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From a tender age I remember cuddling up to my grandma with a cup of cocoa in one hand and a Caramac bar in the other as we settled down to Emmerdale Farm as it was known then. I loved everything about it; the safe and warm familiar theme tune, Annie Sugden baking in the kitchen and of course the wonderful Yorkshire countryside that encapsulated the whole show.

Over the years I have been an avid watcher and have been through the good and bad times with my farming friends, so imagine my joy, when I was offered the opportunity to walk in the muddy footsteps of the Emmerdale crew. The reason being Leeds Zombie Film Festival, both Dominic Brunt and Mark Charnock are massive zombie fans and are bringing the walking dead back to Headingley as the Leeds Zombie Film Festival, now in its fourth year on Sunday 24th April at the Cottage Road Cinema. The zombie fest features six films – a mix of modern and classic movies that will be shown over twelve hours ending at midnight and have been selected by festival organisers and self confessed Zombie obsessives Dominic and Mark, who play best mates Paddy and Marlon in the popular ITV soap.

The nearest I had ever been to an Emmerdale star was in 1977 when Amos Brierley visited Keighley Conservative Club. My husband Chris however had a greater claim to fame, he had studied drama at Accrington and Rossendale College with Dominic Brunt AKA Paddy the vet, but over time had lost contact, so a reunion I felt was in order. As we arrived at Yorkshire Studios in Leeds, I quickly hid my husband in the canteen and went to meet Emmerdale’s comedy duo, Mark Charnock and Chris’s long lost friend Dominic.

I was greeted in the foyer by the vet and chef and before we entered the canteen, I said to Dominic in a Cilla Black kind of fashion “I’ve got a surprise for you; I have someone with me who you haven’t seen for a long time.” “Oh eck” replied Dominic “Don’t say that, I might not know them and that would be embarrassing!” But our fears were so eliminated as we entered the canteen, yes, he did remember Chris and yes, he liked him as well! Phew! The whole reunion was reminiscent of ‘This is Your Life’ minus the red book. After the walk down memory lane, we were escorted to the infamous Emmerdale set, right into my favourite place, The Woolpack, and do you know what – it’s tiny! I stroked the bar, fireplace and even
helped myself to a beer mat, well I don’t get out much and after a game of darts and general frolicking around the bar, Dominic was due on set, so Mark and I settled down for the interview.

Karen interviews Mark on the Woolpack set
Karen interviews Mark on the Woolpack set

Mark Charnock interview

When did you get into zombie films?

I was always into horror films when I was younger and then I went into my Stephen King phase and obviously then it was video shops there were no DVDs, 200 years ago. I was a video obsessive and it was always horror, I got into the Evil Dead films and the forbidden ones that you aren’t supposed to watch.

How did the festival come about?

It was really simple, Dominic said that he would like to put some films on and I encouraged it and then we got wrapped up in it and we were committed. We wanted to share our love of zombie films and also wanted a charity to benefit; Dominic was already involved with the World Society for the Protection of Animals so they became our chosen charity. Dominic had been over to Romania to watch them rescuing bears and was really touched by it all and before we knew what was happening we were picking films and fighting for the rights which was incredibly time consuming we had no idea how hard it would be. We have been fighting for a Billy Connelly film called Fido for four years and finally we have got permission to show it, no-one has seen it. It’s really good and it’s set in a slightly alternate fifties reality where zombies are domestic servants. What amazes me is that these big name films no-one knows who has the rights to them.

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Who introduces the films?

We both take it in turns and then we just shout abuse at each other from the background.

So what have you got showing this time round?

We’ve got Fido, which we are really excited about; we’ve got Land of the Dead which is the fourth George Romero zombie film which we haven’t shown. The one that we are going to argue about is Evil Dead which I maintain is not a zombie film, but Dom’s convinced it is. We have got one called Siege of the Dead which is a German one it’s 80 minutes and it’s brilliant, we have got our crap one which is City of the Living Dead. We always try to show a rubbish Italian one and I can’t remember the other one off the top of my head.

What’s the difference between a zombie and a horror film?

Well to me they have more artistic merit which sounds like a ridiculous thing to say. I think the Saw films, the Hostel films are just genuinely unpleasant but zombie films have weird charm to them are quite political. 28 Days Later is quite political it was a response to Vietnam and the very early zombie films were a response to the Depression. Dawn of the Dead the one set in the shopping mall is all about consumerism and they have quite apt messages beneath the eating.

Both on and off screen it’s obvious that you work well together…

We are great mates we have worked together for 14 years which is quite astonishing.

You joined in 1996, just before Dominic… He joined six months later than me, which I like to rub in all the time!

You guys have such an on-screen chemistry, do you ad lib at all?

