What has been the highlight of your time in Emmerdale?
"I think there are two highlights for me - firstly getting to work with people like Dominic Brunt, Mark Charnock and obviously Danny and Pauline. I have learned so much from them all. Also, a massive highlight for me was when Gavin [our late series producer] told me I was going to be doing this storyline. My contract was extended at the middle of last year and he sat me down in his office and told me this was what he wanted to do with the character. Gavin asked if I wanted to do it or not, and I asked him if he thought I could. He just said, 'I wouldn't be wasting my time otherwise'. I think that's the highlight of the year and a half at Emmerdale."
What was the biggest challenge about playing Jackson?
"I think when I was starting out on the tetraplegia storyline it was the practical side of it - keeping still and monitoring movement and trying to emote something on-screen when you can't use nine tenths of your body. It took time to figure out a way I could give a performance without moving and to give a performance trying to be true to someone in that situation. I was so aware that if I twitched or moved my shoulders or anything, then eight million people would have been saying I wasn't doing my job properly."
Have you enjoyed playing the character?
"It's been an unbelievable 16 months, the best 16 months I've ever had working. I came into Emmerdale and was welcomed in and got to work with some fantastic people. You learn so much working with them. It's been an absolutely unbelievable experience and a great environment because everyone supports each other so much. I've really loved it."
"No, it never entered my mind. I thought I was there for two or three weeks to help Aaron along and that would be the end of the relationship. The great thing was that the two characters were never stereotyped - they were two characters who just happened to be gay. I think that's why people took to them because they're just two ordinary lads."
What has been the secret behind Jackson and Aaron's popularity as a couple?
"Gavin explained in so much detail what he wanted from the characters and the relationship, so it was laid out for us what we needed to do. Danny and I also talked about how we were going to play it and decided we'd mess about and make fun of each other on-screen. We spent a lot of time talking about how we could play a scene or make something funny, so hopefully that makes Aaron and Jackson feel real as a couple. I think everyone can relate to the two mates they see on-screen, it just so happens that those two mates give each other a kiss at the end of the night."
How did you feel when you were first told about Jackson's accident and how the storyline would end?
"I heard I was going to get hit by a train and I thought, 'Well what a great way to go at the end of my six month contract'. But then Danny, Pauline and I were told what was going to happen afterwards, which was a big shock. I thought I was just being Aaron's boyfriend, I never expected to be given this story, I didn't think I was doing a good enough job to be given it. Thankfully I was given a massive amount of support throughout filming. I realised it was a huge storyline and I took it very seriously."
"It was so important for me to speak to someone. There are lots of ways to deal with anger, love and hate but unless you're in Jackson's situation you could never know what it is like. So we went to Pinderfields hospital and I met a guy by the name of Lee, who had just had an accident. He had no reason to come and talk to me, but I'm so grateful he did. I asked him everything and got so much from that one meeting.
"I read a few books too, including some written for carers because you don't realise how much goes into being a carer, what has to be done and checked. Emmerdale put together a pack of information for me with letters from people in that situation, explaining their story too. I spent a lot of time with Andy Walker [who plays Steve] on set too and he was great, explaining details to me."
Which scenes or episodes stand out to you from your time in the show?
"There are two scenes that stand out for me. The scene where Aaron tells Jackson that he's paralysed and will never walk again, and a more recent one that was at the end of the Whitby week, a scene with Jackson and Hazel at the train station. They were both very simple scenes, not much happening really, no-one moves anywhere or argues. In the scene with Hazel, the word suicide is never mentioned. Jackson just says 'you've got to help me'. They were both so beautifully written. The subtlety meant that those words weren't needed, we could show the horror and desperation without them."
Were your last episodes difficult to film? How did you prepare for them?
"We were so busy beforehand filming that I didn't look at the final scenes until we did a read-through at the beginning of the block and it was really the night before filming that I looked at the scene properly. It was three pages long and we had five hours to film it, which is unheard of. It meant we had time to through it in so much detail, so that by the end of the rehearsals we knew exactly what we were going to do. Everyone took it incredibly seriously.
"Of course some people will like it and some people won't and that's fine. I just hope people will see what's gone into those episodes and I hope people don't break that connection with Aaron, Hazel and Jackson. I hope they feel it and put themselves in that moment. We want people to ask themselves what they would do in Hazel and Aaron's situation."
Did you find it difficult switching off from such an emotional storyline?
"You don't have time to take it home with you because when you get home you've got nine scenes to learn for the following day and two monologue video diaries to film. You have to be able to switch off otherwise you wouldn't last very long. Now that I've finished filming I do watch and think, 'I could've done that scene better'. Of course it's been difficult to film emotionally, but at the end of the day I get to stand up and get in my car and drive home and that's a lot easier than being in that situation for real. I'm very, very lucky."
Will you be watching and following the aftermath for Hazel and Aaron?
"Definitely. I really want to see what's going on, especially to see what Danny and Pauline will be doing. It will be great to see the aftermath and watch it as a viewer without being involved and self-critical."
"I'd just like to carry on working. I've had a great experience at Emmerdale and I've learnt a lot, I've learnt that the job of acting is not just turning up and getting paid to be on telly. I've learnt that you have to put the work in to get it right. I really do love being in soaps, I love the speed of it, the variation of storylines and the different characters you get to work with. But any job that stretches me or feels like a challenge would be great. I'm open to anything that's interesting and needs work - a character that gets people thinking. I'm waiting to see what comes up. I'm an actor and I'm resting, just like all the other millions of unemployed actors out there!"
How do you feel about being nominated as Best Actor at the TV Choice Awards?
"It's a great thing to be nominated and put forward for. It's great to think people are recognising your work. Obviously it would be lovely to make the shortlist and great to win, but I'm up against loads of people who have had such a great year. Of course it's nice though, to know that the effort that I'm putting in has been recognised."
What do you feel has been your biggest achievement at Emmerdale and what are you proudest of?
"Gavin said to me, people are going to remember this for a very long time. I really hope so. When you're there and doing it you don't really get the time to take a step back and realise how many people are watching. My 16 months have gone really quickly and the studios have become my second home. But I've learnt so much about so many different elements of the job and I'm very thankful."
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