The upcoming wedding of Aaron and Robert has to be the most eagerly anticipated Emmerdale plotline of 2017. But could the pair’s big day be in jeopardy? “It’s a question of whether they’re going to get down the aisle,” says Danny Miller. “At the moment, it looks like it’s going to be happy ever after for those two but you can expect a particular incident to change everything. It’ll take Aaron and Robert off on a completely different story path. And you’ll be wondering whether the wedding will happen at all.”
All of which will no doubt come as a massive blow to #Robron fans who have witnessed Aaron suffer no end of misery these past 12 months thanks to him having to relive the horrors of a childhood marred by sexual abuse. Miller – who has now been shortlisted in the Serial Drama Performance category at this year’s NTAs (vote here) – admits that the heavy plotline was “stressful”, but he’s also grateful for the spotlight it’s shone in Emmerdale’s direction:
“In the past, Emmerdale has been looked at as the little sister to the big brothers of EastEnders and Coronation Street. But we’re now being recognised for daring to do these controversial storylines. And I think that Aaron’s abuse story was something that needed portraying because it told people that it was OK to speak out.”
The fact that it was Aaron at the centre of it all also helped draw attention Emmerdale’s way, such is the popularity of the character and his relationship with Robert. I put it to the 26-year-old that the fanbase – fuelled by Gifs, clips and accounts on social media – has now taken on a momentum of its own that’s almost separate to the show itself.
“I do find it baffling how big it’s gone. It’s amazing that people have got such goodwill for these characters. I think it’s because they’ve had such a difficult time in the past and the fans are just willing them to find happiness.”
It could, of course, have all turned out so differently. When Ryan Hawley was introduced in 2014, he was taking on a role that had previously been played by Karl Davies. Soap recastings are a strange, intangible thing – sometimes, audiences accept head swaps, other times not. But in the case of Robert Sugden, the transition proved to be seamless. Recalling Hawley’s initial screen test, Miller says:
“With respect to the other boys, Ryan was the only one who was amazing enough to steal your eye at the audition stage. I knew that he was the only one. But we – and Emmerdale – never knew just how big this partnership was going to get.” And do they now have a pact between the two of them which stipulates that neither is allowed to leave? “No, I would never stand in Ryan’s way if he wanted to spread his wings. But I know that he loves it here. And I’d love to work with him for many years to come.”
Of course, not everyone can be your number one fan, and the flip side of being a notable presence on Twitter has been the trolling Miller has had to endure from those who think they have free rein to criticise and level abuse. “I’ve stopped reading as many mentions,” he admits. “Because you do see the negatives and, unfortunately, there’s one pest who trolls non-stop and says disgusting things. Stuff that they’d never say to my face. Sometimes, I have thought, ‘I don’t need to be a part of this’ and considered coming off it. But I won’t let these keyboard warriors win. If anything, it fuels me into staying, just to be awkward.”
And naturally Twitter can come in handy, especially when it comes to drumming up support for a certain co-star by the name of Adam Thomas who went on to become a finalist in the latest series of I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! “With the amount of Bushtucker Trials he did, he should have won,” Miller insists. “He did amazingly well.”
So, I have to ask, would he consider doing the jungle himself? There’s a rueful laugh and a muttering about his dread at this question coming up. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t do it because I’m ‘a serious actor’. Which is, I’m sure, what 99 per cent of actors say to journalists. But it’s something I’d struggle with. I like my own bed, I like having my phone, I don’t like new foods too much and I’m not very good with homesickness.
“I take my hat off to Adam – but, having spoken to him, I’ve found out all I need to confirm that it’s not for me. There are still things I’d like to achieve in drama before I look at reality. So I think I want to focus on keeping some of my identity behind the camera for a little bit longer.”
And if that means we get more performances from Miller of the quality we got during 2016, then who am I to argue?
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