Couples who go the distance are a rare thing in soap, but Hollyoaks’ Darren and Nancy Osborne haven’t done too badly. Notching up around seven years is quite an achievement, especially in the fast-moving, bed-hopping environment of Hollyoaks village, and while there have been bumps in the road (infidelity, addiction, the usual things) and periods of being apart, the pair always seem to end up back together – much to fans’ delight.
But the Osbornes are facing a new crisis now Darren has been sentenced to six months in prison for drug dealing. Despite handing himself in and only dabbling in the dodgy drugs underworld to fund his wife’s treatment for MS, Darren being sent down puts proper pressure on one of soap’s most solid partnerships. So where do they go from here? We asked Ashley Taylor Dawson and Jessica Fox, who play Mr and Mrs O…
“It’s typical Darren isn’t it?” begins Taylor Dawson, “doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Only now when it’s fallen apart has he woken up. Darren wants to be the man of the house and provide for the family, no matter what it takes.”
“Nancy is furious he’s put them at risk,” says Fox. “She can forgive a lot but she’ll never look at Darren in the same way again. Her husband has been selling drugs to god knows who, to children maybe. Even though Nancy has abused the odd medication she does have a strict moral compass when it comes to other people’s addictions. It will be hard for her to forgive him.”
With Darren now spending time at Her Majesty’s pleasure, is there a worry this could be the thing that finally breaks them?
“At the moment we’re filming lots of prison visits,” confesses Taylor Dawson. “It makes a nice change actually as they’ve been tight for a while. Testing them is always more interesting but there’s always that link because of the children. Most couples end up splitting and they’ve done well to keep us going, considering the characters were only meant to hook up for a couple of episodes originally. We work really together and have been lucky with the material that’s come our way.”
As Nancy appeared to finally forgive Darren as he got led to his cell, it’s looking hopeful the Hollyoaks favourites can weather the storm – as Taylor Dawson points out, they’ve both made mistakes and come through the other side: “We’re in for a struggle but bear in mind she slept with my half brother…” he teases, “but Darren has also been with Sienna, Grace, Maxine – we’re very forgiving as a couple which will be handy!”
There’s currently an air of nostalgia around the show, with Gary Lucy and Sarah Jayne Dunn returning and the recent ‘Hollyoaks Originals’ photoshoot inspiring wistful reminiscence among long term viewers about the cast they’ve grown up watching. Darren and Nancy are definitely in the heritage characters bracket, along with the likes of Tony Hutchinson and Cindy Cunningham and are part of the fabric of the show.
Sticking with the retro vibe, who else would they like to bring back to the village? “I love Kris Fisher,” admits Fox. “Him and Nancy were great together, the sparks used to fly. Gerard McCarthy (who has also written for the show) should come back while Darren’s in prison, that would give us some entertainment!
“Or Kevin Sacre who played Jake Dean – we could revisit the domestic violence storyline where he manipulated Nancy and tried to turn her into his dead wife Becca, Nancy’s sister. I enjoyed playing that.”
“Chris Fountain would be interesting as his character Justin Burton is Charlie’s real dad,” adds Taylor Dawson. “That would bring trouble and definitely cause a rift for the family.”
Whatever the future holds, it’s clear the couple are confident ‘Dancy’ will survive as they’re obviously held in high regard by producers and fans, as Fox comments: “We might not always be at the forefront, but we pepper the episodes with light and shade and that’s really fun to be able to do. The writers give us a lovely mix of comedy and drama, which doesn’t happen for a lot of characters in soap. Usually you’re one or the other but we get to do both, which is nice.
“And Ashley is good fun to work with, and I’d personally be very sad if this was it for Darren and Nancy and I didn’t get to look at his face every day!” Let’s hope Nancy herself feels as warm towards Dazzle after he gets out of jail…
Hollyoaks continues weeknights on E4 at 7pm and on Channel 4 at 6.30pm.