Earlier this week I got to meet, Verity Rushworth (Donna Windsor-Dingle), Michael Parr (Ross Barton), Danny Miller (Aaron Livesy) and Adam Thomas (Adam Barton), who are at the centre of one Emmerdale’s biggest storylines this year. The show airs two of the most dramatic episodes of the year tonight (Thursday 14th August), as Donna Windsor (Verity Rushworth) leaves the soap and Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller) makes his return. In the first of four interviews, I had a chat with Michael Parr who plays Ross Barton, Donna's love interest and partner in crime.
The chemistry between yourself and Verity could of gone one way or another. When paired with her how quickly did you realise it was working well?
It was instant, because when she was in the show originally and then when she left, she did lots of musicals. That is were I kind of started, that is how I got into acting, I had done a lot of musicals when I was younger, I did the Sound of Music, which she has also done –
What in the West End?
No, no, I mean this is like a completely different league. I am no Verity Rushworth, we knew a lot of the same songs and stuff. If we were doing a scene it would be all like sad or intense and then they would stop and go cut and we would start singing. So there was a connection there immediately so it was really nice. I didn’t know what it was going to look like on screen but instantly people just seem to go that is a great pairing, and it seemed to work.
It is a shame it has to come to an end…
Yeah, it has been so intense, it has been five months. I think she has done about the same amount of episodes in five months that I have done in the whole year. So, you know it has been really intense for her, she has done a lot, I have kind of been the person she’s been working with the most. It has been a bit of a whirlwind and to watch her go was really hard.
You get so close and then, it is a bit of a bitter-sweet feeling after she left. I was so glad I got to work with her, because I used to watch her when I was training at drama-school, and I watched her on-screen and I always thought she was great then but when she left and did other work. She has come back a completely different animal. She is so good, I was so glad I got to work with her and then I was gutted to watch her going. One of the saddest scenes between us, we had done quite a few takes and we were doing other people’s close ups and stuff, I was starting to find it really hard to get emotional anymore. I come from a theatre a background so I feel like I am cheating. She went, 'Babe, just think, that you won’t ever see me again after this.' *Parr pulls an emotional face and gestures tears* It was like, Lets start rolling, start rolling. Yeah, it was sad to watch her go.
How does it feel to have worked with Verity Rushworth?
I was just grateful for the story because it is so good. It is going to be so intense, it’s got loads of action and I wish it had been longer. I wish I had got to know her better but you know, I have made a friend for life. I’ll get to see her again and stuff. It would have been nice to have continued to work with her but that’s the nature of the beast. It is so intense and then just like when I have done touring shows, you get to be really good friends with each other and then the show finishes and you barely speak to them again.
Emotionally was it your most challenging role?
Yeah, I have said that before, out of all of the things I have ever done this had to be the most emotional and I think that’s what I struggled with the most, letting the walls fall down. Yes, it is what I am most proud of. There is so much information to take on as an actor, like I am sad but I think she was lying, I think she was cheating, but I love her, but I hate her, you know, I was getting pulled in so many different directions.
How do you think Ross will progress now since Donna and Ross had such good partnership?
I actually don’t know. I fly out to South America on the 14th. I have got a little bit of time off now and I don’t know what is going on, I am hopefully going to catch Kate (Oates) before I leave and get a definite bill. I would like to see him return and go completely the way I came into the show. Everybody hated him, just as I seemed to have turned everybody around from Twitter going, ‘oh that Ross is....’. Someone called me on Twitter the other day and said, “Ross is an absolute t***er, t*sspot, #losttoss” I was like, that is pretty good, just as I have started to turn people around, hopefully I will turn them against me again, and pull them in different directions. Kind of like Cain a loveable rogue, you love to hate that guy.
How is Ross going to react after the death of Donna?
Knowledge is power to him, he knows this and he’ll hold it against anyone and try to manipulate them, usually he does it to financially line his pockets. But because he is hurting so bad, he is looking at everybody else in the room and saying he wants you to feel the heartbreak that he feels. I am just going to use it and really stick the knife in while everybody else is hurting. So I think, the audience will start to go ‘oh, he is a nasty character.’
Is it easy to be able to turn off after a day off filming?
Not hard to switch off, but I have done one emotional scene, that has been on screen already. Gary North has said to Donna you need to stay away from Ross, you cannot ever see him again. And in the scene I got quite upset, and we had to do it a few times, not a lot of times, maybe two or three. At the end of the day, I was like, ‘goddamnit, I am exhausted’ but Verity has been doing all of these long scenes, like a eleven scenes a day crying. So, it really does take it out of you but ever since I have got this job, I never hit the snooze button anymore because as soon as I wake up, I am like, I can go to work. I have had so many jobs I didn’t want to wake up to do so I am just happy to go to work.
Have you got many scenes with Donna’s daughter, April?
I have got quite a lot of work, a lot of scenes with her. I have worked with her quite a lot and she is so on the ball, if you miss a line, she goes ‘oh, you missed a line there’, and I am like, ‘alright, you didn’t go to drama school for twenty-seven grand, did you? No, so thank you very much.’ She is so clued up and it makes it so easy. I have done a few scenes with her and she is asking about her mummy, I have just been balling my eyes out because you can’t help but see this really cute five or six year old. She is so good and we get on so well, we’ve gone out with her Mum and Dad to bowling. And me and Verity have taken her out. We’ve all got a really nice relationship with her.
