The Casualty cast talk about filming the 30th anniversary special which featured a dramatic helicopter disaster in Holby Hospital

Casualty fans were treated to an action-packed treat as the much-loved medical show celebrated its 30th anniversary with an adrenaline-fuelled feature-length episode on Saturday night.

Viewers were left on the edge of their seats when much-loved consultant Connie Beauchamp and her daughter Grace careered off the road in a terrifying car crash at the end of the last series in July.

Somehow the pair survived the fiery crash, yet worse was to follow as the emergency helicopter which carried a severely injured Grace to A&E smashed into the hospital in a spectacular crash, leaving several people dead.

“It took over 100 people to create the helicopter stunt,” said series producer Erika Hossington. “We always do things for real on Casualty so it was a real challenge. The only CGI on the stunt is the painting out of the wires holding the helicopter up and the rotor blades, everything else we did for real.

“We had a helicopter suspended off three cranes to be able to land it like we did!”

Connie was already at the hospital when the helicopter with her daughter aboard crashed to earth and the episode finished with the heartbreaking news that Grace may not make a full recovery…

Producers have revealed the events of this week’s special episode will trigger Casualty storylines that will feature in the show for the rest of the series, perhaps further, so audiences will still hold hope that Grace’s injuries won’t be life-changing.

“Filming this episode was tough,” said Amanda Mealing, who plays Grace. “I was covered in sticky blood and I spent a week literally crawling along the bottom of the ravine. I got cuts everywhere!

“It was quite tough psychologically as well. I spent a week getting really upset for 12 hours a day, it dissipates over time, but when you’re doing that 12 hours a day, five days a week, it’s kinda rough – I was exhausted and depressed by the end!”

 

Filming the crash itself was also a bit tricky…

“I did all the driving sequences,” explained Amanda. “I’m a little bit of a speed freak so I was like ‘I’ll do that!’ I did all the chase scenes and then in the studio we had the car up on a gimble with a green screen and tipped it. It’s fantastic what they can do. But you got a sense of what that must be like – I never want to experience that for real!”

After leaving viewers waiting to find out what happened to Connie and Grace for nearly a month, Amanda was taken aback by the public reaction to the storyline in recent weeks.

“It was a literal cliffhanger!” she explained. “I was so surprised by the reaction to that final scene. I was blown away by the defence and love for those two characters. People were really upset at the thought of them being in trouble. I think – I think – they’ll be happy with what happened. Hopefully they’ll feel it was worth four weeks of pain!”

As news of the disaster reacheed the emergency department, a party to celebrate much-loved nurse Charlie Fairhead’s 30 years of service was interrupted and old favourites Josh Griffiths and Duffy, rolled back the years by pitching in to help.

“It was amazing to be back,” said Cathy Shipton, who plays Duffy. “Charlie, Josh and I felt like the three amigos. It was like a Doctor Who special with everyone coming back, but it was a real joy. For us it was just like any other day, because we’ve kept in touch, but it was great to see the characters back together!”

 

Meanwhile, Ian Bleasdale, who plays Josh, has revealed that he started watching the show again regularly once he realised he was going to be in it again!

“I watched it now and again since I left,” he explained. “I didn’t for ages because I knew it wouldn’t be as good without me! Once I knew I coming back I started watching again, it was great to be back on set and see everyone.”

One person he was particularly looking forward to seeing was Derek Thompson, who plays Charlie Fairhead, and the show’s longest-serving actor said he never thought he’d be celebrating Casualty’s 30th anniversary when he joined the show.

“When I first signed up back in 1986 I was told I’d have to commit for two series – possibly three!” said Derek. “I never thought I’d still be here by series 30!”

Yet, rather than resting on their laurels, producers are already planning for the future and have big plans for the new series.

“We want to keep the momentum going from this special episode,” said series producer Erika Hossington. “We are going to do something different to end the series, something the show has never done – but more on that at a later date!”

The new series of Casualty continues next Saturday on BBC1