exercise. Feeling insecure once more Bernice decides to go ahead with it and Kerry starts to inject Bernice with the Botox. Panic sets in when they realise Bernice is having a reaction and struggling to breathe, Bernice is rushed into A&E.
“I don’t think business has been that great really,” suggests Samantha. “And she’s looked up some prices, and it’s quite expensive. So she just makes an impulsive decision to buy the stuff. And Kerry seems to have done it before, although the one that they buy, all the instructions are in Chinese.”
A doctor soon explains to Kerry and Leanna that Bernice has suffered an allergic reaction. Liam is furious at Kerry’s stupidity. They are all in shock when the doctor reveals Bernice’s face could be permanently paralysed. She is in intensive care and all hope Bernice will regain consciousness. So is this meant to be kind of a cautionary tale against cosmetic procedures?
“I don’t think that’s been the sole aim of the story,” Samantha advises. “I think it has to fit, and it just probably the fact that she’s dating a younger man – so it just probably seemed like a great opportunity to use the story. But it does resonate with me. I’m in my 40s. I’m in my late 40s, really, and I think that a lot of women start to feel more conscious of your age. You catch yourself in the mirror, and you see younger women, and you think, “Oh my God, I am getting older.
“Getting older isn’t nice, for anybody. So it’s weird to think that you could put a stop to it. I don’t think it’s a very sensible thing to do. So I suppose if it highlights something out there for women, I think it’s just about feeling more positive about their own image. It doesn’t help that obviously we’re just given images of women all the time, aren’t we, in the media, that have got these perfect, flawless faces, with no lines at all, and they’re puffed up everywhere, and I think it looks ridiculous. But I think you can always tell when someone’s had work.
“Bernice goes to hospital. She goes into an anaphylactic shock. So it’s quite dangerous. And there’s a possibility that the paralysis – you know, the swelling – is going to stay. So there is that danger.”
So how does mild mannered Dr Cavanagh react to his girlfriend messing around with Botox and the danger she puts herself in?
“I think it throws him into a bit of a quandary as to whether or not he’s somebody who wants to be with somebody who would take those sort of steps,” explains Jonny McPherson. “Who would veer into thinking that that was the sort of person that he wanted to be with. So I think it puts into question who Bernice is, and whether or not it’s the right thing for him.
“But actually, the fact that it becomes very serious, and that she ends up in hospital, I think it actually does, in times of crisis, bring people quite strongly together. So I think actually that’s what throws everything into question, and ultimately brings them a bit closer.”
“And the fact of discovering that your daughter has been meddling and egged her on!” jokes Samantha!
Kerry reveals Leanna pressured her into performing the Botox which adds fuel to Gabby’s fire and Diane has to restrain her from attacking Leanna. Unable to justify her actions desperate Leanna flees the room.
“Leanna is, without question, very troubled,” explains Jonny. “It’s interesting, the whole Botox thing is, it comes to light that the reason she’s so troubled is that Dr Cavanagh’s first wife and her mum died of an anaphylactic shock. So it will bring stuff back for her as well. So you discover more about Leanna and why she behaves the way she does. She’s not just pure evil. Although some of the stuff she does is pretty bad.”
Samantha adds: “It’s quite nice because Bernice and Leanna are able to build some bridges because she obviously feels terrible about what she’s encouraged Bernice to do, especially because Bernice could have died. So that brings them a bit closer together.”
Jonny has appeared in Emmerdale since 2014 so how does it feel to now be a regular after so many years of popping in and out?
“I’ve been popping in and out as a character and been off doing bits of theatre. There had been suggestions I could get a few episodes here and there. So to actually finally be like, you know, “Here’s a contract. Let’s get going. Here are some storylines.” It’s been wonderful. I’ve been very fortunate to be paired up as we are. We get on very well. We have a nice time and that’s something you can never predict.
“Initially there were discussions as to whether or not Dr Cavanagh would be abusive and violent and start murdering people – that sort of thing. But thankfully, it’s taken… we call it a kind of Carry On Emmerdale. It’s taken a sort of light turn. Some light comedy, with me popping out of the bushes and getting caught in the toilets and stuff.
“There’s a gallantry about the relationship, I think? Somebody stuck something up on Twitter the other day, saying, “What does the Bernice and Dr Cavanagh storyline remind me of?” And it was the old couple in Last of the Summer Wine. It absolutely killed me. It’s about right. There’s an innocence about it. We talked about it at the beginning. There’s a touch of Brief Encounter about it.”
And Samantha agrees: “It’s funny because you don’t know how a pairing is going to work until you start working with the person. We do have a bit of a laugh. It seems to work. And it seems people are quite positive out there – on Twitter or whatever – to the coupling. They seem to like it. So hopefully it’s working.”
Fingers crossed the doctor is a keeper as Bernice hasn’t been lucky in love over the years…
“No, not at all. Not at all!” exclaims Samantha. “In some ways that’s quite nice because it’s true – some people don’t find anybody for years and years. So I can see on the one hand it’s nice to feel that she might have met somebody but I think she’s a bit of a self-saboteur as well. She doesn’t do herself any favours.
“Apart from Jonny – obviously – I did really enjoy the very early on Ashley and Bernice story because I feel that captured a very slow, unusual romance. That was quite unusual. That was quite fun to play. Also the Carlos affair was fun to play…
So after ending up in hospital with such a serious reaction to Botox, will Bernice learn from the experience and grow old gracefully?
“Yes. Until the next thing!” adds Samantha. “She has learned stuff from it but she’s sort of gullible. She might think, ‘oh, I’ve done this and I’m never going to do it again’ and then somebody else will come along and say, ‘you’ll have to try this’ and she says ‘yes, I will’. She doesn’t learn her lesson…”