It’s the storyline that has turned Hollyoaks upside down. For months, family man Darren Osborne has been having an affair with his childhood sweetheart Mandy. And in last night’s episode, his wife Nancy found out and told him to pack his bags. We caught up with Ashley Taylor Dawson, who has been playing Darren Osborne for almost 20 years, to find out what the future may hold for the soap’s power couple…
Darren has been with Nancy for a long time. Why do you think he is cheating on her with Mandy?
‘Mandy and Darren are both going through very turbulent times in their relationships, where they’re questioning the reasons they’re in the relationship – is it just to keep their families together, is it for the kids, and are they happy? But from leaning on each other, they did develop this bond. And at first I think it is a sort of caring, looking out for each other, and then that turns into this relationship that they believe is real love.’
And do you think Darren still loves Nancy?
‘Without a doubt. Darren obviously loves Nancy and his family, but whether he’s in love with his wife now… maybe his relationship is on the rocks.’
Nancy kicked Darren out in last night’s episode. Do you think they are going to get back together?
‘Darren will do everything in his power to get back with Nancy. He fell back in love with his wife through Nancy taking on Brooke [their adoptive daughter] – it just showed him what a heart she’s got. And they say you don’t know what you’ve got till you’ve lost it. So at that point, when it all comes out and he realises what he’s done, without a doubt he will do everything in his capability to get her back and fight for her.’
What’s it like playing such a bad boy?
‘The funny thing is, Darren used to be a bit of an a-hole. But since he’s become a family man he’s the kind of guy who does everything for the right reasons but goes about it the wrong way. So the way I try to play him is to tell an honest story about people that are struggling in long-term relationships, because marriage is a very hard thing. You have to keep on working at it, you have to keep re-inventing yourself. And if you get lazy and you look elsewhere, then I suppose it’s very easy to do that. But it’s only when you’ve lost it that you realise what you had.’
What has been the reaction from your fans to this storyline?
‘People come up to me and are like, “Oh, you’ve been a bad boy”. It’s nice getting a reaction. And on social media people have started liking the Mandy and Darren thing. I’m trying to make it so it’s not an easy decision, so it’s not something where you can say ‘That’s out of order’ or ‘that’s wrong’.
Has this storyline worked as a moral warning for you?
‘Yeah. I’ve got three children and my own family and I wouldn’t do anything to harm that ever. When you’re playing a role like that, you do get caught up in the guilty side. I was like ‘It’s okay, it’s okay, it’s Darren.” You come out of work stressed out, thinking: what am I doing? It does give you a moral compass, whether you like it or not.’
It sounds intense! For how many hours a week are you filming?
‘The average day is around 12 hours a day – you’re in at 8am and you finish at 7pm. That can be every day, depending on the script.’
You’re one of the longest-serving cast members in Hollyoaks, do you think you’ll ever want to leave the show?
‘I’ve had a great time on Hollyoaks. I love the place I work, I love the people – the cast, the crew… And as long as I keep on getting great storylines and I’m happy there, then if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’