What do zombies and Emmerdale have in common?
by Karen Shaw
The nearest I had ever been to an Emmerdale star was in 1977 when Amos Brierley visited Keighley
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 12 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. 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, and after a game of darts, we settled down for a catch-up.
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.
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.
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 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.
What is your favourite zombie film of all time?
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.
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.
You had formal training before you went into Emmerdale, what advice would you give to aspiring actors?
Don’t do it! You need to be able to practise and fail without being judged professionally. 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. You really have to be dedicated.
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!