What reaction have you got from the public playing Ross?
I never know if it is insult or compliment but people will say, 'you are much better looking in real-life'. So it is like, ‘are you saying, I look ugly in my job?’ or I get, 'oh you are actually a nice guy'. I would never say no to somebody if I was asked for a photo. Although I did have the best experience, on Saturday night, I was having dinner with a friend in a pub and this little Irish woman comes up to me, and goes: *(Parr speaks in an Irish accent)* ‘Aren’t you Rob from Coronation Street’? And I just went: ‘No.’, she replied ‘Oh I thought you were.’ And I was like, ‘I am Ross in Emmerdale.’ She replied, ‘that’s it! I am a huge fan.’ If it is Rob from Coronation Street or Ross in Emmerdale, either way, you are a fan. So, yeah, it has all been really positive. I have never, in fact, I have on Twitter I had negative stuff. But never in the public.
How did you prepare from been a relatively unknown face to then been on the television five nights a week? What impact does that have on you?
About four years ago, I had done my first ever television job, and I would go to a family party and get ‘oh, I saw you on this....’ . Then I had done a little bit more and another television show, and you kind of become famous around your cousins and your second cousins and all their friends. But nothing really prepares you for going out on nights-out and having photos taken. I went to a festival with Verity and a few other friends and we just got absolutely bogged out. It got to the point where I said 'I can’t. I can’t', I couldn’t talk to anybody else. But there has been nothing negative about it.
How difficult was it to keep your role on Emmerdale a secret?
So annoying because, you know, I went to New York with my best friend. We went on holiday and stuff, and I got chatting to this girl. She was like, ‘So what do you do?’ I replied, ‘I am on Emmerdale.’ And we got chatting a little bit more and then she went off to the toilet. She came back and she said ‘I’ve just been searching Emmerdale and there is no sign of you on there, I was just like, ‘I am on the show, I am.’ It wasn’t too difficult you know, I only told people I trust. I have a good circle of friends.
How difficult is it to keep storylines a secret?
I mean you get members of the public, that say like, ‘Oh, can you tell me about this? What is going to happen here?’, and I’ll just say, ‘I’ll lose my job if I told you so.’ It is quite easy to handle really. Family always want to know, I'm just like, ‘You know, I am a professional.’
Who else would you like to have scenes with?
It is obvious, you know, that there is a connection between him and Debbie, there has been something there. I also think that Charley Webb would give him a run for his money just because she’s gobby, sarcastic and witty. I think there could be something there. I don’t know what is going to come up but, I think, you know, he’s a bit of a run in with Charley, he’s drawn to the bad ones. Which is good, because Donna is the complete opposite as she’s so straight laced but saying that she is a bent police-officer. I think it is the bad ones he’s drawn to, you know, he’s had a rough upbringing. He likes the ones that also have that connection.
Will Ross have a run in with Aaron?
I can’t remember, there might be a run in. Obviously he’s come back into the show, I know he is good friends with Adam. Adam is meant to be on this job with us. And the job goes wrong so Ross starts to point the finger and you know, it leads to Adam, maybe because he is in association he might point the finger.
Do you like your character being associated with Cain Dingle?
I think that is a lofty altitude for Ross to get to. So you know Cain, Jeff (Hordley) has done an amazing job. He’s an iconic figure in the show, I think it would take a while to build up to that. It is flattering but I don’t feel any pressure because I am not trying to be Cain Dingle. I am just trying to do what I think is the realistic thing for Ross.
A lot of the time, characters that come into the show as bad boys often redeem themselves, do you want Ross to stay a bad boy?
How long Jeff has been in the show? I don’t know how long Jeff has been in the show. He came in for four years, and he’s been back for five. It is only really now that you see he has softened. I would like that kind of arc, I wouldn’t like it to happen immediately. I think it has been good for my character that the love of his life has died so it can take him back to his roots. I think the show could do with somebody who is a villain as well. You know, Aaron is a bit of a bad lad as well so you don’t know what pairing is going to be there. Are they going to be against each other or will we be in cohoots?
It sounds like you have a career a long-term career at ‘Emmerdale’ – would you like to stay on the show?
I’d love to stay on the show. I don’t like it when I talk about going to drama school because I went there and I trained for so long and I walked into nothingness for like six years. I mean, I did jobs but like one TV job a year for the whole time I was unemployed. So now, I think, there was a bit of an attitude that you turn your nose up at jobs. People will say, ‘I want to be on the national’, you do think that but once you’ve got a hold of the job, you don’t want to let it go because it completely turned my life around. I just have so much fun, I am not doing a job that I don’t want to do, even though I have had some fun jobs over the years. I can wake up and I can go, I feel like I have made it a little, not because of the fame or money but because I am actually doing what I said I was going to do, I wake up every day and I am doing it.
'Emmerdale' airs at 7pm and 8pm on itv tonight. Stay tuned to Rage today for the rest of the interviews with the stars taking centre stage tonight.
Read my interview with Adam Thomas, aka Adam Barton here.
Read my interview with Danny Miller, aka Aaron Livesy here.
Read my interview with Verity Rushworth, aka Donna Windsor here.