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TV stars reveal the inside story on The Paradise

With the second series of The Paradise starting tomorrow night, Barbara Hodgson talks to the stars of the biggest BBC series filmed in the North

It's time to cosy up in front of the fire with a glass of wine as The Paradise makes a welcome return to our TV schedules this weekend with enough heart-warming storylines to ease us through the autumn.

Following the huge success of the first eight-part series last year, its Tuesday slot has moved to prime-time Sunday. With its 8pm screening ensuring it’s not quite in competition with ITV1 megahit Downton Abbey, which starts an hour later, this means viewers can settle down for a weekly double-dose of costume drama.

So what can fans expect of the next stage in the 1870 story set in sparkling new department store The Paradise after they were left hanging by the unresolved romance between owner Moray, played by Emun Elliott, and sparky shopgirl Denise (Joanna Vanderham)?

Well, rest assured, there’s plenty more love in the air, alongside simmering tension and extra intrigue, as I discovered on a set visit during the making of the series at the Lambton Estate in County Durham where a specially-built Victorian street shares the action with the revamped Lambton Castle which doubles as the store’s glamorous interior.

And I can reveal that regular viewers will be in for a surprise tomorrow night when they discover that Katherine Glendenning, Moray’s fiancee played by Elaine Cassidy who was memorably ditched at the altar at the end of the last series, is now married.

 

As the series resumes, we’ll find events have moved on a year and the jilted Katherine, having been taken by her father on a Grand Tour of Europe, has met the rather mysterious Tom Weston which sees House of Cards Ben Daniels, now sporting a beard, join the cast as the new husband.

In a break from filming, the actor - a familiar face from Law & Order UK who recently played Lieutenant Colonel Howfield in The Wipers Times and was in the early running to be the new Doctor Who - explains how he got his role in what he calls a “a 19th Century Dallas”.

“I got a letter from Bill Gallagher (writer of the series which is based on an Emile Zola novel) saying ‘I am writing this new character for The Paradise and I want you to play him’. He’s a fantastic character.

“People will hate him!” he says cheerfully. “But you will see a chink in the armour - and he has a lot of armour.

“He’s ex-military and was stationed in India and something happened there which marked him for the rest of his life - and it’s a secret he has been carrying around with him.”

Now part of the wealthy Glendenning family, who bankroll the store - technically making him Moray’s boss - he’s enjoys ruling the roost at Biddick Hall on the Lambton Estate, which is used as the family home.

“It has its own housekeeper and she makes cake for Elaine and myself,” he says. “Sometimes we invite people!”

He says of Tom’s fiery relationship with the difficult Katherine: “It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf! They’re both like addicts in their own way.

“They find each other very exciting.”

What was it like to join an established cast? “They all hate me too!” he jokes. In reality, during the five months of filming away from home, he’s been having “a great time”.

“We’ve had a few nights out, not hugely raucous for such a young cast - I say to them ‘come on’!”

They might be getting on well behind the scenes but on-screen it’s a different matter, with Tom and Katherine pushing each other to extremes and more of the sizzling chemistry between Moray and Denise which, of course, is what the viewers really want to know about.

So what is Emun, who pulls up a chair next to Matthew McNulty, Moray’s reliable sidekick Dudley, giving away?

It seems that in that missing year, Moray has been travelling, throwing himself into work by sourcing goods in Paris to turn into profit, while his beloved department store, where Denise still works, has run into problems despite Dudley’s best efforts.

“He’s pining for Denise and business gives him a reason to get up every day,” says Emun. “Then he’s sent a letter inviting him back to The Paradise to rescue things as they have taken a bit of a slump.”

And, yes, with his return we can look forward to a “big moment when eyes meet!”

As for new rival Tom, he says: “Moray charms him initially and doesn’t allow animosity to surface until later on.

“Moray is struggling from the moment he comes back and he’s at risk of losing everything.

“Allegiances have shifted and even Dudley is leaning more towards Denise. He has to fight his corner and is dealing with much higher stakes.”

Moray isn’t above playing “mind games” with former lover Katherine, fanning those old flames as he makes his presence felt back at the store.

“He’s quite manipulative with her,” says Emun. “He wants to wrestle the store back.”

When Scottish actress Jo Vanderham takes a break from filming, she admits she too was left hanging by the storyline: “I wanted to know what happens next!” laughs the 21-year-old who came to prominence in Sky One’s The Runaway in 2011 and last year appeared in American film What Maisie Knew.

“Denise is happy - she just misses Moray desperately. She’s torn between ambition and the desire to be with this man.”

Even the rather dull Dudley it seems will enjoy a little frisson of romance as Matthew, who starred in C4 series The Mill this summer, explains: “There’s a character who comes from Paris and she seduces everyone but Dudley. But then he gets sucked in completely by her.

“He’s been shown to be a man of integrity, but that crumbles a bit and he has to take a long, hard look at himself. He’s a decent guy but his morals are challenged.”

It seems there is plenty to satisfy the fans The Paradise made on its debut last September when it beat rival department store drama Mr Selfridge to the TV schedules, though viewers clearly enjoyed both series.

Some even confused them. Emun reveals: “I was walking through the crowd at a music festival when a young girl shouted at me and said ‘it’s Mr Selfridge’! I just laughed.”

The Paradise will certainly be adding a bit of colour to Sunday nights. And for more inside detail from other cast members keep an eye out on coming Culture pages.

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