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 of 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 last of the four Emmerdale interviews, I had a chat with Verity Rushworth who plays Donna, to discuss her shocking exit from the soap. For those readers who haven't watched the second of tonight's episodes, this interview will contain some spoilers.
How was filming your final scene?
I had never done a stunt quite like it before. So I was nervous and excited about that. I am glad I got that out of the way, it was the first thing we filmed in the morning. After we got that out of the way, it dawned on me that it is the end and I went quiet reflective after getting that out of the way because it was quite scary.
Would you have preferred that she did not die the way she did?
Well, I think from a producer’s point of view, it was edgy and more heart-breaking and even more tragic, so that added to the tragedy.
How would you of preferred to have said goodbye to April, Donna's daughter?
I would have loved a little scene saying goodbye, I don’t know how I would have done the scene saying goodbye to her, she’s too cute to leave behind, I would have struggled with that.
How did it feel watching the episode back? Assuming this is the first time you are seeing it?
Yes, that is the first time I have seen it.
Yeah, yeah…there was a screening before the London one but I thought, ‘oh, I will just wait until the London one.’ I was more nervous about the episode, I think it will be more interesting to watch it a second time after seeing everything, and knowing it is not the worst thing in the world. I think I will get a bit more emotional when I watch it again. I was quite moved by it. For me, it really was the end of the era. Like I said when I left I got really emotional and I never thought I would. I didn’t think that way at all. I just went back because it was going to be fun and a little pop back for five months, see my friends and leave again. But it was like a family again. And saying goodbye was really hard. I was holding back some tears definitely.
When the storyline was pitched to you, did they pitch the romance?
Yeah, just before Christmas I think it was. I got the whole story out in Covent Gardens, and I was like ‘Ohhh, what?! No way! That is amazing’. I didn’t realise now the impact it was going to have but I was so excited by the story. I was a bit worried when they said Donna was going to have a terminal illness and that it was going to be: Donna deteriorating until the end and would be killed by the cancer. Actually this storyline for me has a bit more action, it's a bit more dramatic and sort of had me on the edge of my seat. I was hoping that would be the case for viewers as well.
Is a take on ‘Breaking Bad’?
It is, isn’t it? It is the ‘Emmerdale’s’ take on ‘Breaking Bad’. It was such a powerful story though because she is a good girl and has good morals, and she has gone to the dark side because of the situation being so desperate. It was very unusual. For people watching the show before my return there see a young girl grow up into this sort of bent-copper. It was like what are you doing, it was so unexpected. So I loved that side of it.
How fortunate do you feel, with the viewers been so invested in Donna as a character?
I think it helps if you got a history of relationships and roots in the village with the people around you, and the viewers at home have watched you grow up. It helps to feel like you know the person and you understand where they are coming from and why they are doing it, and how it affects the people around them a lot more. So I think you buy into it a lot more.
Watching scenes like the one last week with Marlon filming the video, makes us realise how far Donna and Marlon have come.
Yeah, it was such a treat the monologue. You are not often treated with a full five page monologue in the soaps. All the scripts are short, when you just start to get into something and then have to do the next scene. I was so spoilt by that monologue, it was written by Caroline Mitchell and I was trying to learn at home with my Mum, and my Mum was filling up. She was trying to help me learn my lines.
They usually have, ‘I have got some bad news to tell you, and then cut to another scene’, actually seeing those things like Marlon taking to April has invited an unusual way of telling stories…
Yeah, it is unusual for soaps. Like you snap out one line and then snap out of it, that is the point of keeping you on your toes. You get about twenty-three minutes with the adverts, and we’ve been able to indulge a bit more with the stories. Five page two handers, every week really, pages and pages of dialogue. I think it really helped, we tried to like, the pace of the scenes to vary. Instead of like, ‘oh, this again’. And the different levels of emotions: anger, passionate, desperate and then are like upbeat – we’ve tried to keep it varied. We’ve been really, really spoiled with the amount of stuff around. I think it helped with the story because people have been able to follow it a lot more deeply than they would normally.
How do you switch off when you get home?
I felt like I had a thick head. You know when you’ve got a hang-over, I felt like that by the time I would get home. I would have a thick, heavy head. That is exactly how I would feel. To be honest I was staying with my Mum and Dad for the whole five months. As soon as I got home and my Dad put the kettle on, and my Dad would have tea ready. You just automatically come out of it and as soon as I get back into the building, it would be work head, and then the home head. There is only a two hour window every night when you get in, you finish work at seven, you get home, get a bath and you are up at six. Everybody works hard so that would be my mind ready for the next day. So you would automatically switch to what is tomorrow. And start learning for tomorrow.
Are you still in touch with Deena Payne who plays Viv, your on-screen mother? If so, did she have any comments on your storyline?
I am in touch with Deena Payne. When I first left the show, I rented her very, very swish pad in Tower Hill, which lasted a year. Yeah, she’s been very supportive and she sent me a lovely message saying that she is watching, and that I am doing a great job. She has been really lovely.
