As medical drama Casualty celebrates it’s 25th anniversary this week, Derek Thompson, who’s played Charlie Fairhead since the very first episode, looks back…
You’re the only original Casualty cast member left, how does that feel?
“The only old git you mean! I certainly didn’t expect it to last as long as this – no one did. Originally, only 13 episodes were planned.”
How would you say the show’s changed?
“It stays very close to current affairs, so it’s thrived because it stays relevant. It’s also emotionally honest. When I’m out and about, kids tell me that on Casualty they see a side to grown-ups they’ve never seen before.”
Do you like Charlie Fairhead?
“That’s like asking me if I like the real life person I’ve based him on all these years – Peter Salt, who was an A&E nurse I met. Whenever there’s something in a script I’m not sure about, I say, ‘But Peter wouldn’t say that!’ Yes, of course I like Charlie!”
What’s Charlie up to in this special anniversary week?
“Mostly caring for a terminally ill patient called Shirley. Those scenes are really emotional – as they always are in Casualty.”
How would you feel if Charlie was written out?
“I’d hunt down the writer who did it. Only joking! Actually I’d feel okay, I still have that actor’s hunger to do other things.”
A producer has described you as ‘the soul of Casualty’ – so it’s not likely to happen…
“I’m certainly not the ‘wise man’, the person the others come to when they need help. I like messing about too much…”
What’s the highlight of your 25 years as Charlie?
“Probably the scenes I did last year when my old friend Brenda Fricker returned to play Megan Roach. Megan was terminally ill and asked Charlie to assist her commit suicide. From a dramatic point of view, it was perfection, and she’s the most fascinating actor I’ve ever worked with.”
Didn’t you meet you wife, actress Dee Sandler, on set?
“I did. It was 1987 and she was playing a pot-holer injured in a cave. I always say that while cavemen used to bang their brides on the head and drag them into a cave, I dragged mine out of one! She’s the love of my life.”