Emmerdale siege spoilers: Chas fights for survival as flood waters rise – Lucy Pargeter interview

"We went to Pinewood and used their underwater stage and built the largest and heaviest set they’ve ever constructed"

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Next week’s explosive episodes of Emmerdale see lives put at risk as Cameron takes hostages in the Woolpack on a night when the village is experiencing the worst weather its known for some time. Flood levels are rising, Cameron’s temper is fraying and Chas Dingle is right in the thick of the action. Here, actress Lucy Pargeter reveals what viewers can expect from Siege Week as events come to a head:

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So what does Chas think Cameron’s plan is?
She thinks that Cameron is coming back for either her or Debbie, or both of them. There’s definitely going to be revenge and she’s concerned about what it is going to involve. The police say they’ve got all bases covered, so there’s more security. But then Sarah goes missing which is a bit sinister.

The police tell her not to go outside. Then half way through Priya’s hen do she thinks, ‘I’m putting the pub in lockdown. There’s no way I’m having him drop in, so let’s just make sure that we’re safe’. At this point Chas is still at loggerheads with Debbie. She doesn’t care about Debbie going off to find Sarah, because she’s more bothered that Cameron is out there.

Are there police around?
Although there’s a policeman positioned outside the front of the pub, there are no armed guards or anything. So Chas takes it upon herself to bolt the doors and the cellar. She thinks there’s no way anyone can get in anywhere. Plus you’ve got terrible weather outside, so who’d want to be out in such a horrendous storm anyway?

So what’s Chas’s reaction when she sees that Cameron has gained access to the Woolpack?
Well, Chas goes to check on the cellar and it’s starting to fill up with water. She bolts the cellar doors and comes upstairs and Marlon is there and gives her a fright. Then she goes through to the Woolpack, and Debbie’s basically saying, “I’m getting out, I’m gonna find Sarah”. Chas tries to stop her and all of a sudden Cameron appears with a gun.

They’re locked in, there’s no way out and they have no idea how he’s got in in the first place. So that’s it – they’re trapped. There are police outside, but there is nowhere to go. Cameron’s in the pub looking menacing and Chas is petrified. It is Priya’s hen party so there are a lot of people in the pub.  It’s very frightening for them all.

And what’s Cameron’s behaviour like at this point?
At this point, Cameron is quite calm with the situation, but that makes it sinister. He very clearly says he’s taken care of the police. And he’s very clear that he wants Debbie to go with him. It’s clear and concise: that’s his goal, that’s what he wants.  He’s come for Debbie.

And then we see Chas make her move…
Yes, she tries to distract him – and then she whacks him with a chair, basically. She tries to get the gun off him, as do many people who try to talk him down.

Now we know that the production team built a set at Pinewood Studios with a tank for an underwater scene – can you tell us about that?
We went to Pinewood and used their underwater stage and built the largest and heaviest set they’ve ever constructed. The stage has seen everything from Bond to Dark Shadows but ours was the largest set that has been built on that stage. We recreated the cellar on a massive scale and hovered it above the tank. Instead of the water rising, day-by-day we lowered the set into the tank.

Was it memorable filming there?
I will remember that week we filmed at Pinewood forever for various different reasons. Firstly, the chance to work with Mike Valentine, who has shot everything you can think of. He was the number one underwater cameraman for all the Bond films.

But also for seeing all our crew in their swimming kit. We had a laugh about how strange it all was to be wading around in water for a week and to lbe earning a new skill from the amazing team of divers we had there. In fact, I have decided I want to learn how to scuba dive properly.

It was thrilling, exciting, scary and even claustrophobic, but you felt safe at all times. We had divers everywhere making sure we were all right. The costume department gave us hot water bottles and towels because we had to keep getting out of the water. Everyone pulled together and it was just the most amazing week.

How do these episodes compare to the live episode that aired this time last year?
In a way, it is bigger. The live was just such a manic thing. This may look bigger to an audience, but it is always hard to know how big stunts look to an audience. They feel completely different to how they come across on camera. I hope this one comes across exactly as it was.

The live show was ridiculous because everyone knew it was live and anything could have gone wrong. But this is a completely different and unique situation. It’s definitely on a par with the live show. We only used the stunt doubles to line up some of the shots, so that we weren’t underwater the whole time. We did all our own stunts, which we were so proud of.

How did you find acting under water?
Really hard.  You can’t see anything, it’s all a blur and it’s hard to get your expressions right. Your instincts are to look after yourself so you have to remind yourself you’re meant to be playing someone else acting scared, not just yourself.

So, there is slight apprehension when you’re at the bottom of a ten-foot tank and you’re pretending to be stuck. Plus you then have to take your air regulator out and your goggles off after they say “three, two, one”. While I was stuck underwater, I had a spare regulator between my legs, but there is still the fear that if you don’t put it in properly or if you don’t exhale and get all the water out you could be in a situation. But we had divers standing by who were just amazing.

What was Pinewood like?
We’ve had to keep it all quiet. Helena Bonham Carter and Brad Pitt were there and Ridley Scott’s new film was in production. At first we thought we would feel out of our territory, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that as we went around Pinewood loads of crew and technicians said hello as they all watched Emmerdale: It was all, “hi Chas, you all right mate? Come and have a ride on my minibus and I’ll show you around the studio” Some people seemed more excited that we were down there than someone like Brad Pitt, which is absolutely ridiculous of course, but I guess they get used to those big movie stars.

Are you excited to see the episodes?
I am, but Charley and I are always highly critical of ourselves, so I’m sure that afterwards we’ll think we could have done an awful lot better. But hopefully we did the best we could and I hope it will come across and make for amazing viewing.

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I am so proud of our production team and Kate Oates, our series producer. Everybody was saying, “let’s do the best we can”; it’s Pinewood for God’s sake. The show is going so well and they’re chucking everything at it at the moment. It’s storyline after storyline after storyline. I’ve always been honoured to be part of the show, but I’m so delighted to be given something as massive as this and I want to do the production proud.