Well, the first loyalty is to the script and they write very funny stuff for us so we don’t want to mess that up but we try to bring our own pacing to it, maybe add another sentence to it. Dom and Paddy tend to pick up on their pretensions.

Well it’s obvious you get on so well. The one thing that you have in common is that you are both unlucky in love…

Yes except that Paddy is no longer unlucky in love he’s now lucky!

Are things likely to change on the romantic horizon?

I couldn’t possibly say, I mean, they can’t both be unlucky forever; they have both been married twice so it’s 2-2.

If you could be an actor in any other soap opera past or present what would it be?

It would be Emmerdale; it’s the show I used to watch on cosy afternoons with my Nan and Gramps so it’s got a real root in my childhood. I’m from the North West so it should be Corrie but I can’t see beyond the show.

I met you a couple of weeks ago on the sidelines of the Corrie V Emmerdale match, were you gutted about your 4-1 defeat against Corrie on Saturday?

Well, I played for the 30 minutes in the second half but they put me up front where my lack of pace was exposed. I had one golden moment where I back heeled it down the wing and it led to our only goal, everything else that I did turned to manure but it was nice to get out there and be part of it because if I hadn’t played at all I would have felt like a spare part. I’ve got a chest infection at the moment and I was supposed to start as centre back but the doctor told me I shouldn’t play, I was gutted I was so looking forward to it but I’m getting
on a bit now.

Was it Danny (Aaron Livesy) that instigated it all?

Yes he did it all, twenty years old and he did it all his self. It’s amazing, I couldn’t even conceive of doing that at such a young age. Danny’s got everything he’s a really nice person as well as being a good actor, a good footballer and a bit of a pin up. He’s one of the good guys.

Was he close to Gavin?

Yes we all were. Danny had known him since Gavin cast him and they became firm friends.

What was the impact like on the cast when he died?

Devastating, I’ve known him for over ten years long before he was the boss.

I could see you and Dom as convincing zombies, do you not fancy doing a ‘Zombie Dale’ spin off?

Oh Yeah. You’d have to speak to Dom about that.

Emmerdale
Chris, Dominic and Karen

Dominic Brunt interview

What is your favourite zombie film of all time?

Dawn of the Dead but then there are some real classics like Fido which we have been trying to get hold of for years and Lionsgate turned us down but they sold it on to someone else so we went to them and we got it.

Mark was saying that you had to go through loads of red tape.

Yes we were told that the person that owns the rights could be sat watching the film and not even know that he owned the rights, he might have bought it with a bundle of other things.

Do you have to pay to use these films?

Yes you have to give a cut of the takings or about £1800 but after 6 films is £600.

But you are looking to raise a few thousand though aren’t you?

We raised about £3600 last year.

How do you kill a zombie?

You remove their head.

Do zombies ever sleep?

No they don’t need to, they just wander about, they are animated corpses just consuming warm flesh and innards.

I interviewed Duncan Preston who has just left Emmerdale, he said it got a bit boring and there are a lot of bright young things going in and it was becoming a bit like Hollyoaks, do you think that’s right?

It’s a two way thing, if they give you something and you lead with it and you give them something back they will write that. It isn’t just sitting back and saying you write for me.

Mark was saying that he has been here six months longer.

Yes he has. It shows in how much we get paid every time it comes to a new contract he gets £20 more than me.

Well it all adds up…

Yes it does that’s £300 he gets more than me!

That relationship you have is it reflected off screen as well because on screen you have got such a good chemistry between you?

We don’t hang around together off screen as he lives about 60 miles away from me.

You had formal training before you went into Emmerdale, what advice would you give to aspiring actors?

Don’t do it!

A lot of people I’ve interviewed have said that you don’t need to go to drama school.

You need to be able to practise and fail without being judged professionally. It’s alright doing that but then you get a job like this and then you have to pull it out of the bag. It’s good that really for two years at college you’re a student so you can keep failing and trying things. Then I went to drama school for three years so that’s five years before I was paid or asked to show off for money so I think you should really.

How did you get your break into Emmerdale?

I went to drama school and then after that you just audition for everything, I had an agent who had an inroad into different things. I spent three years working as an actor in and around
London on different projects, I went for the audition, it was initially for eight episodes and then they asked me to stay on.

If you could choose to be a soap star past or present is there another character you would like to play?

No not really, I’m still trying to nail this one.

Well you have got a lot going on with the Rhona situation; do you think that will have a happy ending? Can two people that are friends have a baby?

I think it will keep on going obviously as it’s a drama you can’t have people sitting there being too happy for too long.

No you can’t; something has to happen…

I think both Paddy and Marlon have quite a bright outlook on life.

It’s quite an unusual situation; you wouldn’t do it in real life then?

No I dread to think.

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