In the final week of special lockdown episodes showing life in Emmerdale for the village residents, Marlon Dingle is having a nightmare when he find himself staying with Al Chapman. Actor Mark Charnock talks about Marlon’s hell.
Lockdown is a trial for Marlon who is feeling disconnected as not only is he living in another house due to plumbing issues at his but both his kids April and Leo are in lockdown in other properties in the village. Matters are made worse when he discovers Ellis has invited his father Al to live with them, as he has nowhere else to go. But Al and Marlon couldn’t be more different and soon tension between them rears up. Can Marlon and Al survive the full lockdown under the same roof? Actor Mark Charnock explains…
How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special Lockdown episodes?
I felt really thrilled! It’s exciting because they feel like specials or spin offs in a funny kind of way. What’s brilliant is the fact that the show is trying to reflect other people’s experiences in lockdown, and hopefully the stories we are telling will feel familiar to people. I was genuinely thrilled to be invited to be a part of them.
Was it hard to learn the script, given the amount of dialogue?
I got a phone call to say I was going to be in the episode and then the script was emailed across. I read it then texted the writer and producer to say how nuanced, detailed and brilliant I thought the script was and how it was a real journey for some of the characters. They replied to me saying ‘you’ve only had it for half an hour!’ and I realised I’d missed reading scripts that much, that I just swallowed it whole and the same thing has happened with learning it.
It does help that it’s so well written by Karin Young so I found it really easy to learn. I always try to do my learning in drafts and on my first scan across the script I have it pretty much down and then just try to get the details in. The line learning muscle in my brain has been waiting to do some exercise and here it is!
Tell us about the rehearsal process.
We went into the studio to rehearse for about two hours, just running through everything with the director. They wanted us to go in for the shoot day knowing exactly where we will be as we are shooting a whole episode in one day. There are a lot of scenes and dialogue to get through and we won’t have time to ask the director where we should stand and also to have already dealt with any questions about the scripts well in advance. It is a way for us to try and get ahead of ourselves.
It’s not like a normal rehearsal so we went through every single scene and covered any questions we had during the process. It was knowing where we are going to be in each scene, all of the scenes are on the same set and we needed to write down where we would be and remember scene after scene, otherwise we would just get lost.
Tell us how the filming process differs from normal?
By the time we go into filming there will be different zones in the building for the different crews and cast and we won’t be eating in the same space as we used to. It’s been really good actually and the show has been brilliant, we’ve been given a map as to where we can go and when, just the undertaking of getting the mechanics of it sorted. I felt very safe on the day of rehearsal because nobody is too close to one another, everyone was keeping the 2 metre distance and it felt like Emmerdale were completely looking after us. I never felt vulnerable and it all felt very normal. It made for a very relaxed working environment. I’m enjoying the process and it’s been fantastic.
I’ve been arranging to do line runs with the other two actors and we have had a lot of one to one time with the directors and producers and it’s exciting, because you can feel like it’s the warm up to us coming back properly. I’ve missed people and I’ve been loving the process, no one takes the job for granted and that is what makes it such a pleasurable place to work.
Are you interested in how this episode is received? And will you watch?
I feel the same about this episode as I do from any other. Our standards are high and you always want it to be as good as it can be. I think people will love it and of course I’ll watch!”
Did it feel more exposed/intense than a normal episode?
The viewer will be a lot more able to focus on a small group of characters so completely getting into their hearts and minds. That is what’s lovely about these episodes, you’ll get to know the psychologies of these characters. It is very gentle moving towards a meeting of minds.
Marlon seems worried he’s made a bad decision letting April stay with Bob do you think he regrets it?
He has got regrets and concerns, Marlon is always cautious and he’s a worrier. He had a little cough, a mild version of one of the symptoms so he thought safety first so he isolated and then of course, the cough went away. But by now April has been with Bob for a few days and Marlon doesn’t feel he can get her back, it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. It was the sensible thing to do to let April stay with Bob, even though Marlon didn’t have the virus, but it’s a catch twenty-two because now he can’t have April with him.
How does he first feel when he sees Al has moved in?
Incandescent with rage! He is astounded that Ellis would think this is okay when he knows what Marlon thinks about Al.
Tell us about their relationship. He is not a fan is he?
He is not a fan of Al at all, Marlon loathes Al most of all. It was Al who broke up his marriage and wrecked his domestic life.
Surely Al and Marlon are polar opposites under one room. Is Marlon worried about lockdown?
Al is the person who would be at the bottom of Marlon’s list to isolate with. He wants Al to get out and Ellis tells him if Al is going, then he has to go.
He makes an error of judgement regarding Leo does this upset him?
He’s really messed up, one Thursday night, (the days pass by during the episode) after clapping for carers Marlon gets carried away and goes all the way into the village and he waves at Leo and Leo doesn’t understand why Marlon won’t come into the house. Leo kicks off and scratches and bites his mum. She is furious with Marlon and he is devastated he’s made such a huge mistake. It just breaks Marlon’s heart.
He has bonded with Ellis do you think that is causing Al a problem?
The episode puts Marlon and Al in the last situation that either of them would pick and watching them try and get their heads around each other and in the middle of it all is Ellis.
What would you say this episode was about?
The complexities of fatherhood and doing the right thing as a Dad. It shows a thawing of this mutual distrust, it’s warm hearted and it shows the compromises you have to make as a human being to get through a crisis. It’s about people trying to do the right thing despite their reservations.
Have you largely loved or loathed lockdown?
It’s been alright. I’m good at occupying my time, I’ve kept my brain fit by learning Italian and reading a lot. I’ve had a few days when I’ve felt myself asking when this is all going to end? But this is what we’re left with. This is the given situation at the moment and I’ve been lucky. You look on the news and see people going through terrible things. I think I’m not going to feel sorry for myself with people going through all that. Fortunately, I’m not in that position and I’ve found it okay.
See Marlon Dingle in lockdown with Ellis and Al Chapman on Wednesday 24 June