Chas and Paddy’s heartbreaking baby storyline is set to come to a tragic conclusion this autumn. Emmerdale actors Lucy Pargeter and Dominic Brunt explain what it’s like to bring this tragedy to life on screen.
It is every parent’s worst nightmare – losing a child at whatever point is tragic but carrying a child to know that it won’t survive more than a few hours is not even fathomable. So imagine having to portray something no parent ever wants to face and to spend months working on a storyline that heightens your deepest fears.
Chas and Paddy’s baby girl, now named Grace (but she’ll always be Margarita to us) has a condition called Bilateral Renal Agenesis, which means that neither of the baby’s kidneys have developed in the womb. This means that the baby won’t survive when she’s born.
Emmerdale’s Lucy Pargeter and Dominic Brunt – both parents in real life – explain what it’s been like to take on this emotional storyline, and to find out if their on-screen characters, Chas and Paddy, can survive this unimaginable heartache.
How are you both coping with such a tough storyline?
Lucy: It’s harrowing! In some cases when you are playing a tough storyline, you don’t necessarily have to go to an emotional place in your head. Whereas here, for the first time in a while I’ve had to go to places I don’t want to go.
Dominic: We sobbed while reading the scripts. Obviously, it’s not as tough as going through it in real life, but it’s fascinating to play. Weirdly, it has a positive twist to it as they’re having the baby for a positive reason – though whether they decided to take the baby to term or terminate the pregnancy, neither choice would be right or wrong.
Have you found yourselves rushing home after work to hug your kids?
Lucy: As soon as you open your front door, reality hits you and it washes over. You leave work at work and go home to the craziness! It helps that you get on with the person you work with.
Dominic:Yes, we’re very similar, we’ve both got kids and all the trouble that brings! We both thank God we aren’t going through this in real life.
Lucy: I’d only recently had my twin girls, but I always try to put a positive spin on things – so I was thinking, ‘At least it will make the emotion raw.’
Paddy and Chas meet Joanne this week, who’s been through a similar experience to them. Did you meet any couples in your research on this plot?
Dominic: No, when the writers asked if we wanted to meet some parents, we decided not to. The problem is that those people would tell us exactly how they felt at that time – but that’s not Chas and Paddy’s way of doing it.
Lucy: The research would colour your performance as everyone makes their own decision and has their own opinion. That case study would have been in my head, and we wanted to play it how it was written, as Chas and Paddy feel.
How do Chas and Paddy feel when they meet Joanne?
Lucy: The hospice recommends they meet with someone. Joanne’s baby had a different problem from Margarita, but sadly she died. Joanne tells Chas and Paddy they can ask her any questions like, ‘How was the birth?’, ‘Do you ever regret it?’ Joanne is their sounding board.
Dominic: They need to speak to someone to get ready for this. As Joanne tells them what happens, she remembers what’s happened to her – it’s played brilliantly. The story team and writers have done their research and treated the subject respectfully.
This is serious stuff, but the two of you have a lot of fun working together, don’t you?
Dominic: We do – we natter a lot and are constantly being told to shut up!
Lucy: We have a tendency to start a scene off at a pace and then get faster and faster and faster! Somebody has to go ‘Slow down, so we can actually hear what you are saying! Then, if I make a mistake, I tend to just carry on, but Dom can’t cope with that.
Dominic: It really sets me off. When you fluff a line, and the take won’t be usable, you still lie to yourself that you got away with it. It makes me collapse!
You clearly love working with each other, so are you keen for Chas and Paddy to get through this together?
Lucy: I really do hope they do. They’re having the same experience but have different ways of getting through it.
Dominic: I really hope so, too. Paddy can’t help but say the wrong thing sometimes as he’s not carrying the baby – but he’s a good person, and he’s trying to do what’s best for Chas. It’s the aftermath of this that interests me.
What can we expect as the storyline progresses?
Lucy: The birth is going to be different from how I think people anticipate.
Dominic: Without a doubt. Eventually, they do agree about organ donation.
Lucy: After what happens with Debbie and Sarah, Chas decides that they should do it – to give someone else life from what they are going through. It’s harrowing and hard, but there are some absolutely beautiful lines in the script. Playing this journey as a partnership has been enjoyable – even if it’s sometimes been difficult, too.