Strolling casually into the audition, Danny Miller had made up his mind – if he didn’t get the job he’d quit acting and become a policeman. His care-free attitude did the trick and he’s now stalking the country lanes of Emmerdale as bad boy Aaron Livesy rather than pounding the streets as a beat bobby.
Danny had spent 18 desperate months trudging from audition to audition with no luck. With a heavy heart, he finally decided that his bid to get the part in Emmerdale would be his last throw of the dice. But his luck changed just in time and his superb performances as the tortured gay teenager have been rewarded this year with a record 12 TV award nominations.
He says: “I went for tons of auditions and was getting really angry with myself because I was messing them up as I wanted them so badly. It was soul-destroying. I kept wondering what I was doing wrong and eventually I’d had enough. I agreed with my agent that the Emmerdale audition was my last before she took me off her books. So I think I went into Emmerdale with a different attitude – that I was interested but I had almost given up. And they seemed to like me.”
Danny, who is straight, was initially unsure when Emmerdale bosses told him last summer they were thinking of making his troubled and aggressive character gay. “I suppose at first I couldn’t see him as gay,” Danny says. “But when they explained the story to me I started to understand. The producer said I could have a couple of weeks to think and if I didn’t want to do it they wouldn’t do it. But I couldn’t turn it down – it was too good a story – so I said there and then I was up for it.”
Aaron firstly tried to snog friend Adam Barton and was rejected. But then he hooked up with builder Jackson Walsh. Danny, 19, says: “When we saw the first script when we had to kiss we were worried because we didn’t know each other very well and didn’t want it to look awkward. But we’re both professional actors so we just get on with it. It’s slightly more difficult than kissing a girl because I’m not attracted to blokes – but on-screen kissing with either sex is awkward. I don’t worry about it any more.”
Aaron’s been on a roller coaster of fury and passion as he struggles to admit his sexuality even to himself. The emotional scenes have won Danny an army of fans and he has already won four of the awards he’s up for – two gongs were for best actor.
His character’s torment has just got worse after boyfriend Jackson said he loved him. “It’s downhill from then on for Aaron,” Danny says. “He’s unable to say it back and can’t come to terms with his own feelings. He wants to say it back but can’t. He’s never told anybody he loves them – not to a girl or even his mum, Chas. So when Jackson says it to him it’s a massive bombshell.”
But Danny couldn’t be more different. He says: “I find it incredibly easy to declare my love to my friends and family because I’m that sort of emotional person. I like letting people know I love them – Mum, Dad, my sister and my brother – and I’m not embarrassed. I’m the same with my mates like my best friend, Chris.”
Danny lives in Leeds but grew up in Stockport, Greater Manchester, with brother Paul and sister Lucy. Mum Andrea is an ex-social worker and his dad is comedian Vince Miller who encouraged his son to follow him into showbiz. Danny began in theatre at the age of five and got his first break as traveller Kyle Brown in BBC children’s show Grange Hill. He then appeared in an episode of Waterloo Road and briefly in Coronation Street. He joined Emmerdale when he was 17, taking over from the actor who’d had the role for three years.
Good-looking Danny has had lots of attention – but not all of it good. A handful of gay fans sent him hate mail when they found out he had a girlfriend. He says: “I responded in the best way I could and sent them a letter saying I hoped I hadn’t upset anyone and I hadn’t meant to and that I hoped everything was OK. I get homophobic comments. It’s really made me see how awful it can be for gay guys and given me an insight into how they must feel. It’s offensive and hurtful and shows how smallminded some people are. I just ignore them.”
He turns the other cheek but his character clashes with almost everyone. And there are even more emotional times ahead as Aaron deals with the aftermath of last week’s train smash as Jackson, played by ex-Hollyoaks actor Marc Silcock, fights for life in hospital. Aaron feels responsible for the crash and despite being banned from hospital by Jackson’s dad, he turns up tonight to try to talk his boyfriend out of his coma.
“Aaron is consumed with guilt,” Danny says. “He is clinging on to the hope that Jackson will pull through. Losing him is unthinkable.”
Jackson will take a turn for the worse and Danny admits he’s often exhausted by his role. “If I’m filming emotional scene after emotional scene, I’m usually ready for bed by 6pm. When you’re constantly crying it takes it out of you. Your body isn’t used to so much intense emotion.”
Real life is proving much easier, with Danny in a five-month relationship with Kirsty Leigh Porter who stars alongside him in the ITV1 soap as drug dealer Roz Fielding. “This is the longest relationship I’ve ever been in,” Danny says. “It’s early days but we’re really happy. We’re like best mates.”
Danny says things have just kept getting better since that make or break Emmerdale audition. “I’ve been in some great storylines and I’m happy to stay as long as they want me,” he adds. “I love playing Aaron. It has taught me so much and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. Life is amazing right now. I’ve got a great family, a great girlfriend and a great place to work. I’m very lucky.”