Friday 18 January 2013, 17:12
Terry Molloy and Rachel Atkins talk below about playing Mike and Vicky Tucker, and the Bethany storyline.
And here's a bonus audio clip for you to enjoy:
Has the part of Vicky changed since she arrived in the programme?
Rachel: She’s mellowed. I mean, she had to mellow! But I think she changed when she found the love of her life. She was desperate to be part of a community - and a family. To begin with she didn’t get on too well with Brenda but I think she tried too hard. But there’s been a turnaround now. She’s been much more accepted within the family.
What’s she like to play?
Rachel: Fantastic fun. Because she is bubbly and fluffy and silly. But also there was a line when we were deciding whether to have the baby – she’d be like a lioness with this child – and I think she has got that edge. She will protect her family whatever. So she’s not all fluff.
What was your reaction when you were told Vicky was going to get pregnant?
Rachel: Well, I was shocked. Like the script, I thought it was the menopause. Then when I realised I was having a baby, and then a baby with Down’s syndrome I was really excited by the whole storyline. I thought it would be really challenging for us as actors and as characters.
Terry: I think Mike and Vicky have been sort of peripheral comic characters, who’ve been brought in to lighten up storylines that might be more serious. As actors it’s lovely to be able to find a new dimension to the character which people perhaps haven’t heard so much before, and to explore that. So it’s given us a new jumping off point, which for me has been great.
It’s very easy in some soap operas for characters to slip into a kind of cartoon caricature of who they’re meant to be. And it’s up to the actors, along with the scriptwriters, to occasionally get out of the comfort zone and do something that is going to be a little more challenging.
I thought the storyline was great because I have a physically disabled stepdaughter and I have friends who have children with Down’s. I think it’s a story that needs to be aired. And using us for that is very good because it has this dimension of Mike getting older, with a child that will be so dependent on the family. A lot of his early worry was that he was going to be leaving his family to cope with his child. And that tested the relationship.
What was it like to play the birth?
Rachel: I don’t have children, but I’ve given birth many times on radio. I was quite surprised the scriptwriters wanted her to give birth on air, given that Vicky’s so loud! But it was quite an easy birth really.
Terry, were you at your children’s births?
My first son Robert’s was a difficult birth. I was asked to leave the operating theatre and then actually move further down the building, because the noise of me pacing up and down outside the room was disturbing the surgeon. I missed Philip’s birth [Philip Molloy plays Will Grundy] because I thought it was going to be like Robert’s – eight or nine hours in coming. But he just popped out in about ten minutes while I was parking the car. But Hannah, my youngest child, I was at her birth all the way through. That was with a couple of very bizarre midwives and a very acerbic surgeon who when the baby came out suggested we call her Margaret because it was Mrs Thatcher’s birthday too.
So were you able to use any of that life experience in the recording of Bethany’s birth?
Terry: Yes, any actor is going to take things from their life and incorporate those into situations that are happening in a script. How you were feeling at a particular moment jumps into your head.
What are your hopes for the way the storyline develops?
Rachel: I’m hoping to be able to work with an actor who has Down’s syndrome, if it’s possible to cast one in the role. But that’s projecting my life way ahead! And it’s going to be interesting to see the reaction of people in the village to the baby. Because it’s the first time Ambridge has had a child with that degree of disability.
Terry: Chris Carter was born with a cleft lip, but that was cured by surgery.
Rachel: But this is something where you have to fight every corner to make sure she has the most normal life possible.
Terry: I hope it will flag up the real difficulty that a lot of families with children with special needs have. From my experience and from my wife Victoria’s experience of bringing up two disabled girls, there’s a battle against the system to get the things they need. That’s going to be an area of stress for Mike and Vicky. Not just sometimes people shunning them because they don’t know what to say. But the everyday constant battle which just grinds parents down. The requirement sometimes in families to have some sort of relief from that is immense. And it’s never really focussed on much. People say it’s part of the package. Well actually it’s more than the package you get with an able-bodied child.
Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer
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