About this time last year, Charlotte got on board with the project, and found the dog that was destined to be Dickens! As there were only two pups in his litter, it wasn’t exactly a difficult decision—but Dickens really went the extra mile to win her heart.
Charlotte Wilde: “When my son and I first walked in, Dickens was a little shy and sat behind the breeder’s legs. My son picked him up and Dickens snuggled into him as if to say, ‘I’ll come with you!' And that was that.”
He quickly bonded with his new housemates: two terriers named Ralf and Theo. Although the pair wasn’t excited to share the spotlight at first, they welcomed him into the family and helped him settle in.
Charlotte Wilde: “My other dogs both sulked when they realized Dickens was here to stay, but he quickly won them over and became part of the family. Ralf was in charge of showing Dickens the toy box and how to play tug, while Theo showed him the house rules.”
But there was no time to waste; he had to prepare for his big screen debut! Charlotte began training him right away, and he took to it like a charm.
Charlotte Wilde: “Most of his scenes involved him either sitting with James or running alongside James, so his stay had to be solid. We did training in long stays, and then added things like learning to 'speak,' or bark on cue. He picked it all up pretty quickly.”
Fun fact: ‘Dickens’ is the pup’s real-life name!
Charlotte Wilde: “I loved the name in the script and decided that should be his real name!”
Ever the professional, Dickens and his co-stars got along fabulously. Even Robson Green, who plays spiky detective Geordie Keating, couldn’t resist some puppy love!
Charlotte Wilde: “He met James on his first day on set. James had owned a black lab before, and they bonded straight away. Robson didn't have any real scenes with him, but at one point he walked past the car and saw Dickens, and of course he had to stop for a cuddle and photo. The crew all looked forward to ‘Dickens days!’ Everyone watched him grow and very much considered him as part of the cast.”
As his training continued, Dickens developed into a true gentleman, never rude enough to turn down a meal.
Charlotte Wilde: “When Dickens was very small, our typical days on set were tricky. He had to eat three square meals to develop properly, and we also had to toilet train while trying to film. I'm very pleased to say we had no accidents on set!
I use positive reinforcement to train, whether that means giving treats or just love and praise. Dickens prefers food! He had no favorite treat, anything would do. When people would ask how he was so well behaved, I’d say: ‘Sausages!’”
Before Charlotte knew it, the tiny pup she had been training was a fully-matured dog. He had grown like a weed! Though he was Grantchester’s star pooch, sometimes compromises had to be made.
Charlotte Wilde: “He grew very quickly! Because we shot the first section Season 1 backwards (ending with Episode 1), we had to use another pup for the very first time ‘Dickens’ is seen. But he shot the rest of the series.”
Even though he’s a career-man, Dickens makes sure to take time for himself. Charlotte wanted to make sure that, between awards ceremonies and tuxedo fittings, Dickens had time to romp.
Charlotte Wilde: “After we had wrapped Season 1 I decided to let Dickens have time off to be a puppy. Here’s a picture of him enjoying some sun! He hasn’t gone for a proper swim yet, but he likes to splash and make new friends at the beach.”
We see a bright future for this rising star! With one season of
Grantchester complete, and Dickens’ first (or seventh?) birthday past, he and Charlotte are busy preparing for his next big break. Charlotte Wilde: “Now that he's had his first birthday, we will get back into training and get ready for his next appearances. He recently did a photo shoot for a financial organization; he’s turning into quite the model! We’ll continue his training to include different tricks, like retrieving, to get him ready for whatever the future brings.”