How long did it feel returning knowing that Viv and Terry were no longer in the soap?
I think they have killed us all off. I think that is all of the Windsors, there is only Scott and Kelly. Yeah, it felt weird without Deena and to be honest a lot of my stuff before I left was with Marlon so Donna married Marlon and so a lot of the stuff sort of pulled away from her. Yeah, there is definitely a big hole in the village.
What is your relationship like with Mark Charnock off-screen?
Yeah, he’s lovely. He’s just how you imagine him to be. He’s a really funny, silly, friendly person and a big family man. Mark and I stayed in touch so he came to support me with all of the theatre productions I have done. It has been amazing for me to be able to keep in touch with everybody.
Was there much partying after the final scene was filmed?
There wasn’t a lot of partying, I’ll be honest. Maybe like two nights. What we did do was go for a lovely meal in Leeds. Me, Mike, Mark and Charlotte, Zoe and Dominic. He all went for an incredible meal towards the end of the contract. Just to say how lovely it has been and all treated me to a lovely Marc Jacobs bag, and I was like crying, you guys are so generous, I have swanned back for five months and I am going away with a Marc Jacobs, I can’t believe it. So we did do that and we went to Aberdeen for the weekend as well so we was all there together.
What is next for you now you have left ‘Emmerdale’?
I don’t know. I am going to start auditions now. I have a couple of weeks off which has been nice with the weather. I sat in the garden and I have been at home because I have been away for a year. We just bought a house last year, and haven’t lived in it really. Allowed myself that and then auditions will start.
Is ‘Emmerdale’ going to be a backing to get into other productions?
Hopefully that is exactly the plan really. This storyline has been amazing it shows different levels of emotions and showing different sides to the character. Hopefully it will show somebody something they like.
What would you like to do?
Dramas now really, the experience on Emmerdale has been amazing. I would love to use that in a post-watershed where you can really let rip. The restrictions are quite high for Emmerdale, you can’t swear, show too much violence, guns or aggression – so you are really limited in what you can do, you want to say what you want to say. If you can’t say it, with something post-watershed I think it is easier to portray your character and feelings, and something gritty.
Would you like to be in ‘Downton Abbey’?
I wouldn’t say no to Downton Abbey. You can put me in that kitchen any day.
So you would be downstairs?
Oh, I would be downstairs.
How has Emmerdale changed since you were last on it? There are more episodes now than when you were last on the show?
I think it was about six a week. But it is a completely different system and a different building. So they have moved to a different studio which is vast so I kept getting lost. I was lost all of the time. They’ve got fifteen sets in five different studios. It is epic, it is now three directors to four eps. each for a two week block, so I couldn’t really get my head around it. It is two directors doing six eps. each. So there is more time spent with the different eps. on set, which is fantastic. The scheduling is fantastic now, it used to be a bit chaotic. But now it is, ‘Can I go on holiday?’, but you’ve got to give six months’ notice before you can book a week off. So it is like, ‘I didn’t get any time off, so I’ve got to go in, in December.’ The scheduling is now ran like a really slick-ship. It runs really smoothly.
The new cameras are in HD, it wasn’t HD before. Which is like, oh my days, you can’t have a bad day. Well, you can but it will show. It shows on screen. Twitter wasn’t invented before so that has made a massive difference to get direct feedback from Twitter followers. It has been really positive, so I have been really happy, I was dreading it. I just think it has improved. It is more contemporary. The storylines and scripts are grittier.
How have the public responded to Ross and Donna’s relationship?
It has gone really well. I have had maybe a couple of people like say, ‘Stay away from that Ross, he’s bad news’, and a couple of people were like, ‘Don’t betray the police that way.’ But ninety-five, ninety-eight percent of people love Donna and Ross together. They love the balance and how it works. I have been really surprised by how many people enjoyed Ross and Donna’s relationship. Luckily, I think, the chemistry was there between us. We spent a lot of time working on it, and we would socialise outside of work as well.
How do you feel about watching your future on screen now? Will you be checking back on how other characters are doing?
I want to see them all grieving like they’ve never grieved before. I want to see tears from Ross, I want to see tears from Marlon, and I want them to be pining for Donna. The video, I think, the video I filmed for April, I think that is replayed in the future.
How did it feel getting back into a repetetive routine?
It is so quick, I was doing theatre for three weeks of rehearsing. One show, you do the same script every night and you spend hours dissecting what every word means. And I get on set, and every line is wrong, then it’s restand and shoot… okay, and then move on. You are like, ‘what?! Oh my goodness.’ There is no hugs and kisses or discussions, I have done a really heavy day and I've been like looking for the director to do brief time. But no, no, none of that –he’s gone.
'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 Michael Parr, aka Ross Barton here.
Read my interview with Adam Thomas, aka Adam Barton here.
Read my interview with Danny Miller, aka Aaron Livesy here.