Charlotte Salt: ‘I had to train for Casualty!’

Charlotte Salt’s Casualty character Major Sam Nicholls manages to wind up everyone in the ED – on her very first day!

Tell us about your new character, Major Sam Nicholls…

“She’s just returned from a tour of Afghanistan with the army and now she’s doing a secondment at an NHS hospital. She’s very keen and even turns up a day early to go out with a paramedic crew. She’s ‘action girl’ tough and always wants to save the day.”

So how does she fit in with the ED team?

“Well, she manages to get everyone’s back up, particularly Doctor Jordan, on her very first day! She’s definitely fun to play, though. I don’t want her to come across just as a kind of war machine. I hope people will respect her energy and enthusiasm.”

Do we learn about her time in the army?

“Yes, the horrors of her past in Afghanistan do come back to haunt her. When you’ve worked in a war zone with young people having their limbs blown off every day, you just have to get on with it. So to then find yourself in Holby dealing with sprained ankles, it’s very hard to adapt.”

Did you do any research for the role?

“Yes, the producers put me in touch with some army medics. One guy had been in Afghanistan working on helicopters picking up wounded solders from the field. It’s unbelievably tragic. How do you switch off from that? Because the work is so traumatic you need a break. That’s why my character is spending nine months with the NHS.”

Major Sam Nicholls is quite a leap from Lady Ursula in The Tudors, then?

“You could say that! It was quite scary joining a long-running series like Casualty. I lived in LA for six years so I’d done shows like Entourage, CSI and the film Beowulf. Then I did The Tudors and Bedlam for Sky but I’m really enjoying Casualty.”

How long will you be in the show?

“I’m on contract for a year so we’ll take it from there. Sam could go back to Afghanistan or stay on in Holby. We’ll have to wait and see.”

Do you have to do any stunts?

“My character is basically one long stunt so I’m constantly sore. I have to ride a mountain bike and they said to me, ‘Can you skid?’ I was like, er no, so I had to have a lesson. I’ve definitely had to go into training for this role!”

Were the stunts the hardest part of the job?

“No, that was learning all the medical jargon! It wasn’t easy getting my head around it all at the beginning but it does get easier with practise!”

Casualty is on Saturdays on BBC1