In a UK soap first, Emmerdale airs a series of special episodes about life in lockdown for the village residents, which this week includes Jimmy King and wife Nicola. Actor Nick Miles talks about Jimmy and Nicola’s issues.

Jimmy King in Emmerdale lockdown episodes
Jimmy King in Emmerdale lockdown episodes

Tensions are high for Jimmy King as he and Nicola are riling each other up in lockdown. Nicola is seemingly busy with her local council business but something is obviously bothering her. She’s sad and Jimmy can’t help but be aware of it but he’s at a loss at what to do. As she constantly tells him her life is dull, her life is boring, and everyone else in the village is living a better life than her, Jimmy has to face reality. Actor Nick Miles explains Jimmy’s dilemma…

How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special Lockdown episodes?
It was a bit of a shock. I got a call from one of our producers, but I always panic when I get a call from a producer. I thought it might have been a phone call to fire me, but it was actually about the lockdown episode! I was absolutely thrilled to be asked as there are only six episodes and Chris Gill has written a terrific script.

I think it’s Emmerdale gold, it’s the kind of thing people will remember, the lockdown episodes will be speaking directly to people about what they have just experienced. Jimmy and Nicola going through this is always going to be fun and with three children! I know from my sisters that lockdown is a more difficult time with children. Nicola and Jimmy are busy people, Jimmy King is a business man and Nicola is always very active and suddenly they can’t do anything, they’re just running a household and that’s it.

Was it hard to learn the script?
It’s very well written so it’s not been difficult to learn but having said that, the way you would normally learn a script as long as this, would be by being in rehearsal. The last time I did a two hander was in 2006 which was at the Edinburgh Festival ‘Meeting Joe Strummer’ and you learn those quite easily because you’re endlessly repeating them in rehearsal, but the challenge here was that I had to sit down on my own and endlessly repeat it, which isn’t so easy. I get distracted, and I didn’t have the fun of the back and forth with Nicola Wheeler to keep me going. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just more that it’s a bit of a task on your own.

Tell us about the rehearsal process?
That was a very specific 90 minute window which was about blocking. The problem for us with this episode is that although Jimmy and Nicola are locked down together, they wouldn’t be social distancing by themselves, but Nicola Wheeler and I obviously aren’t locked down so we have to obey social distancing when we shoot it. I think the hardest thing for us will be to make the blocking natural, in an unnatural situation. It’s very technical, so that 90 minutes we had were spent on working out where we were going to be on the set during each part of the play. It actually felt much more like a play, it had a touch of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ to it. It’s a terrific script.

Did these episodes feel more collaborative?
Chris Gill is terrific, he has a great ear for characters. He has absolutely got how Jimmy and Nicola banter together and how they work as a couple. There were some details that we had to change a little bit but it pretty much jumped off the page at us,we were thrilled with the script.

Tell us about the actual filming process and how it differed from normal?
We will have AD’s standing around like spear carriers in a Shakespearean play. They will be there with a two metre pole to leap forward to stop you moving towards each other and to stop us ever breaching the two metre rule, so that’s quite strange! The blocking has had to be very different to how we would normally approach it and I understand they’re going to simplify things like camera movement.

Did you miss anything from your normal filming day?
The tea breaks!

Are you interested in how this episode is received?
I’m very nervous! However, I think they will be very memorable episodes, although I’ve only read mine, just because of how they will relate to real people’s experiences under lockdown. The challenge of them for us of course is filming with social distancing. I do hope we can pull this off, as it isn’t straightforward.

Nicola and I have exchanged texts about detail in the script. Nicola is amazing; she drills down to the finest detail in any script and she’s a joy to work with because you don’t get any surprises on the day. The minute I was told it was going to be a two handler with Nicola I was jumping for joy! I’ve always loved working with Nicola so I hope she doesn’t get bored of working with me!

Have you largely loved or loathed lockdown?
I have been very fortunate. My sisters have got kids that they’re locked down with and they are finding it a lot more challenging than I am. I’ve been phoning my parents every day who are in their 80’s and have been trying to keep their spirits up!

How is Jimmy finding lockdown life with Nicola?
He is used to her not being an easy person to live with, but the thing about Jimmy is that he is the ultimate survivor. He is the only King left standing after the family got itself pretty much universally killed. Jimmy would be the last man standing in any kind of disaster he is sort of bullet proof and that’s why Nicola needs him.

Is he worried his marriage is on the rocks?
That definitely occurs to him during the drama.

How does he feel when he realises how unhappy Nicola is?
There’s a strain because there is something wrong and he doesn’t know what it is, he can’t get at it and when your partner isn’t being straight with you, we all know that can be a very challenging problem.

See Jimmy King and wife Nicola in lockdown on Wednesday 17 June*

*subject to change