BBC Radio 4

Playing Darrell

Writer, The Archers

As the dog-fighting story comes to a head, we talk to Dan Hagley on playing the easily-led Darrell Makepeace.

Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

Is this your first part on The Archers?

I played a marathon official in 2009.  That felt like a massive milestone, to get one episode of The Archers. Then to be invited by for something a little bit more long-running was really exciting.

How would you describe Darrell?

He is very, very easily led. A director I worked with years ago said to me if there’s a character you’re not sure how to play, a good way to approach them is to play the positive, rather than the negative. So I don’t play him as a victim. I try to play him as if he’s trying to climb out of the hole that his life has become.

It was quite difficult when I got the script about the dog fighting, because like most people I think it’s abhorrent. So I had to find the justification why someone like Darrell would get involved  – and it’s simply because he feels like he has no other choice. He just thinks ‘this will stop us losing the house, this will feed the kids’.

Do you think initially he was in denial about what the activities might be?

He was totally in denial. He’s not an inherently bad person. I think the writing supports that. I hope the listeners can see the thinking behind his actions. It’s about survival.

Once he was brought face to face with the dog fighting, he really wanted to get out.

That episode where he’s throwing up and he’s crying in the shed with Neil redeemed him somewhat. When you’re in studio, it’s very hard to judge how it will come across. You just play it and hope for the best. I was nervous that people would think ‘oh Darrell’s just getting involved in dog fighting and he’s a scumbag’. I very rarely listen to my episodes  but I did listen to that one and I was quite pleased. He realised he’d got himself in way too deep.

Dan Hagley (Darrell Makepeace)

What’s he like to play as a character?

I really enjoy playing him. I think he’s multi-layered. All of those dynamics that are going on. He’s a family man and there’s an overriding sense that he wants to do good for his wife and his daughters.  

It was a bit of a shock, because I went from never having played a dad to playing the father of a 16 year old. I was always the boy next door or the boyfriend. I think it’s since all my hair fell out!

I was very nervous, going into something as big as The Archers, how people around me would react. I’ve got a lot of friends who are Archers listeners. My friend Rachel has been an Archers fan since she was 12, 13 and she would tell me if I was crap in it. But her reaction to the character has been really good. She texted me the other night, after the crying and the throwing up, and said it was a really good episode.

Eri Shuka (Elona Makepeace)

What it’s like working with Eri Shuka (Elona)?

We got on incredibly well from the very first episode. I’ve gone in to other things before as a one-off, like Holby City, and it can be quite difficult to create a rapport instantly. But there was something that sparked off. And we are a bit like husband and wife when we’re sitting in the green room between scenes. We’ll sit arm in arm or we’ll share a chocolate bar together. I think she’s a fantastic actress and a very distinctive voice.

If you could write your own script, what would your hopes be for the character?

These storylines are really exciting, so you want lots more of these, but I hope in some way Darrell gets on more of an even keel and gets out of the scrapes he’s in.

Because you care about the character?

You know what, I really do. When I get the scripts through, there’s part of me that’s like ‘oh no, Darrell, don’t, please...’  And then there’s the actor part of me that thinks ‘this is brilliant!’

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and web producer


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