Casualty actress Cathy Shipton reveals why Duffy confides in Charlie about her dementia diagnosis

It’s news Casualty fans never wanted to hear. This week, after months of build-up and speculation, it’s finally revealed that original character Lisa ‘Duffy’ Duffin is in the early stages of vascular dementia. Until this point Duffy, played by Cathy Shipton, has been keeping her troubles to herself. Now she finally opens up to estranged husband Charlie Fairhead (Derek Thompson) with unexpected results.

We talk to Casualty star Cathy Shipton, who reveals what the diagnosis means for Duffy and Charlie…

Was it important to take time to explore this storyline?

“Yes, it was a conscious decision from the producers. They’ve done it with Michael Stevenson’s character Iain Dean too, because the nature of what you’re looking at doesn’t happen in one episode. To look at these subjects in this way is to pay them serious attention. It’s the exact opposite of what happens with a guest story where we dip into someone’s life when they’re at crisis point with something that’s been building for months or years.”

How does Duffy feel when she receives the diagnosis?

“Duffy’s frightened and exhausted from carrying secrets and worries that she hasn’t shared. It’s there all the time.”

Will there be a lot of information about the subject in the episode?

“Yes, and that comes from the research on the show – they’ve really done their homework and shared that with me. I try to work from the script up, so it’s the character of Duffy and not Cath. Of course any actor informs their work from things they’ve either personally experienced or read about and then you make an emotional leap. I have to say, the work production have done on this storyline is fantastic and it’s given me such confidence in playing the storyline.”

Viewers have wanted Duffy to confide in husband Charlie for months. Why has she kept her worries to herself for so long?

“She’s been in a predicament! Charlie and Duffy have split since Charlie discovered she played away with Bill. Going right back to when the penny dropped for Charlie about Bill and he realised where she went that night. Charlie thought he could get over it, but he couldn’t. Just as she was about to voice her fears [about being ill] Charlie blocked her, and she had to respect his need for space and take it on the chin.”

Bill unwittingly opens up to Charlie about his complicated affair with Duffy in Casualty

How has she coped on her own with this?

“She’s stoic. That’s been her modus operandi since she found herself as a single mum. She battened down the hatches and didn’t ask her mum or anybody for help. She’s doing that here too. Chin up and on she goes…”

Why does Duffy finally confide in Charlie this week?

“It’s cleverly dramatized – she tells him about her diagnosis, but only as her line manager because that’s what the neurologist advises. She doesn’t tell him as her husband. When she tells him, she doesn’t drop her guard. Yet she wants to share this because she knows she needs support.”

Is it her hope that Charlie will provide that support?

“I think that’s her hope in telling him. At the end of this episode he wants to talk to her and I believe she thinks ‘thank goodness, he’s now going to take this on board.’ Keeping this front up in the workspace is exhausting for her, she’s not being herself and having to watch herself all the time.”

What would you advise to anyone affected by this episode?

“I’m not one for going online, because it can terrify you. My approach is to draw breath, take small steps and not rush in. If anyone has any worries they need to seek advice.”

If you’re affect by any of the issues raised please seek medical advice. Support also available here.

Discover how Charlie reacts to Duffy’s diagnosis this Saturday on Casualty.