We talk to Casualty legend Derek Thompson about Charlie’s search for his son in Romania (BBC1, Saturday, May 16).
Here, Derek reveals Charlie’s transformation into an action hero, his homage to departed friends, and why, after 30 years, Casualty’s still the job for him…
Charlie’s in Romania with Connie this Saturday trying to save his injured son, Louis, from gangsters! What can you reveal?
“It’s a standalone action-adventure episode that’s really pared down. In Romania we get right up close to Charlie in a way we never have before. By the end you’ll know a lot more about him! It’s a beautiful rough diamond story.”
Louis’s addicted to heroin and planning on selling his kidney to repay drug debts. Did you do any research?
“It felt like quite a natural thing for me to address. A friend of mine’s daughter is an addict. He’s been a best mate for 30 years so I’ve lived with the second-hand experience of dealing with that. It’s a strange stroke of luck that I knew what he went through. He recently died, so this episode feels like payback from me to him. I also have two sons, so it was an easy place to go.”
Did you enjoy filming in Bucharest?
“It was the treat of a lifetime! Bucharest’s an exceptional city. Even though I was quite ill with bronchitis at the time – and Romania in winter isn’t the place you want to be with that condition! – it was a dream to do. Not being in the best of sorts set me up in a way for Charlie’s angry feelings! ”
Connie accompanies Charlie on his search for his son. How do they get on?
“It’s like they have a head transplant! Charlie turns into Connie – he gets forceful because he’s on an absolute mission, while Connie doesn’t want to rush judgements. She’s more careful and caring. It gets bleak, but there are many moments of transformation. When Connie kisses Alex, a Romanian doctor who’s helping them, she blossoms like a rose.”
It’s hard to believe now that Connie tried to pension off Charlie when she first arrived at Holby!
“They both enjoyed that battle and locking horns! Charlie was never really that rattled, because they did it in quite a humorous way. That built a trust between them.”
There’s a big car chase when Charlie rescues Louis. How was that to film?
“It was cold because the back window was shot out, but really thrilling! I’m not normally in the middle of stunts. One of the final shots, when Charlie accepts what’s going to happen to him, is my little homage to Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday.”
You’ve played Charlie for almost 30 years. Is Casualty your dream job?
“It’s the perfect job for me. I’ve had lots of variety in my work over the years from being a stage manager to working in theatre, TV and film. When I first did Casualty (1986) I realised this was the thing I’d always wanted to do. At the time I thought ‘I could do about three years of this!’ Looking back, I’d definitely do it all again.”