This year has been ‘annulus horribilis’ for Bob Hope but its not set to improve over Christmas according to Emmerdale actor Tony Audenshaw.
Some would say ‘poor Bob’ while others would argue that the former cafe owner Bob Hope (Tony Audenshaw) has brought all his troubles on himself. An affair with Laurel Thomas (Charlotte Bellamy) behind wife Brenda’s back has resulted in Bob ending up alone, his kids living with Brenda, with no home of his own and living hand to mouth.
Bob’s money worries escalate as Christmas arrives, leading him to take some drastic – and in true Bob Hope fashion – disastrous results. Soon a despondent Bob is left feeling even more isolated than before. It’s not been a good Christmas for him at all. Actor Tony Audenshaw explains why it will be lonely for Bob Hope this festive season.
Why is it an unhappy Christmas?
“Bob has split up with his missus, which was his own fault for going off with Laurel. Now she’s ditched him too, having seen the error of her ways. Brenda won’t have him back and wants an annulment from the marriage. He’s only been working a few shifts at the pub after being out of work for months on end so he’s got no cash. He’s been staying at the B&B but it’s too expensive. He’s got no money and it’s a big problem for him.”
How bad are Bob’s financial woes?
“At Christmas, he’s deeply in debt. Pollard gives him a bill at the B&B that he can’t afford to pay. He’s taking any jobs he can and when Harriet says, ‘I need an elf, Santa’s elf’, he thinks it’ll be a shopping centre but after he gets the costume, it turns out it’s at a local children’s hospital and there’s no money involved.
“On Christmas Eve, he’s at the hospital, dressed like an idiot with Father Christmas. He hasn’t got his kids anything and he thinks about stealing one of Santa’s presents because he’s so desperate. When he gets out of the hospital after doing a shift for no money, he learns his car has been towed with his wallet in it. He’s having a pretty bad Christmas.”
When he can’t pay the bill, does Pollard throw him out?
“They’re sort of old mates and Bob’s got a long-standing relationship with Diane Sugden, who’s a bit more friendly towards him. He keeps saying he’ll come up with the money and he will pay them. They’ve known each other for 15 years. Nobody knows how bad the financial situation is for Bob. He’s trying to put a brave face on all the time and smile through it.”
Is he too proud to admit these troubles to his friend?
“He’s just too proud and doesn’t want to trouble anyone. He feels guilty because of everything he did with Brenda, he gave her the profits from the cafe because of the guilt. He felt terrible over what he did, but he deserves it, doesn’t he?”
Christmas can be a lonely and tough time for people. How did you feel about playing that storyline out?
“It is lonely. The thing is, everyone is concentrating on what they’re doing with their own family and friends – as they should be – that you just assume everyone is okay. Financially, Christmas is a difficult time for everyone; kids are very demanding and you feel like you should go out for a drink. Bob can’t even afford to go out on a Christmas do with his mates because he just doesn’t have that sort of money.
“The storyline looks more at the financial side of things. As it develops, it looks more at the person within a village and how people do care when they find out something’s wrong. Bob’s been in this sort of situation before when he first came into the show. He had a lot of ex-wives and he was paying money to his kids. He was sleeping in his car then. He’s quite resilient and he will just stick it out.”
Tell us about the watch he gets from the kids?
“The kids buy him this watch and he opens it on Christmas Eve in his elf costume at the hospital after his car has been towed away. The only way he can afford to get them a present is by pawning the watch. So he does and he buys them some games. Charity makes him work on Christmas Day so he doesn’t get to see his kids for ages and when he does, he learns he bought the wrong games. They won’t work, so they’ve got a machine but no games so obviously they’re upset by that and he feels even more isolated.”
How low do you think he can get?
“I think he can go very low! He feels terrible but he’s aware it’s his own doing. Brenda has said it on more than one occasion that he’ll end up with nothing and that’s the way it’s going to go for him.”
Do you think this experience might change Bob? Will this make him change his ways?
“He could do, yeah. It’s hard to say. With his affairs, it’s never been established whether he’s ever cheated before… We know he did with Brenda and Laurel and has split up with loads of women and remarried, but it’s never been established if he’s ever cheated. With him being a dad, it’s terrible because he leaves them after a while – like why has Brenda ended up with the kids, they’re his? It’s bonkers. He hasn’t been a bad dad apart from this…but they’re probably better off with her.”
Do you think he might reconcile with Brenda one day?
“From her point of view, she shouldn’t do it because there’s that thing of will he do it again? I just don’t know. They work very well as a couple but once that trust is gone, it’s not going to be the same again.”
Do you think it’d be good for Bob to have a period without a woman in his life?
“I think it’d be interesting to see. All throughout his life, he’s been quite needy. He has needed a relationship.”
How did you and Charlotte feel about Bob and Laurel?
“We’re both very pragmatic about things and we really enjoyed working together. I’ve known Charlotte a long time and she’s an absolute gem to work with. I’m aware the story wasn’t well received by a lot of people. I went on This Morning or Lorraine, and I don’t normally look at stuff, but I went on to see how it was going down and I was like, Oh my God! It was terrible, but all you can do from our point of view is play it as honestly as you can. There were times during the affair and we were thinking, the way he’s behaving is terrible, just lying and lying and lying, but that’s what you’ve got to do. Playing a character in a soap isn’t about making your character popular…”
How will your Christmas compare to Bob’s?
“My Christmas will be better than Bob’s! It’ll just be a normal Christmas day, and I’m quite lucky in that respect.”
See how Bob Hope gets on over Christmas in Emmerdale, on ITV every weeknight at 7pm, with an hour-long episode on Christmas Day at 7.15pm.