In the first Emmerdale in lockdown episode, Sam Dingle and his new wife Lydia are at Wishing Well cottage. With the rest of the Dingle clan banned from the house, Sam is fearful for Lydia’s safety. Actor James Hooton explains more…

Emmerdale in lockdown, James Hooton as Sam Dingle
Emmerdale in lockdown, James Hooton as Sam Dingle

Given how long we waited for Sam and Lydia Dingle’s wedding, we were hoping for a honeymoon period but with Emmerdale on lockdown and Sam worrying that Lydia could contract the virus, its not all sunshine and roses. Actor James Hooton explains sam’s concerns and how the episodes were filmed.

How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special lockdown episodes?
Personally, I was excited and honoured to be considered for one of these episodes. I’m honoured that Sam and Lydia’s lockdown story was one that was considered for filming. I am so keen to get back to work, so I’m excited to be involved and to be part of this production.

Was it hard to learn the script? Was it daunting?
I don’t think it’s a daunting prospect at all actually, as it is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity until now. I don’t think this is any more difficult because there are just two of us. Back in the day we filmed 17 scenes in one day which had landed on us that morning, because one of the actors was ill. So we filmed completely on the hoof – to do that is more difficult. This two-hander is eleven scenes and with time to learn it, rehearse it and block it so it’s well within the remit of what we’re used to. The line learning process is a muscle we use regularly so for me that also wasn’t an issue. But I’m excited to be part of this.

Tell us about the process of rehearsal?
Having the opportunity to go in and spend a few hours with the director and block all of the scene and discuss all of the character motivations for the characters has been great. It has been more reminiscent of a theatre job where you get the luxury of rehearsal – so that was great. Obviously the health and safety issues and Covid 19 has meant a lot of things have changed on the studio floor; we have had to implement social distancing and hand sanitisation and various methods to protect everybody. So that is the only other difference practically, and of course, less people on the studio floor.

Tell us about other changes that have taken place?
On the rehearsal day I spoke to the head of makeup and discussed what I’d need to do on the day. Obviously, it’s a great benefit to all of the cast to have the luxury of going into make up and to be done up for work by professionals. But with social distancing that is something that we can’t have as the makeup team can’t have close contact with us so we have had to do our own at this time.

Are you interested in how this episode is received?
I’m really excited. I think it is a really nicely written script as it shows a bit of Sam and Lydia’s comedy, a bit of pathos, emotion. I think it’s a hopeful episode even though it’s tinged with a bit of apprehension with the juxtaposition of Covid 19 as Sam is fearful of Lydia going outdoors. I’m just excited to see how it all turns out as obviously the filming method was slightly different for this episode so I’m keen to see it.

Why has he turfed Mandy and Vinny out?
Mandy and Vinny have gone to the beauty salon and that is because Sam is maybe overly protective and concerned about Lydia. You’ll find out more during the episode. He has shipped Mandy and Vinny out of the way. He’s got Belle to get out of the way in the upstairs flat.

How does he feel about Samson being away?
He loves his son but Samson is being well looked after and in the script Sam comments that Samson will be loving it as he can be on his phone all day without people giving him any grief about it. He is on this trip seeing his French girlfriend. Sam is okay with him being over there as he knows he is okay. His major concern is with Lydia.

Will we see the duo at their best?
It is not all fun and games. Just as the lockdown process has not been fun and games for everyone. But in this episode we see a bit of light hearted jovial stuff between Sam and Lydia, and then we see a different side, the emotional and serious stuff. Sam’s concerns come to a bit of a head and the characters have a couple of fall outs in the episode. It is a bit of a journey for both of them. It has been really well written.

Is Sam taking well to staying in?
He is doing the shopping and he is working for part of the episode. I think he is dealing with lockdown fine. I think part of it is because he’s got this one overriding objective to keep Lydia safe. I think that is keeping him focused on protecting her. She wouldn’t necessarily agree. He thinks he’s being very gallant.

How have you been spending lockdown?
Homeschooling has been okay as I have a 13 year old and she is receiving work from school. She is self sufficient and self motivated. We also have a four year old daughter, but she is not even in reception yet, so we ordered a few basic work books to structure her time and she does lots of playing, painting and arts and crafts. So that side of the lockdown has been fairly straight forward.

I’ve been getting out of the house for my exercise and walking the dogs with my daughters. I’ve really enjoyed spending that time together with them. Things have eased up a bit so now we are allowed to go out a bit more. I’ve started climbing again which is my main hobby along with football, so I have been getting out to the crags and getting my climbing shoes on again. I have tried to stay in good shape in lockdown and I’m learning a few new strength skills that might help me with my climbing such as doing a proper handstand and a few calisthenic movements. I have been trying generally to raise my fitness and strength whilst I’ve got all this time on my hands.

See Sam and Lydia Dingle on lockdown in Emmerdale on Monday 8 June.*

*Subject to change.