You take your life in your hands when you live in Emmerdale. Helicopters can fall out of the sky at any minute. Pubs explode at a second’s notice. But even by Chas Dingle’s high standards (she was famously, of course held hostage in the Woolpack Siege of 2013) it’s been an eventful 12 months. She was on the scene when Robert was shot, suffered with PTSD, knifed Diane and supported her son Aaron when she found out he’d been sexually abused as a child by his own father.
“Honestly, the things that get thrown at us. You’d move out of that village, wouldn’t you?” says Lucy Pargeter. “Thank God it’s just pretend. To be honest, I’m surprised Chas isn’t barricaded in at the Woolpack with 14 crates of wine on an intravenous drip. But it’s brilliant. It’s such a privilege to have this constant barrage of insanity handed to you.”
Pargeter’s reward for portraying Chas’s trauma is a nomination for Best Actress at this year’s British Soap Awards. Yet despite making the shortlist, she isn’t letting the acclaim go to her head. “I do think, ‘why me?’. Especially when I’m so in awe of the people I work with. So I am surprised. I just think that I’ve been supporting Danny Miller throughout Aaron’s storyline, really.”
But come on, I protest. What about the psychosis that Chas suffered? The breakdown in the woods? It’s not every day you get a knife-wielding pub landlady in a small Yorkshire idyll. “Yes, but the storylines come and go so quickly. And you end up forgetting. We do sometimes find that we can’t remember it all, just because of the amount of stuff that we’ve done. And I think the viewers do too.”
One particular scene that lingers long in the memory though is Aaron revealing the full details to Chas about Gordon’s predatory abuse. In all seriousness, it’s a moment that you instinctively know will feature a lot during awards season, such is the raw power of Miller and Pargeter’s performances. So it comes as quite a surprise to hear that they actually had to film it twice:
“We wanted to do it just the once because it was so harrowing. But the problem was that the stage directions said that Chas didn’t move over to Aaron until the very end of the scene. And after we’d filmed it, our director Mike Lacey asked why she hadn’t consoled Aaron earlier.
“There was Danny having this meltdown, but I felt like I had to honour the stage direction and stay seated, even though, as a mother, you’d have moved over as soon as he started talking. So we did do it again, which I felt absolutely awful about. But it worked much better the second time around.”
As for the future, it’s interesting to discover that Chas’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder is to be revisited, a rarity on soaps where the reset button can be pressed on a character all too quickly. “It’s good that it’s being mentioned again,” Pargeter agrees. “In real life, these things don’t go away. And it did feel that, once she’d been diagnosed, it wasn’t being flagged up in the script as much as it could have been. Up until Gordon’s trial, you didn’t get the impression that she was getting treatment or that her suffering was still going on. Also, it does give me a bit more time in work!”
That ready laugh comes again, something I also hear when we get on to the topic of Chas’s love life. Recent reports suggested that a new romance was in the offing, but even Pargeter isn’t 100 per cent when it’s happening or who it’ll be with:
“It’s wicked whispers! I heard from somebody who’d got wind from somebody else,” she tries to explain, but I quickly lose the thread, “anyway, we don’t know if it’s true. I haven’t heard it from our producer’s mouth, but I’d be very happy if it happened.”
As for life away from Emmerdale, I remember that the last time we spoke, Pargeter was in the middle of some momentous house renovation that was taking up every spare minute she had away from the ITV Studios in Leeds. Even if Chas’s existence hasn’t become any less dramatic, surely Pargeter has now found some peace at home?
“It’s not finished, but we’re in! We moved a week before Christmas. But there’s still work to be done. But it’s good to have something so major happening outside of work, even if it means that you’re on the phone to builders or suppliers. I do strive on stress.”
Which is very fortunate, really. Portraying Chas’s whirlwind life, it’s not like she exactly has much of a choice!
VOTE FOR LUCY PARGETER AT THE BRITISH SOAP AWARDS HERE
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