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Soaps Interview

Exclusive: 'Emmerdale' gossip and teasers from producer Kate Oates - part one

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Emmerdale's series producer Kate Oates

© ITV

It's been all change behind the scenes at Emmerdale this year with Kate Oates taking over as series producer after previous boss Stuart Blackburn moved to Coronation Street.

Oates took office in January but already had a strong connection with Emmerdale as she worked as story editor for two and a half years between 2010 and 2012. She has also served as producer of The Archers for seven years from 2003 to 2010, and had the role of assistant producer at Coronation Street more recently.

Earlier this week, Kate chatted exclusively to Digital Spy in her first full interview as Emmerdale producer. Here, we present part one of the Q&A with details of Kate's vision for the ITV show and gossip on what's to come.

What were your main aims for Emmerdale when you took over as producer?
"As I'd worked on Emmerdale before as story editor, I already had a real love for the show and for so many of the characters when I took over as producer. My main aim is to tell the best stories we can and to make the show really talked-about. Part of that has meant looking at the pace of the storytelling, as sometimes I felt that things weren't moving as quickly as they could. We do need to give stories time to breathe in order to tell them properly, but we also need some big moments - possibly more often than we'd been seeing recently.

"Another thing is that I love the village, as it's our unique selling point and it's so breathtakingly beautiful. I think that's a really important thing to get across to our viewers, so I want us to use the village and our rural location as much as we can. I worked on The Archers for seven years, so I think I know more about farming than all of the Bartons put together!

"I'd also like to see more balance. I think a lot of viewers possibly think that the show has been led by a few very high-profile stories over the past few months, and that's a good thing as they've been brilliant stories which have been fantastically acted. But I am hoping to bring in more balance, both tonally and in terms of characters."

There's usually a handover period between producers, so are we seeing the full picture yet when it comes to your vision?
"I think my handover period was mercifully short, because I'd only been away from the show for a few months. I do feel as though the viewers are already seeing the changes that we've made as a new team, but things will progress further - especially when it comes to the balance of stories.

"I was lucky that I already knew the team and which stories were in the mix when I took over. That meant that I could quite easily look at the inherited stories and make some changes, which were largely to do with pace or to create some bigger moments.

"One of those bigger moments included the recent fire at Dale View, as I wanted to break up the cycle of Kerry annoying Amy, Amy forgiving her and then it happening all over again. The fire has taken both of them into a new direction, which I'm really pleased about."

Cain, Andy and Amy launch a rescue mission

© ITV

Emmerdale's recent fire episode.



Which stories and characters will be most prominent over the summer?
"Well, many viewers will know that Sian Reese-Williams and Rik Makarem are both leaving their roles as Gennie and Nikhil this summer. I really love those characters and they're such talented actors. We will definitely give them the exit story that they deserve.

"We'll be seeing more of Brenda too. Lesley Dunlop's commitment to the brain tumour storyline at the moment is huge. Your readers will have probably seen that she's shaved her head for the story, which just shows how seriously she's taking it. Brenda and Bob have some great stuff coming up.

"We've also got some great material on the way for Cameron, Debbie and Chas. I know that a lot of viewers are really keen to see what the next chapter of the Cameron killer storyline will be, and I can promise that it's coming up big and strong in the summer!

"There's also some nice stuff coming up with Laurel and Marlon, as well as some new twists and turns in the Rhona story. They're the main characters you'll be seeing over summer, but as I've said, I'm keen to get a good balance across the board. You'll see all of the characters that people know and love weaved through."

Is it true that you're planning to introduce a lot of new characters to the show?
"I'm certainly planning on introducing some. The first ones that you'll see are part of our plans for the Bartons and Butler's Farm. There was such a fantastic mix when the Bartons were brought in, and it's a credit to the remaining family members that they've been able to hang onto Butler's, which is a strong lynchpin of the show. I love the mother-son relationship between Moira and Adam, and what we've seen since we've brought Cain into the mix.

"That said, some fresh blood needs to come into that unit. As I said earlier, we need to keep our rural identity and populating Butler's is a strong way of doing that. We have some exciting stories in the pipeline, which should turn Cain and Moira's world on its head a little bit…"

6580: Adam, although consumed with guilt, is surprised Cain has not told Moira the truth

© ITV

Cain, Moira and Adam.



Do you have any plans to bring back any faces from the past?
"I'm not adverse to it, but it's not something I'm champing at the bit to do. When you bring somebody back, you can often do it at haste and repent at leisure! A returning character has to have enough links to the village to still be relevant.

"Bringing back characters does crop up in story conferences a lot when we're throwing around ideas, but we have to look beyond what the initial story would be as it's often a case of, 'And then what…?' There are a couple of characters I have in the back of my mind who do have the potential to come back and still be relevant, but I do think it's something we have to be quite cautious about."

