Casualty’s Sunetra on her ‘meteoric medical rise’

Sunetra Sarker reveals Zoe’s mission to stop the spread of a deadly E.Coli outbreak in Casualty (BBC1, Saturday)…

What can you tell us about this week’s storyline?

“It’s a two-part story about an E.Coli outbreak. There’s just one case to begin with, but soon the horrific illness spreads and takes over half a school!”

What sort of problems does this cause for Clinical Lead, Zoe?

“It becomes a bigger problem than your normal hospital crisis because it brings with it mass hysteria, media involvement and public outcry. Zoe is frustrated with having to deal with the public as well as seriously ill patients – she’s not as good outside resus as she is in it!”

How does this test her?

“Both her medical and people skills are tested as she addresses this serious, life-threatening issue. Now Zoe is Clinical Lead she has to be a real grown up and leader, but she’s torn between what she feels and what she has to do. It’s not easy for her to keep her mouth shut!”

There’s quite a lot of sickness in this episode. Do the Casualty storylines ever make you feel queasy?

“I don’t tend to feel queasy when I’m doing these storylines because when you’re filming it’s more obvious that they’re not real. But I do sometimes get a bit squeamish when I see what they mix to make the vomit!”

Is there a danger of becoming a bit of a hypochondriac when you work on a show like Casualty?

“Yes, there is a danger – however, I’m very aware of it. My dad is a doctor and when I was a kid he didn’t have any sensitivity towards hypochondriacs. If I told him I had a cough or something he’d say that he’d have to chop my legs off – as a GP he wouldn’t suffer fools gladly!”

In No Angels you played a Health Care Assistant and in Casualty you’re now a Clinical Lead. That’s an impressive fictional career jump!

“Yes it’s quite a meteoric rise! My friends who are medics joke about how I’ve passed them over without having a medical degree. The irony is I’ve played medical roles for longer than I would have gone to medical school!”

You were never tempted to go down that career path?

“No, never. I’m not brainy enough to be a doctor. I can bluff it, but I couldn’t do it for real!”

There’s quite a large cast of children this week, was that enjoyable?

“It was so lovely. We don’t often get many children because Casualty is quite a grown-up show. Children are so talented these days and they were a real pleasure to work with. They were also right little cuties dressed up in their Harvest Festival outfits!”

Is this a pivotal moment in Zoe’s career?

“Yes, I think so. Zoe’s always been quite spontaneous. Being in Jordan’s shadow allowed her to be slightly rebellious or outspoken, but now she has to be really grown up and much wiser to it all because she’s the leader. It’s very frustrating for her, but it’s all a learning curve.”

She’s changed a lot since she first joined the emergency department!

“She was crazy when she first started! I remember in that first episode she kicked off her red stiletto heels at one point, was covered in blood and answering the phone in the middle of operations! She was very hands-on and skilled in the resus, but chaotic outside of it. She’s still got elements of that, but she’s more grown up now.”

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