Interview: Emmerdale's James Sutton and Alice Coulthard

The Emmerdale stars join us at the Restaurant Bar & Grill for festive frolics

Posted: Tuesday 22 Dec 2009

Above: It wouldn't be Christmas without some kind of soap trauma! (Paul Jones)

AAH, Christmas – it’s all about festive fun, fireside frolics and the family.

But there’s a whole new meaning to ‘keeping it in the family’ as Emmerdale’s secret young lovers Ryan Lamb and Maisie Wylde are about to discover in soapland’s most shocking seasonal storyline.

For starters, Ryan and Maisie (played by James Sutton and Alice Coulthard) shouldn’t be an item at all; Ryan’s officially betrothed to Katie Sugden (Sammy Winward), but in the run-up to Christmas, he and Maisie find their mutual attraction getting stronger – all culminating in a full-blown snog on New Year’s Eve.

But here comes the big bad shock – what Ryan and Maisie don’t realise is that they are actually brother and sister!

As controversial Christmas plotlines go, this one’s a corker – so we decided to tear James, 26, and Alice, 28, away from their busy filming schedules with the promise of a slap-up lunch at Leeds’ popular Restaurant Bar & Grill, where we quizzed our good-looking guests on everything from playing an ignorantly incestuous couple to kissing with cold sores…

Is the nation about to be shocked to its core with your racy storyline in Emmerdale this Christmas?

James: Yes, but shocked in a good way – they’ll be glued to their screens! It is quite a controversial storyline, but I think it’ll work well with viewers because they know that we are brother and sister – or half-sister to be exact – whereas we don’t.

ABOVE: Delicious grilled asparagus (Paul Jones)


And by ‘we’, I mean our characters! So every time we’re on screen together, hopefully they’ll be hiding behind cushions going: ‘No, don’t kiss each other, it’s wrong!’ It doesn’t go further than a kiss, though; this is prime-time family viewing!

How does this come about?

Alice: The flirting starts when Maisie offers to help Ryan buy a Christmas present for Katie, that’s the first spark.

ABOVE: James Sutton said their first kiss was 'a bit rubbish' (Paul Jones)

After that, there’s lots of moody looks between them, usually over the bar at the Woolpack. They know it’s wrong but they can’t deny their mutual attraction.

They won’t find out that they’re related until the New Year, by which time Ryan’s split up with Katie, so he’s done the decent thing, and he’s now embarked on this new relationship with Maisie.

Well, he may have done the decent thing but it’s all a bit indecent, isn’t it? Them being brother and sister…

Alice: Yes, but they don’t know that, so it’s not as though they’re deliberately out to break any taboos. Of course, when they do find out, they’re devastated, and that’s going to have loads of repercussions in the New Year which will lead to Maxwell Caulfield’s character Mark Wylde – Maisie’s dad (and also Ryan’s dad!) – leaving the show.

Who wants this relationship more – Maisie or Ryan?

James: Maisie does most of the chasing. Ryan resists at first, because he’s with Katie, but he certainly indulges in those longing looks over the bar, so he’s not completely innocent by any stretch of the imagination!

ABOVE: Succulent marinated breast of chicken with Malayan spices (Paul Jones)


Alice: Maisie has always been a bit of a trouble-maker. When she joined the show, she’d just married Tristan Foster, but threw in the towel and went back to live with her parents, who’d forked out £50,000 for the wedding! Then she had flings with Andy Sugden and Cain Dingle. This time around, I think it’s a lot more serious.

Is it true love?

Alice: Yes, I really think she’s in love with Ryan and she’s surprised by her feelings. Up until now, she’s always liked to rebel against her parents, and a lot of the time she’ll choose partners that her parents think are wrong – but she doesn’t realise quite how wrong Ryan actually is!

ABOVE: James Sutton and Alice Coulthard both can't wait for Christmas (Paul Jones)


So when can we expect to see their very first kiss?

James: They give into temptation just after Christmas – in the episode on Tuesday December 29, to be precise! Katie sends Ryan to collect her jacket from the office and Maisie slopes in behind, closing the door. He moves in and kisses her passionately.

But the really big snog is on New Year’s Eve. It takes place around the side of the pub at midnight. No one sees them but it’s a close call, because Katie is not surprisingly looking for him for her New Year’s kiss!

How was the big snog for you?

James: A bit rubbish, because I had a cold sore and we had to keep re-shooting because I couldn’t kiss properly! It was very uncomfortable to do. They were going for lots of different angles as they wanted it to be a big moment in the New Year’s Eve episode.

