In a UK soap first, Emmerdale airs a series of special episodes about life in lockdown for the village residents, which this week includes Vinny Dingle and his ‘mum’ Mandy. Actor Bradley Johnson explains Vinny’s concerns

Vinny Dingle in Emmerdale lockdown episodes
Vinny Dingle in Emmerdale lockdown episodes

With Mandy and Vinny holed up in the salon for lockdown things are a little less conventional with an endless supply of beauty products, beers, a microwave and a karaoke machine. With Paul the main topic of conversation Mandy and Vinny navigate through their past and a long held secret. Actor Bradley Johnson explains Vinny’s concerns for his newfound dad.

How did you feel when you were asked to be part of these special lockdown episodes?
It was an absolute privilege to be asked, it’s such a great idea and so relevant to what is going on in the world right now. It’s a great way to delve deeper into Mandy and Vinny’s life and what happened in the past.

Was it hard to learn the script, given the amount of dialogue?
There are only the two of us in the episode so there is a lot of dialogue, but Lisa (Mandy Dingle) has been amazing. We facetime most days and run through every single scene until we’re both comfortable with it so it hasn’t taken long to learn. We’ve taken each scene step by step and we’re nearly there with it.

Tell us about the rehearsal process.
When we went into the studio to rehearse, it was bizarre but quite a nice experience as we haven’t been in work for the last couple of months. Turning up and it being so quiet was surreal. There was signage to make sure everyone stayed two metres apart on the corridors and there were only essential people there. It was quite nice to get in the studio, to block it so when we have the mammoth day of filming 13 scenes we know what we’re doing and it helped me to learn the lines, visualising where I’m going to be in different parts of the episode.

Did these episodes feel more collaborative?
Yes completely, we had a couple of zoom calls with the producer and Ian the director. We went through the episode and had some input if there was anything we wanted to change. Samantha has done a fantastic job on the script, it’s beautifully written and the episode is brilliant.

Tell us how the filming process differs from normal?
We’ve been told there’s going to be a skeleton crew, it’s only being shot on two cameras. We’re doing all our own make-up and hair, which will be interesting! It’s just going to be the people that have to be there which will be quite strange because on a normal day there are lots of people behind the camera but it’s just the way it is at the moment with health and safety, just the essential people will be there.

Are you interested in how this episode is received? And will you watch?
I’m excited to see it and it’s the first time a soap has ever done anything like this! It’s really nice because it’s so relevant and it’s a huge part of what is going on in the world right now, it’s reflecting what is going on in people’s lives and they can relate to it. I’m also excited to explore more about Mandy and Vinny’s past and to learn more about them.

What are they sleeping on in the salon?
They have camp beds, I don’t know how comfortable they’ll be!

Do you think Mandy and Vinny will bond through this experience of isolating together/being stuck together?
I think if you’re stuck with someone for that length of time, you’re either going to kill each other or your relationship is going to become stronger. I think this will be a pivotal time for them and they’ll find out a lot about each other that they didn’t previously know and there will be a lot of heartwarming scenes.

Why is Vinny trying to get hold of his dad Paul?
I feel sorry for Vinny because his father has come into this in a weird situation. He came in under a false name, he’s made a friend in Alex and then it’s been revealed that he’s actually Vinny’s Dad and then he’s gone all of a sudden. They’d started to build a relationship and then he left. He’s worried about his Dad, he cares about him a lot and he wants to make sure that he’s safe and that he’s okay.

How is Vinny passing time in the salon?
There’s lots to keep him occupied, he won’t sit quietly in the corner! We might find him giving himself a manicure or tinting his eyelashes! There’s a prosecco fridge which is usually meant for clients, that’s going to be dangerous where Mandy and Vinny are concerned, but they can’t find the key so their main priority will be to locate that!

How have you been spending lockdown?
I’ve got to count myself lucky really, there are lovely walks around the Yorkshire countryside and I’m taking each day as it comes. I’ve been learning the script and just trying to keep myself busy. I’m in lockdown with my mum and my dog so I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by positive people and you’ve got to try and stay as positive as possible in these hard times.

You opened the Woolpack sessions.  Did you enjoy that process?
I loved it! I know Emmerdale has gone to three episodes a week and people are missing their fix and I’d done some covers early on in lockdown and the response was lovely and people were saying I was brightening up their day. I thought if I could share that and put a smile on peoples faces it was a no brainer, it was a really nice thing to be asked to do. A lot of people didn’t realise it was me on the sessions, because I look so different without the glasses

See Vinny Dingle in lockdown with Mandy on Monday 15 June*

*subject to change