What a 12 months it’s been for Ross Barton – a shooting, an arrest, an affair, a death and a miraculous resurrection! Yes, the baddest bad boy in the Dales has certainly been at the forefront of the biggest plotlines and actor Michael Parr has now been rewarded with a nomination in the Serial Drama Performance at this year’s National Television Awards.
We caught up with the man himself to quiz him about all things Emmerdale, ask what’s next for Ross and find out whether he really could be leaving the ITV soap…
Congratulations on the NTA nomination – you must be pleased?
It’s very flattering. And I feel like I’ve graduated somewhat. Last year, it was Best Newcomer, this year it’s Best Serial Drama Performance. However, it does feel like I’ve been thrown in at the deep end. Especially seeing as I’m up against Danny Dyer. No offence to the others, but he’s a household name. There’s some stiff competition there.
Ah, now Danny Dyer – he has, on occasion, referred to Emmerdale as ‘The Farm’, hasn’t he?
Yes, but I think he did that tongue in cheek. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet him on two separate occasions and he’s got a great sense of humour. I should probably stop bigging him up, but I don’t think he meant us any harm when he said that. Still, it would be nice to get a victory over him. And maybe get him to hold the award while I went to the bar!
Was it a surprise to you that Ross was involved in so many plotlines last year, particularly the fact that he shot Robert?
Yes, it was a surprise to me. And I thought it was a brilliant idea when our producer at the time, Kate Oates, told me about it. I felt that it made the whodunit a lot more difficult to figure out because Ross wasn’t a likely suspect. However, from what I saw on Twitter, a few people were saying, “Ross in ANOTHER storyline!”
So how do you react when the character comes in for criticism like that?
I really don’t pay any attention to it. I also get lots of compliments on social media and I can’t acknowledge those either. Compliments go to your head and insults go to your heart. So I won’t, for instance, sit there thinking about people who don’t think that my hair isn’t nice anymore. Or, at the opposite end, I won’t go around thinking that I’m the most handsome actor ever. I can’t dwell on that kind of thing.
Yes, your hair did become a bit of a talking point last year when you had it cut short…
That was one of the most crazy moments in my career. I felt like shaking people and saying, ‘it’s just my hair. I’m there to act, so stop treating me like a piece of meat!’ But whatever!
Now, we do need to clear up some recent comments which seemed to suggest that you might not be around when your co-star Charley Webb returns from maternity leave. So, are you leaving Emmerdale?
I wasn’t saying I was going anywhere immediately or that I have any plans to go. It was just an open way of saying “listen, I don’t know what the future holds for me in this show”. We’re on annual contracts, so there are no guarantees. If they decide to kill me off or whatever, then that could happen before Charley returns. We’ve got a new producer in Iain MacLeod and he might hate Ross’s guts or me as an actor. I’m sure that’s not the case, but who knows?
So your loyalties currently lie with the show?
Absolutely. Emmerdale has changed my life and I’m willing to put the work in and do whatever this show wants me to do.
How will the full-time return of Charity end up affecting Ross?
She’s such a devil. Ross is in over his head when it comes to Charity and I can’t see prison changing her. I’m just really excited to work with Emma Atkins. She’s lots of fun and she’s not afraid to make bold choices with her lines. She makes me up my game and I think we have a good dynamic on screen.
Do you want to carry on playing Ross as a bad boy or would you like to see him become a reformed character?
My biggest fear is that Ross would reform. I like him the way he is. We have a few bad guys on the show, but Ross is just a bit more of a lad than the rest of them. And I think a lot of the audience can relate to that. I don’t know how to word this without sounding big-headed, but I think lots of lads want to be like Ross and girls want to be with him.
Speaking of girls who want to be with Ross – who should his next love interest be? And bear in mind that his girlfriends end up either dead like Donna or leaving in tears like Debbie…
Well, now that you’ve said that, I don’t want him to be with anybody. It’s like the curse of working with Mike Parr! You either get killed or you have to leave the show. Though I’m going to blame Matthew Wolfenden for half of that because he’s the one responsible for getting Charley Webb pregnant. Personally, though, I think that Ross and Chrissie have a good dynamic. It’s that pairing of the rich and the rough. She’s got all this money and he’s envious of that world, having come from a working class background. But who knows what’s going to happen.
And if Ross got together with Chrissie, then that surely fuel his feud with Robert?
Yes, I can’t see Ross letting this one go. He was tit for tat with Pete and I think it’ll be the same for Robert. But then I’ll have all the ‘Robron’ fans giving me grief all the time!
And, finally, can you give us quick tease of what Ross will be getting up to in the near future?
At the moment, Emma and Ross are getting very good at winding each other up. But what his mum is doing is for Ross’s own good. She knows that Ross will regret it if he’s not in his baby’s life. And you’re going to be pleasantly surprised about how Ross takes to parenthood.
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