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Amanda Wylde in the country
They first appeared on horseback, galloping across windswept Yorkshire hills with the self-assurance of the landed gentry.
In their green Barbours and shiny riding boots, Mark and Natasha Wylde certainly looked the part of country toffs when they rode into Emmerdale to meet the locals. As soap entrances go, it wasn’t exactly up there with gatecrashing a family party in a helicopter – as Sadie King, alias Patsy Kensit, memorably did in 2004 – but the new lord and lady of Home Farm have certainly made their presence felt since arriving in Emmerdale last week.
No sooner had Mark and Natasha leapt off their horses than they were holding court in The Woolpack, where the locals greeted them with some good old-fashioned Yorkshire, er, hostility. There was a muttering of “Lady Muck” from Betty Eggleton, a withering look from landlady Val, and a collective grunt from the Dingle clan. The frosty reception thawed when the villagers learned that the posh couple had bought their beloved church – this would be the same church that nobody in Emmerdale goes to, yet desperately wants to save – to hand back to the community.
With the Wyldes winning the locals round, The Woolpack’s best champagne flowed. But are the toffs as well-meaning as they appear? They’ve barely been in the village a week and already they’re ruffling feathers, not least with the estate’s employees.
At first glance, Natasha Wylde would appear to be a soap bitch with a cut-glass accent, treading the footsteps of Kim Tate or Rosemary King. But actress Amanda Donohoe, who plays Emmerdale’s newest arrival, insists she’s not your archetypal well-bred baddie.
“She can be a little offhand, but I don’t think you can confuse that with being bitchy,” she says. “She’s a mum with three kids so she’s not a single-minded nasty person. She’s witty and confident.”
Like previous Home Farm occupants the Tates and the Kings, Natasha and Mark are self-made millionaires who have swapped city life for rural bliss. “They have clearly made an enormous amount of money and they’ve come to Emmerdale having bought the Home Farm estate and half of the village,” says Amanda. “The other villagers have many misconceptions about them because they’re the rich kids on the block, and those misconceptions have to be cleared up very quickly.
“A number of the first episodes involved Natasha going about the village and finding out what’s going on and what they’ve walked into.”
Unlike the Tates and the Kings, the Wyldes appear to be devoted to each other. They spent their first night at their new home rolling around the hay in the stables. “They’ve been married for 25 years and seem to be very much in love,” says Amanda. “There’s definitely still a sexual chemistry between them. They ran a business together, and at the moment their marriage is pretty solid but you can never say for sure in Emmerdale…”
The Emmerdale set on the Harewood estate is a far cry from the sun-drenched boulevards of Los Angeles where Amanda and co-star Maxwell Caulfield, who plays Mark, have spent recent years. Maxwell made his name in the Eighties as chisel-jawed Miles Colby in Dynasty spin-off The Colbys. And if you’ve ever had the misfortune to see the movie Grease 2 you’ll recognise him as Michelle Pfieffer’s ‘cool rider’ bad-boy boyfriend.
A former punk and girlfriend of Adam Ant, Amanda shot to fame in 1986 film Castaway, opposite Oliver Reed. During the Nineties she was based in LA where she made her mark playing feisty CJ Lamb in legal drama LA Law, a role that earned her a Golden Globe. She also appeared in Ally McBeal. Back in the UK, she starred in ITV’s Murder City and Bad Girls.
Amanda’s film credits include Ken Russell’s The Lair Of The White Worm and The Rainbow, and The Madness Of King George, and her stage roles include Mrs Robinson in The Graduate and the title role of Hedda Gabler. Now on Yorkshire turf, Amanda says she’s loved every minute since joining the Emmerdale cast. “It’s been very busy but I’m enjoying it. The village is beautiful – it’s a fantastic location. I really love The Woolpack scenes too,” she says. “I adore Val and Diane (alias Charlie Hardwick and Elizabeth Estensen), and love working with the girls, so I hope to do a lot more of that type of scene.
“The cast are so good on Emmerdale because they’re real guardians of their characters. The attention to detail is phenomenal.
“And I love working with Maxwell, he’s a real gent. We’d met previously through a mutual friend, and it’s great to be working with him. There’s a certain familiarity when you’ve met someone before and it comes across really well on screen.”
If you thought the role of Natasha, an upper crust gel with a twinkle in her eye, was tailor-made for Amanda – you’d be right.
“I met with the series producer and executive producer and they offered me the role,” she says. “They were very sweet and I asked them what they thought I could bring to the character. They were looking to put a strong female lead character into the show to get something really good going. It sounded very exciting.”
It seems Emmerdale’s ‘Wylde-life’ just got more Emmerdale is on ITV, Monday to Friday, at 7pm.