In the final week of special lockdown episodes showing life in Emmerdale for the village residents, Ellis Chapman hasn’t made things easy having his dad Al and Marlon Dingle. Actor Aaron Anthony explains Ellis’ dilemma.

Ellis Chapman in Emmerdale lockdown episodes
Ellis Chapman in Emmerdale lockdown episodes

When Ellis Chapman invited his father Al to stay with him and Marlon Dingle, he must have known it wasn’t going to end well as the tension between them rears up. They are both fathers but very different. The deeply strained relationship between Al and son Ellis will also be tested by lockdown. Ellis has so many questions for his father? Will he finally get to learn why Al wasn’t a better father? Actor Aaron Anthony explains…

How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special lockdown episodes?
I was really pleased. I think the episodes pose a unique opportunity to get a deeper insight into some of the characters and the relationships between them and that’s exciting to be a part of.

Was it hard to learn the script, given the amount of dialogue as only three of you?
Yeah line learning is a muscle and on something like Emmerdale, where the turnaround is so short, you get used to learning lines quickly. Not having that regular practice has been strange. It’s a lot more than we’re possibly used to in an episode, but I think after time off you’re ready for it and it being a small cast you don’t want to be the one who’s not on it! With just three of us in one location, there’s nothing else to rely on. It all rests so heavily on the dialogue and the energy we bring as a cast so it’s important to be really on it.

Tell us about the rehearsal process?
We had an online meeting with the director to discuss the episode and then a rehearsal in the studio to roughly block scenes and try them out. Normally the only rehearsal we have is on set right before we shoot so it’s actually been a real luxury to have had that!

Did these episodes feel more collaborative?
Definitely these episodes feel more collaborative. Karin Young, who wrote our episode, did such a great job with our script and she was also really open to any suggestions from us. With the closer focus on our characters that’s really important so we can find the best way to bring out all we can from each scene. Also the nature of a lockdown episode and the restrictions we now have to work with in the name of everyone’s health and safety mean that it has to be a more collaborative process. We’re working within a lot of constraints so everyone has to be involved in problem solving.

Tell us about the actual filming process and how it differed from normal?
Going in for the rehearsal everything felt different to be honest. The building is normally full of people. It felt like going into school in the summer holidays or something! There’s a one way system and tape everywhere to help with distancing. We have shared dressing rooms, but now it’s only one dressing room per person.

Basically everything is being done to reduce the amount of people coming into contact with each other. Before there could be three or more full units all in the building the same time now there’ll only be one at a time. We’re going back to a very different environment, but what remains is the comradery, because we need it now more than ever. And the desire to keep on making the show.

Are you interested in how this episode is received and are you apprehensive?
I am slightly apprehensive about how the episode will be received, but I think people will be open minded. We’re all getting used to a new normal. Nothing looks the same so all we can do is try to embrace every change as a chance to maybe look differently or more deeply at something. But yeah to be honest, I think people will take comfort in the fact that even these characters that they’re used to seeing week in week out are going through this too!

Did it feel more exposed/intense than a normal episode?
It does feel more intense than a normal episode but I think life feels more intense at the moment so it would be weird if it didn’t! As we’re all experiencing, being stuck in the house, and without a lot of our usual distractions, is strange and sometimes strenuous and that’s what we’re putting on screen so in its very nature it is intense.

So did Ellis realise what a mistake it could be putting Al under the same roof as him and Marlon?
I think he knows it’s going to be tough and he kind of resents his Dad because he’s having to put Marlon in this situation. They’re so different and seeing them under the same roof is not ideal, but the stark contrast is kind of illuminating and Ellis learns a lot about both of them.

Why does he invite him in?
Since Al arrived in the village, Ellis has had this constant push and pull of doing the right thing or being loyal to his Dad. And it’s caused him a lot of heartache, but I think the situation tops it. He’s still his Dad and he’s not going to leave him with nowhere to go. And to be honest so far it’s a choice he always makes.

Why doesn’t Ellis approve of Al dating Priya Kotecha?
In Ellis’ eyes, his Dad hurts anyone he goes near. Priya is a good person and the relationship just seems like a disaster waiting to happen. He doesn’t trust Al will be responsible with her feelings. After everything that’s happened I think Ellis feels almost duty bound to warn Priya what she’s getting into.

Do you think Ellis really knows his dad?
No. I don’t think anyone really knows Al. He plays his cards very close to his chest in order to stay in control and you’re never quite sure if he’s being truthful. With Ellis it seems like every time they start to get close his Dad lets him down and Ellis shuts down to protect himself. So it’s one step forward two steps back. The lockdown situation is like fate stepping in and it might just force them at least to have those difficult conversations.

Have you largely loved or loathed lockdown?
For me the idea of lockdown wasn’t that scary. I’m okay with my own company, as an actor you tend to be used to lack of routine and I’m always game for a new learning experience and that’s the way I saw it. But the reality of the experience is there are good days and bad. But overall I saw a lot of positives including people being nice to each other, less traffic, more care, more connecting with friends and family (even if it is through a screen).

I tried not to put on the pressure to be creative but I naturally took time to do things I normally rush or bypass altogether  – drawing, writing, cooking. I love food and my partner and I both love to cook. In fact she’s very good and loves cooking for people so we started delivering food to friends and family. Which has been going down a treat. I’ve been eating a lot too! And that’s my favourite – So I have largely loved it!

Thanks to the key workers without whom we all would have been royally up the creek lacking a paddle. There’s so much I want to say about all of that, I still fear what’s going to happen to our NHS but let’s just say for now thank you to those people whose kindness we all rely on.

See Ellis Chapman in lockdown with his dad Al and Marlon Dingle on Wednesday 24 June