What’s it like for Donna and Marlon when the truth finally comes out?
Verity: “It is a relief for Donna, but there is also shock and anger. Marlon finds out by himself, which catches her off guard. She wanted to delay telling people for as long as possible because she hates the idea of people pitying her. She is doing it to save their feelings and also, she wants to squeeze as much happiness as she can out of life without being too morbid about cancer.”
Mark: “When Marlon finds a stack of unopened birthday cards for April, going right up to her 18th birthday, he is emotionally freaked out. He finds Donna’s pills too and when he Googles them, he realises she has cancer. It is an awful moment and I cried when I read the scripts. He doesn’t have romantic feelings for her, but she was his wife and she’s dying.”
There is a scene this week where they both cry together. What was that like to film?
Verity: “That was a heavily emotional day. In the space of one episode, Marlon and Donna go from shock, through to anger and then the emotion comes out. I really poured my heart and soul into it.”
Mark: “It was upsetting. I am not a method actor, but you can’t help but be affected by a story like this, especially when you see April who looks like a little Verity. It also felt like such a big responsibility. I wanted to get it right because this happens to people.”
How do you make yourself cry for the cameras?
Verity: “I prepare for scenes like that by going to something that I connect to personally such as photos, memories or music.
Mark: It really helps that I have a bond with Verity. We get on really well, so it is easier to access that chemistry. I like a laugh and a joke on set, but when I am doing scenes like that, I can’t do that or else I lose the ‘truth’ of what Marlon is feeling. I do prepare myself by thinking of sad things that have happened to me.”
And how do you pick yourself up after a day of upsetting scenes?
Verity: “With a vodka, lime and lemonade down the pub.”
Mark: “I don’t really take stuff from the set with me, although I went to see 22 Jump Street the other night and laughed louder than anybody else, which makes me think I really needed it.”
What are the implications of Donna’s terminal for her and Marlon?
Verity: “Well, the cancer is going to get a lot more serious and Donna doesn’t want anyone else to know, so she will suffer in silence for a while. She has also got to leave April behind, but now she knows she is leaving her with a family who will love and take care of her. With time running out, Donna is in a desperate situation and is like a moth to a flame when it comes to Ross. She makes the wrong decisions which could get her into trouble at work.”
Mark: “It is going to be tough for Marlon. He’s got to look after a daughter he doesn’t know very well and who knows how he will handle the grief after Donna’s death. He had a nervous breakdown when Tricia died and all that fragility is still there inside him. The story will affect a lot of people in different ways.”
Has the story made you think about your own mortality?
Verity: “Yes, it reminds me that I have got to live for the day. It puts things into perspective when you are moaning about a cold cup of tea or working late. I tell myself to get a grip.”
Mark: “It does bring it home to you because it is such a realistic story.”
What would you do if you were told you only had 24 hours left to live?
Verity: “I would ask everyone I have ever known to come over and then I would put on some music, get the drinks flowing and dance until I could dance no more.”
Mark: “I would treat it like a birthday. I’d go out and spoil myself. A lot of wine would be involved.”
How do you feel about Donna dying?
Verity: “I am filming my exit soon and it’s going to be tough both mentally and physically. It is so dramatic and deep and there are lots of layers. For me, it is closure and the end of an era. I started on Emmerdale when I was 12 and I am 28 now. I am going out with a bang and I’m grateful for that, but I will miss everyone. I’ll miss Mark because he never fails to make me laugh every single day.”
Mark: “It is going to be interesting to see how Marlon copes when the emotional rug is pulled from under him. I am going to miss Verity a lot. Aside from being a brilliant actress, she is a very funny woman. The pair of us have had a great time dancing around and acting stupid. She’s a very upbeat presence here at Emmerdale and I think everybody is going to miss her.”