We've had lots of reader questions about Alan Turner getting an on-screen send-off after the sad passing of Richard Thorp. Would you bring back any characters for that occasion?
"We don't have any plans at the moment, but we've just had our story conference for the episodes which will be going out in October and November. That will be the time that we pay tribute to Richard and the character of Alan on screen. As it's a little way off yet, it does mean that I have time to consider whether a returning character could add to what we have planned. I'm sure the viewers will have an opinion on whether we should bring anyone back!

"The main thing is that we do pay tribute to Richard. There's been a really beautiful response from everyone since he passed away, with lots of stories and fond memories being shared in the green room. I also saw that Digital Spy readers left some lovely comments. Richard deserves a strong send-off on screen, and we'll definitely be doing that."

Is it true that we'll be seeing a massive story in October to match last year's 40th birthday celebrations? Can the live episode really be topped?!
"I was so proud of the live episode as I worked on it as story editor, so trying to top it is a bit of a poisoned chalice! (Laughs.) What we can certainly do is weave a story that's as engaging and put forward episodes which have a similar balance.

"For the 40th birthday, I think the viewers really enjoyed seeing such a balance with four strong stories taking centre stage, which had a mix of both comedy and tragedy. In terms of content and in terms of storytelling, I think we can absolutely deliver an awesome October - and I have every intention of making sure that happens."

Dominic Power plays Cameron Murray

© ITV

Dominic Power as Cameron.



When it comes to Cameron, will justice have to be served, or do you see him as a character who can stick around for a long time?
"It's always interesting with killers! Carl was a killer and yet the audience were content for him to stay on for a lot longer. I think Cameron's maybe a different kettle of fish. Because he's lied, manipulated and broken the hearts of our leading ladies, justice will have to be served. For soap to be really satisfying, there does have to be a comeuppance eventually.

"That could be a poetic justice, with Cameron facing the court of Emmerdale and getting a different kind of retribution. His story doesn't have to end with prison or a grave! It will have to happen, but we're going to make sure that all of the twists and turns are explored first."

What's coming up for David and Alicia?
"Both characters are fantastic. It's always tempting to have the 'Ross and Rachel'-style story of having them on again and off again, as it provides some great twists and turns. But I do think the viewers have a limited amount of patience with it, as it's a fine line to walk before people get frustrated.

"I hope that what we're seeing on screen at the moment is that David really is in love with Priya, as his recent proposal was really genuine. It's the same with Alicia and Dom. With this recent Gemma story, I wanted to show that Alicia has a real investment in Dom and she wants it to work.

"Hopefully the viewers will see that those two relationships have legs, but David and Alicia's time will come! It's my goal to give it to the audience when they're absolutely ready for it."

After a visit from the Social Services Debbie tells Andy everything went fine but she then asks Dom for one more favour...

© ITV

Debbie and Andy.



Can Debbie be redeemed after her recent behaviour?
"I really believe that she can. I think that Charley Webb's performance is fantastic. She gets a lot of criticism sometimes for being quite hard, but that is absolutely Debbie's character. I inherited this story at a certain point and had to decide what to do with Debbie. Charley was very aware of wanting to protect her character and wanting to make sure that Debbie had a future where the viewers could invest in her.

"Debbie has behaved appallingly, but she's been really shaken up since she was reported to Social Services, which was by Sarah indirectly. What Debbie needs to learn now is that it's not enough to be shaken up - there have to be consequences to how she's behaved.

"That's what we'll be seeing more of over the coming weeks. Debbie can't just say sorry and back-pedal, she needs to realise that she's gone too far. But I'm confident Debbie can come back because she will learn from that process."

Lots of our reader questions asked whether there'll be another gay character after the success of Aaron…
"It's definitely on the cards. After Aaron was so successful, it would have to be a very different type of character and someone who brought a very different dynamic. We do have diversity in the show already with the Spencers, so with a new arrival, it won't just be about being a gay character - it'll be what else they can bring to the table."

Do you have any stunts or disasters on the way?
"We do! There's definitely some stunts coming up that we'll put our all into in order to make the show really unmissable. Maybe there'll be something in summer and maybe there'll be something in autumn… but I couldn't possibly comment!"

Check back tomorrow (Saturday, June 15) for the second part of our exclusive interview with Kate, with loads of gossip and teasers on what's coming up for a number of characters.

> Read more 'Emmerdale' spoilers and news

Emmerdale airs weeknights at 7pm on ITV, with an extra episode at 8pm on Thursdays.

Digital Spy Soap Scoop video - press play below to watch Amie Parker-Williams reveal gossip on huge discoveries in Coronation Street and Emmerdale, a sinister newcomer in EastEnders, and more trouble from the Blakes in Hollyoaks.

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