It was one of those rare TV moments that make you shudder with unease – troubled Aaron Livesy finally revealing the kernel of his pain: the fact that he’d been raped at the age of eight by his own father Gordon.
The salient point of Aaron being so young was difficult to comprehend. No doubt I wasn’t alone among Emmerdale fans in being haunted last Thursday as Aaron recounted his trauma to Robert Sugden. And it turns out that actor Danny Miller was similarly affected by what he had to perform.
“Usually, I’m good at shutting the studio door and letting it go, but this one took me a while,” he says. “When I read the script, I did want to ring up and ask whether we were allowed to go into so much detail at that time of night. Obviously, everything had been cleared. But I did struggle with it.”
The warning signs of something dark in Aaron’s past were there for those that chose to look. After all, he’s always been the dictionary definition of a troubled soul. But the realisation that his childhood had been robbed in a stark moment of sexual brutality came as a genuine shock to viewers. So was it as tough to act as it was to watch?
“It felt raw,” he admits. “And you do add your own personal touch to it. So it took me back to when I was eight and the fact that my own dad was a man who’d always look after me and take me to the football. So it was difficult to play someone who’d had that trust broken. Aaron’s dad suddenly became a predator. He was no longer a father figure. You have to feel the emotion to get it right, even though you don’t want to think in that way.”
Telling the story responsibly is something that’s obviously important to the 25-year-old star. He talks of research undertaken with the NSPCC and the “overwhelming” reaction on social media from viewers who’ve experienced similar violence.
And those who want to know how the story progresses will be heartened to know that Aaron does pluck up the courage to open up to mum Chas in scenes to be shown next week, although he will opt – at least initially – to not involve the police. But with soaps existing in a very moral universe, it can surely only be a matter of time before Gordon gets his comeuppance?
“I think justice will be done,” Miller confirms. “But first, there has to be an admission from Gordon. Because, otherwise, it would be difficult to prove. I don’t know exactly what’s planned, but I’m sure the story team will do a fantastic job of rounding it off. The only downside is that I’ve become very close to Gary Mavers, who plays Gordon, so that would be a shame. There’s no good way out of this for him if Gordon admits to what he did. But it’s been brave of Gary to tell the story from Gordon’s point of view.”
As for what’s ahead for Aaron, I’m relieved to write that a rare sight could be on the horizon in the aftermath of this latest horror. His life so far has certainly been punctuated by misery (think self-harming, jail and the right-to-die demise of love interest Jackson), but Aaron may actually end up eventually smiling.
“Now that everything’s out in the open, I hope to see some happier times,” says a relieved-sounding Miller. “Maybe he’ll get a spring in his step. This is Aaron we’re talking about though, so you can’t change him too much. But I’m sure something will come along to help him enjoy life.”
And might this involve a future with Robert, the on-off lover whose relationship with Aaron was the talk of Twitter? “I’d definitely like to see them together after all these months of them sneaking around behind people’s backs. Hopefully, they’ll have a life together. Robert needs to say that he’s gay and give Aaron a guarantee that he wants to be with him. But I want them to find peace and have some happiness.”
Having been at the forefront of Emmerdale’s plotlines since his return in 2014, I wonder also whether Miller is happy to keep playing Aaron. He did, of course, take a break at one stage to pursue roles in such dramas as Scott & Bailey and Jamaica Inn. So does his own future now lie with the ITV soap? Again, it’s good news:
“I’d like to think so. Our new producer has just come in [Iain MacLeod has taken over from Kate Oates] and his team may decide that there’s a story to be had in Aaron leaving the village or dying. So it’s in their hands. But, as an actor, I’m happy where I am.
“You never know what’s round the corner. But if I had my way, I’d be here as long as they wanted me.”
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