Alice: Yes, I can vouch for the cold sore – awful! We’ve done it a few times, so it’s old news now!

Have you two ever laughed doing those big emotional scenes, or when you have to do meaningful glances across the bar?

Alice: We definitely burst out laughing all the time, but everyone does on set. You don’t want to do it too often, because there are 50 people in the room all waiting to get home for their dinner!

James: The thing is, you think it’s hilarious but no one else does. You’re not laughing because it’s funny, you’re laughing because you’re not allowed to.

What’s it like working with Amanda Donohoe and Maxwell Caulfield?

Alice: They’re brilliant, I’m really good friends with Amanda. They’re both such experienced actors, I’ve learnt so much from them. Amanda knows what she’s doing, she’s brilliant at getting to the bottom of a scene. Some people have said Amanda and I look alike, which is a big compliment – and I think the tones of our voices are quite similar.

Alice, you were in the controversial film The Cement Garden many years ago, which also had an incestuous theme!

I know, this subject matter is haunting me! I was very young, just 11, when I did that film. It was very controversial, about a family where two of the siblings enter an incestuous relationship.

At the time my mum was hesitant about me being in it, but my character had the least involvement in any of the taboo storyline, so she didn’t have to worry too much. She was very protective, as were the people making the film.

Funnily enough, I spoke to the film’s director the other day, as he’s still a good friend of mine, and he couldn’t believe it when I told him I was doing an incest storyline in Emmerdale!

Maisie is definitely a trouble-maker – are you at all like her?
There are certain similarities. I was quite a rebellious teenager and I argued with my mum and dad a lot. Obviously I don’t now – I’m 28! – but in terms of her arguing with her parents, I felt I could draw on my own experiences.

I enjoy playing a trouble-maker because you get to do things you wouldn’t do in your life. Maisie’s got no qualms about speaking her mind, in a way that I wouldn’t do in real life, so it’s fun to play that out on screen.

James, you played gay heart-throb John Paul McQueen in Hollyoaks – how different is it being in Emmerdale?

It’s very similar regarding the amount of episodes we have to shoot, but character-wise it’s totally different. When I first started on Hollyoaks, I was 21 and playing a 16-year-old in school uniform, which was very bizarre.

Ryan is a bit more worldly wise – and he’s my own age! John Paul McQueen was a young lad trying to find his place in the world while having a sexuality crisis. It was very much about angsty teenage problems, whereas Ryan has a different set of problems altogether – he’s quite sorted in himself but his mother is a nightmare and they’re having a constant battle.

Did you get much feedback playing a gay character in Hollyoaks?

Yes, we got the Broadcast Of The Year award at the Stonewall Awards, for the storyline about the gay affair between my character John Paul and Craig Dean, played by Guy Burnet – they praised it for its convincing portrayal of a gritty subject matter.

I also got a lot of feedback from teenagers who were going through exactly what my character was going through. I think it gave them some confidence and I got some really lovely letters; some people said we made it easier for them to come out to their friends and families.

For your very first ever episode in Emmerdale back in June, we saw you wearing just a a towel…

Yes, I remember! And I did quite a lot of nudie stuff in Hollyoaks – I was always in and out of bed with various men! With Ryan, I was told he was the bad-boy mechanic, as opposed to the hunky mechanic, which I was happier with.

Not that I could be a mechanic – I can’t even drive. In the show my head is forever under a car bonnet just touching things and looking like I know what I’m doing!

What are you doing for Christmas?

James: I’m going to see my family in Shropshire for a couple of days.

I really enjoy Christmas, though I do prefer the weather to be a bit warmer! I don’t want a white Christmas – I want a hot Christmas! But I love all the traditions, and giving presents.

Alice: My fiancé and I are going to have to split the time between our two families, mine in London and his in Norfolk.

It’s the subject of contention where exactly we’ll be on which days, but it’ll all be lovely. I’m from a big family and Christmas is always a great time for me – I suppose it helps that I get on with all my family!

Who’s the lucky fella, and when are you getting married?

We’re getting married in July 2010, but we haven’t even started making arrangements yet. My fiancé is Owen Dyke, who plays bass in an indie-electro band called White Rose Movement. I saw them perform the other night so I suppose I’m a groupie! We’ve been going out for two years.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions?

James: Yes, and I have two – one is to learn to drive. I’ve had lessons – it’s becoming a bit of a nightmare, not being able to drive. The other is to give up smoking. I wouldn’t say I’m a heavy smoker, it’s just boredom between scenes when filming Emmerdale!

