Like many people, when the first national lockdown was imposed Emmerdale star Jonny McPherson had a huge, potentially life-changing decision to make.
He had been secretly dating his soap co-star Natalie J. Robb for just three months, so should he move in with her?
Fortunately both were smitten and for Jonny, 38, living with Natalie, 45, who plays feisty and independent Moira Dingle, was an easy call.
The pair are both regulars on the Yorkshire soap but it was not until an Emmerdale charity trip to Lapland before Christmas that a romantic spark was ignited.
They had kissed at the beginning of January but the crunch decision for their relationship came in March when lockdown hit the country.
Jonny, who has played Dr Liam Cavanagh since 2018, speaking publicly for the first time about their romance, says: “We had to make a decision as lots of couples did.
“We decided to move in together and so, yes, lockdown did fast forward our relationship.”
Now, eight months on, Jonny admits they have gone from strength to strength – despite a glitch in June.
The pair had been trying to keep their relationship under wraps.
But their cover was blown when they appeared smiling together on a Zoom call to wish co-star Liam Fox a happy 50th birthday.
Jonny says: “We get on so well. We come from quite different backgrounds but we are essentially the same person. We are both a pair of big kids. We have exactly the same stupid humour.”
He says: “There is nowhere to hide during lockdown. It’s a real test of whether you do get on with a person and thankfully we got through with flying colours.
“We hadn’t spent any proper time together until that Lapland trip and we got on like a house on fire.”
As he chats, it’s clear the besotted couple are incredibly loved up.
He says: “We are just shy of a year and it’s still early days but we are having a lovely time. I have learnt so much from Natalie. She has been working on TV since she was knee high. We both love the work so much, we spend whole evenings discussing scripts and learning lines.”
Natalie, who joined the soap in 2009, will have no doubt been a huge help with ideas when it comes to Jonny’s latest storyline.
Unlucky-in-love Dr Liam will be accused by his partner, Leyla, of grooming 18-year-old Gabby.
Leyla wrongly thinks they are having an affair. Liam is devastated.
Jonny says: “Of all the things you can get accused of by the person who supposedly loves you, grooming an 18-year-old who you treat like a daughter, is an awful thing to happen.
“It’s heartbreaking for Liam. He thought when he met Leyla it was going to be third time lucky.”
Time will tell if the couple can salvage their relationship. Jonny has not only loved getting to grips with such a gritty plot, he also cherishes the fact he has a job.
He says: “I can’t imagine there is any more than 500 actors working at present and I feel incredibly lucky.”
He said because of Covid everyone is very vigilant on set. He says: “There is no snogging now and you have to be quite inventive.”
Away from work, Jonny spends most weekends tinkering on a narrow boat he bought a few years ago and has moved to Yorkshire.
It took four months to transport it back to the Dales. He says: “It’s been a long slog but I love it. It’s great to chill out on and yes things can go wrong.
“Two days ago when I was chugging along, the boat conked out, drifted into a bush and I fell into the canal. But I love it.”
Luckily Natalie shares his passion. Jonny says: “Quite early on we spent a day and evening on the boat. I cooked some food and she loved it. Being on the boat really relaxes her.”
He is equally enthusiastic about wine and has been trained to the level of a sommelier. He would like to build up a wine collection but is “still paying off the boat.”
Dr Liam is the fourth stint on Emmerdale for Jonny, who spent some 15 years on stage in plays across the country.
He was a medical consultant in 2008, a nurse in 2010 and a doctor again in 2011.
When the local GP left he was asked to play Dr Liam permanently. He says: “I love it and I love the show so much.”
Lockdown also gave him the chance to get to know Natalie properly and revive his love of cooking. He says: “I started doing 30-mile bike rides around the Yorkshire Dales but as I was eating twice as much as I normally did, this was more to burn everything off.”
Jonny spent three years visiting and working in different countries, including helping Mother Teresa’s missionaries in Calcutta, and wants to take Natalie on a foreign adventure.
And would he like children one day? “Yes, it’s definitely a possibility,” says Jonny. “But I am so lucky as Natalie and I both love acting and as long as I’m working then I am delighted. I have a fantastic job and Natalie is wonderful, too.”
- Emmerdale is on every weekday, 7pm, ITV.
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