Sunetra Sarker on popping back to Casualty to wrap up Zoe and Max’s tumultuous marriage
If you listen carefully, you’ll hear the familiar sound of stiletto heels in the Casualty corridors… former clinical lead Zoe Hanna is back!
Sunetra Sarker is reprising her hugely popular role for one night only, as Zoe returns to check up on troubled friend Dylan and discuss divorce with her estranged husband, Max.
After a one night stand on her hen do back in 2015, Zoe panicked and Max felt betrayed – despite going through with the wedding, fan favourites “Zax” crumbled and Zoe eventually took a job in the US alongside her friend and former flame, Nick Jordan.
But, with Max clearly still missing his wife, is there hope of a romantic reunion?
Here Sunetra Sarker, 44, teases what’s to come between Zoe and Max in Casualty…
Zoe and Max have a divorce hanging over them, it was always going to pull them back into the same room eventually. She’s flown back from America to discuss it, and she’s also heard from Dylan – he’s not happy with his life and she can sense he needs a friend. She only turns up for a day, but what a day it is! The episode is a real treat.
Zoe has definitely been missing Max. She has had enough time to reflect since she left for the US, and she knows Max deserves some answers. Back then she wasn’t sure she could promise she’d never hurt him again, but looking back I think she can’t explain to herself why she made that decision. Now he’s sent her divorce papers and she realises she’s missed him incredibly.
Max had to draw a line in the sand – even though he’s missed her too, he can’t be that person who keeps going back to a relationship that isn’t working. He tries to make stand because he doesn’t want to be hurt again.
We’re bringing the Zax banter back. I can’t reveal what happens but there’s always been a fizz between Max and Zoe, an impossible love story between a consultant and a porter who is ten years younger than her. The audience really took to that and I would only ever have come back to the show in order to explore that relationship.
I love Zoe so much because she broke the norms of women on TV. She was one of the first female role models saying it’s OK to be career driven – she wasn’t hankering for kids, marriage or a man’s money, she did it her way and with personality and a sense of humour too. I got lucky with her.
Leaving Casualty was a massive gamble but I needed to see if I could play other people who didn’t act like Zoe! The door is still very much open at the end of this episode. I got a lot of affection from viewers when I left the show in 2016 and I’m always being asked by fans if I’ll go back, so it’s really nice to be able to return.
My son, Noah, cried when I left the show. While we adults were popping the champagne watching the final episode, he just said he was really sad. He’s nine, so for most of his childhood he’s known me working on Casualty.
When I did Strictly I was out of my comfort zone – I definitely feel better doctor-ing! Zoe’s very happy rolling her sleeves up and mucking in with the team, so in this episode she grabs a stethoscope and helps with a patient. Those medical scenes really kicked me into Zoe autopilot, it’s definitely my comfort zone as well as hers…
Ackley Bridge was a real stretch for me, playing a Pakistani mum with an accent I’d never tried before. Wonderful Amy (Hickman) plays my daughter and I actually did a Casualty episode with her years ago – she was Zoe’s patient, and I remember saying, ‘You’ll be a star in a show one day and I’ll be begging you for a job – you never know, I might play your mum!’ She laughed about it and now it’s happening!
Casualty continues this Saturday at 8.25pm.