Alice: I don’t, no. I believe if you’re going to change something in your life, you should do it there and then, when it’s a problem. I certainly don’t go on a diet or stop drinking. January’s depressing enough without that!

‘EMMERDALE’ IS ON ITV1 THROUGHOUT THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD. CHECK TV LISTINGS FOR DAYS AND TIMES. VISIT THE ‘EMMERDALE’ WEBSITE at WWW.ITV.COM/EMMERDALE.

THE RESTAURANT BAR & GRILL, THE OLD POST OFFICE, 3 CITY SQUARE, LEEDS LS1 2AN. TEL 0113 244 9625 or visit WWW.THERESTAURANTBARANDGRILL.CO.UK.

Grilled asparagus, a lightly-poached free range egg and Hollandaise sauce
A classic starter - light, elegant and irresistible

SERVES 4
20 asparagus spears
4 free range eggs
2 large free range egg yolks
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
110g butter
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 To make the Hollandaise sauce, place the egg yolks in a blender and season with a pinch of salt and pepper, then blend thoroughly for about 1 minute. Heat the lemon juice and vinegar in a saucepan until the mixture starts to simmer. Melt the butter. Switch the blender on and pour the hot lemon juice/vinegar onto the egg yolks in a slow, steady stream, then do the same with the melted butter. Switch off the blender.

2 Heat two saucepans of water, add a splash of white wine vinegar to one. When simmering, stir, then carefully crack open the eggs into the simmering water (with the vinegar), and poach.

3 Trim the fibrous ends of the asparagus then place into the second saucepan and cook for 1 minute. Remove from the water using a slotted spoon, place on a metal tray and season with salt and pepper, and finish cooking
under the grill.

4 Divide the asparagus between 4 plates, spoon the lightly poached eggs on top, then spoon the Hollandaise sauce over the eggs. Finish with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Marinated breast of chicken with Malayan spices, sweet potato, coconut and lime
For the best results, marinate the chicken the night before

SERVES 4
4 free-range chicken breasts
800g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 2cm dice
100g spring onions, sliced
20g red chillies, deseeded and sliced
40g peanuts, toasted
100g Greek yoghurt, seasoned
600ml coconut milk
2g fresh coriander, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
 Salt and pepper
For the Malayan marinade: 250g coconut milk, 10g salt, 2g freshly ground black pepper, 10g cumin seeds, toasted and blitzed, 5g Madras curry powder, 10g fennel seeds, toasted and blitzed, 15g coriander seeds, 40g palm sugar, grated, 15g turmeric, 50ml vegetable oil, 10ml lime juice

1 Place all the Malayan marinade ingredients into a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce by a third then allow to cool. Spread the marinade all over the chicken breasts and leave to marinate overnight.

2 Next day, season and grill the chicken breasts until lightly caramelised and the juices of the chicken run clear. Place the coconut milk and the sweet potato in a saucepan with a little seasoning, place a lid on top and gently simmer until the sweet potato is almost cooked. Add the chilli, spring onion and coriander, and check seasoning and consistency (the sauce should have a light coating consistency which coats the back of a spoon), then finish with lime juice.

3 Spoon the sweet potato and sauce into warmed serving bowls. Place the grilled chicken breasts on top, spoon over the yoghurt, scatter the toasted peanuts on top and finish with chopped coriander.

Chocolate fudge pudding
A rich, moist and intensely flavoured chocolate pudding with dark sauce, served with vanilla ice cream.

SERVES 10

For the chocolate sauce: 125g unsalted butter, 250g dark chocolate, 50ml double cream, 175ml full fat milk, 30g caster sugar

For the pudding: 220g unsalted butter, 200g dark chocolate, 75g dark cocoa powder, 4 medium eggs, 75g plain flour, 1g vanilla extract, 340g caster sugar

1 Place the chocolate sauce ingredients in a bowl over a bain-marie (a saucepan of simmering water) and whisk together as it starts to melt. Pass through a sieve into a jug for later.

2 Butter 10 small pudding moulds and leave to set. From the pudding ingredients, melt the butter in a mixing bowl over a bain-marie. Beat the eggs with the sugar and stir in the cocoa until smooth, then add the melted butter. Fold in the flour and vanilla, then stir in the chocolate pieces.

3 Spoon or pipe into moulds and bake at 160˚C for 25-30 minutes with a splash of water on a tray at the bottom of the oven to create some steam and moisture. Place the pudding in the centre of a dessert bowl and pour over the warm chocolate sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream and a sprig of mint if desired.


Interview: Kate McIntyre and Anna Williamson

Interview: Kate McIntyre and Anna Williamson
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