Just how far will Cameron Murray go to keep his secrets buried? Now a murderer twice over and with eyes on a third victim, it looks set to be traumatic summer for killer Cam. So what better time to catch up with Dominic Power, the actor who plays Emmerdale’s most morally conflicted resident:
How intense has it been filming Cameron’s story?
I don’t think I’ll ever do a more gruelling acting gig in my life. If you do a one-off drama or a film, your shooting time is between three to six weeks. Here, I’ve had nine months of this constant outpouring of emotion. So it’s been tiring.
But in terms of the storyline, it’s been a huge pat on the back. When I came in, Cameron was a very low-key character. They eased me in gently over that first year and, to begin with, he was actually a bit of a romantic. Then it spiraled out of control, which has been great.
Do you think he’s been a bit of a victim of circumstances?
Yes, it’s been a bit Breaking Bad. And it all started with the saviour sibling storyline when Debbie had to have a baby with Andy. That freaked him out, especially when they did it behind his back. Ordinarily, in that circumstance, you’d go mad and get angry. But because it was to save a dying child, he couldn’t. So he kept it in and imploded rather than exploded. And the implosion was basically having the affair with Chas, killing Carl, killing Alex and then killing….well I can’t say!
I’m sworn to secrecy. Maybe that’s what they want you to think!
Did you know that this was the arc the character was going to take when you signed up?
No. It’s a constant to and fro between writers and actors as you build ideas. And you can be quite crafty at dropping things in to manipulate the writers. In a good way, of course. The moment they started to see the edgier side of Cameron was after Andy got a bit obsessed with Debbie over the whole saviour sibling thing. There was a scene where Cameron had to go round and threaten Andy – now, I don’t know whether you’ve noticed, but Kelvin Fletcher’s arms are the width of my back! So the only way I thought I could do it was by being a bit menacing and a bit psycho. And I think that after that, the writers saw that Cameron had this edge and started to wonder what they could do with it. And here I am.
Do you think the tone of those murder scenes are right for the timeslot in which they’re broadcast?
I did find myself slumped on a shallow grave on a night shoot looking up at the crew and saying, “has it always been as dark as this?” And they all just nodded their heads. So there I was digging, cutting into a foot and pulling out a boot. And then we’ve got all the stuff this week with me going back to the body. They’d filled this tarpaulin with cement and I’m dragging it and gagging and coughing up sick because of the smell of putrefaction. And again, I said to the director, “There’s no other way to play this but truthfully. Otherwise it’s not going to look believable.” You know, I’m moving a four-month-old corpse! I’m surprised it can go out at seven o’clock, to be honest. But the kids seem to be desensitised nowadays, don’t they?
I suppose we’ve had bodies being dug up before – the corpse under the patio in Brookside, for instance. But the Emmerdale story is really about Cameron disintegrating before our eyes, isn’t it?
Absolutely. Because of the journey that this character’s been on, he’s not just a black and white villain. And he also reveals an exaggerated version of the weaknesses that we all have – that cowardice that’s in everyone, you know. That part of us that would let someone take the rap to save their own skin. And you do ask the question: would I do that in his position? And I think that’s what rattles a lot of people. They don’t want to think about that kind of thing.
Yes. Because of the things to do with Cameron deal with quite universal themes – fathers and sons, the relationship we have with our own children…
I think it’s a lovely touch that in the middle of this digging, he gets a call from his son. Back when they knew it was all going to turn bad, the writers made sure that there was a scene with me playing air guitar with young Sarah. It’s just to remind the audience that he has these murderous tendencies, but he’s a pretty good dad! He’s got a nice side.
Is there a shelf life for this character? After all, soap is a very moral universe…
Yes, it is. Obviously he will have to get what’s due to him. But this is soapland and people can forget very easily. I mean, I had a lot of viewers saying, “oh, I hate Cameron” until the moment that he started to turn on Robbie. And then they were saying, “Well, I don’t like Cameron, but I really hate Robbie!” It’s amazing what audiences are prepared to forgive. In Breaking Bad, for instance, the guy’s done some horrible things but he’s the lead guy and you’re rooting for him. And I’ve been told that you have to kill six people before you become a serial killer in soapland.
Could he be rehabilitated?
Possibly. He’s done unforgivable things so at some point he’s going to have to face up to that. People keep reminding me that Carl King lasted nine years after being responsible for some deaths, one of whom was his dad.
It’s come to the stage now though when everything he says to Chas is either a lie, a half truth or filled with guilt of some kind.
Yes, for about six months the stage directions at the end of my scenes have been either ‘Leave it on Cameron – torn’. Or it might be: ‘Leave it on Cameron – jealous’.
How do you differentiate between the two?
Oh, it takes years of practice, you know! Luckily, I was at drama school that day!
Emmerdale continues tonight at 7pm on ITV