Emmerdale star Mark Charnock on secrets of special male-only episode
Note: The following article contains discussion of themes including suicide.
Emmerdale spoilers follow.
Emmerdale airs a special male-only episode this Friday (March 10), exploring the topic of mental health in powerful scenes.
The ITV soap recently aired an important issue-based storyline, as long-standing resident Paddy Dingle came close to ending his own life.
As Paddy's loved ones are aware that he's still struggling, Marlon Dingle gathers together a group of the male villagers for a lock-in at The Woolpack this week.
Marlon is joined by Cain, Jimmy, Liam, Bob, Charles, Sam, Nate and Bear – and hopes that a reluctant Paddy will be convinced to take part too.
Here, Mark Charnock – who plays Marlon – shares more details of the special episode.
What was your first reaction when you heard about Paddy's storyline and your involvement?
"My first reaction was that Dominic [Brunt, who plays Paddy] would be great in it. I thought Paddy was a really good character to pick for this storyline and I knew that Dominic would nail it – he's been amazing.
"As Marlon is Paddy's best friend, I was hoping that I'd be involved in it, because it's a really important story. The show does these stories very well and the research for it has been huge."
Can you tell us about Marlon's idea to have a lock-in at The Woolpack?
"It comes about following some different hints and conversations around the pub. Marlon, Nate and Jimmy discuss how men don't talk about things, but Jimmy mentions that the pub is the place where he can come and offload.
"That strikes a chord with Marlon, so he decides to form this Man Club and invites a handful of the lads round to have a lock-in.
"Marlon hopes that Paddy will be lured down and will feel comfortable to take part. They're all going to talk about the dark places they've been to – and hopefully it might make a difference."
What was it like to be involved in an episode with just the male cast?
"It was a really interesting experience. It was two straight days of us being on set together and everybody is still talking about it now. It's a wonderfully-written episode and David Kester has directed it beautifully.
"It's a really strange thing to say because of the subject matter, but we had an amazing time and the camaraderie was really wonderful. Obviously there's a lot of waiting round when you're filming and there was some laughter during those times, but there was some talk around the subject that we're exploring as well."
Can you share any stories from filming?
"We were just passing the time and playing games. We tried to do this pop quiz about which year certain singles were released. Poor Jurell [Carter] who plays Nate was surrounded by all of these middle-aged men – he didn't have a chance because all of the questions were based around the '80s!
"While we were filling the time, it felt like it was mirroring what we were portraying on screen. It was a really lovely couple of days and everybody was buzzing at the end of it."
Will we get to learn new things about the characters?
"I won't name anybody, but there's a couple of revelations about people's past that are genuinely a bit jaw-dropping.
"What's brilliant is that one person recalls something that happened to him in his distant past and it sort of explains some of the ways he is now. It's very smart writing, with callbacks to characters' history that we haven't seen."
Do the characters find it easy to open up?
"No, I don't think they do. I don't think men do generally, so it would be a mistake to say that they just jump straight in and start talking. It takes a while, but once they get there, it just starts to open up like ripples.
"In the bits where they're not talking, I think everybody is just trying to create an atmosphere where people feel comfortable. Cain suggests playing darts. Actually, with Cain being Cain, he just says: 'We're playing darts now'. Everyone just decides that they'd better do it if Cain says they are!
"It's just trying to create an atmosphere where they're all being together in a very safe space."
Cain isn't always known for his softer side, but does he embrace the Man Club idea?
"One of the reasons the audience loves Cain as a character so much is that, beneath all of that machismo and bravado, we've seen that there's a really warm, caring part there. That's the Cain that we see in the episode."
Do you think it's important to show men confiding in each other like this?
"Yeah, I think it is. With men and society in general, we talk a good game about acknowledging that we don't talk, but we still continue not to really talk.
"That hasn't gone away, despite the fact that, as a society, we understand how important it is to open up and acknowledge your problems. That's why the suicide rate is a real problem.
"I don't think we're anywhere close to being where we need to be with it, so that's why shows like Emmerdale doing these stories will hopefully make a change. People just saying they're going to do something is not enough – they have to actually do it.
"It would do us all so much good if we talked more. Especially after everything that everyone has been through in very recent history, as anxiety is through the roof and depression has become a bigger thing. That's why stories like these matter and hopefully it will have some impact."
Would you like Man Club to become a more regular fixture in the show, beyond this episode?
"I think it'd be such a nice thing if it became a semi-regular occurrence and it became a club. Even if there's nothing wrong – just if they got together, enjoyed each other's company and felt safe and protected by each other and able to talk. I think it'd be something really unique."
Can you share where things go from here?
"This is why soaps are so good at these stories – we're going to see the subtle changes and the ups and downs for Paddy. The fact that we can mark those changes, with so many episodes day by day, means that the audience will experience those changes with Paddy.
"As I've said many times before, soaps have that unique position in drama where they can explore a story over a longer period. For me, it's the perfect format to take on a story like this.
"Marlon will go on supporting Paddy for quite a while. They've always supported each other and they've always been like brothers. Paddy's been there for Marlon with his problems over the past few years, so it's nice that Marlon can now take the reins for him. I think it's a terrific story and it's very moving."
Emmerdale airs on weeknights at 7.30pm on ITV1, and streams on ITVX.
Read more Emmerdale spoilers on our dedicated homepage
We encourage anyone who identifies with the topics raised in this article to reach out. Emmerdale has been working on Paddy's storyline with support from Samaritans and Andy's Man Club.
Further information about how to access support is available via the NHS, and organisations who can offer help include Samaritans on 116 123 or Mind on 0300 123 3393.
Readers in the US are encouraged to visit mentalhealth.gov or the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
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