Sunetra Sarker reveals her Casualty alter ego, Zoe Hanna, has her very own standalone episode on BBC1 on Saturday.
Sunetra tells What’s on TV what it means to her and what fans can expect from the unusual one-off special…
What was your reaction when you were first told about this standalone special?
“I was thrilled. It’s written by Barbara Machin, who wrote the BAFTA-winning Casualty episode a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to work with her.”
It’s an extraordinary nightshift, reminiscent of movies Sliding Doors and Groundhog Day. Can you explain what happens?
“This one-off episode takes the concept of an average day as a doctor and spins it on its head by giving you alternatives to the day. It’s fascinating to explore the ‘what ifs’ after the day is done. So many medics must wonder how certain outcomes might have changed had they been in a better frame of mind or chosen different routes. I was really excited to do it!”
With so many alternatives to one nightshift, was it a daunting prospect when it came to filming?
“Yes! I worked hard on preparing each day so there were technical similarities in each version of the day. For example, how Zoe woke up each morning and how certain she was of saving a life that day. I enjoyed the challenge even though it was daunting.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself, as an actor and as a person, to show how life can get in the way of the job sometimes. The whole Casualty cast was interested in seeing how such a cutting edge episode would be made and we all got involved together, discussing it and looking forward to it.”
It’s entitled The Road Less Travelled. Can you explain what this means in relation to Zoe’s experiences during this episode?
“Zoe’s experiencing happiness in her relationship with Max, which obviously means she’s in a caring place. But then she encounters difficult decisions throughout the shift, which take her on a different journey depending at which point she meets a grieving relative, or a colleague, or even an invitation for another job… All things that could all lead her down a different road!”
Former Casualty doctor Maggie Coldwell turns up too! How was it working with Susan Cookson again?
“It’s a joy to work with an old friend. It’s always a gift to work with characters you have history with, and Maggie was a valuable ex-colleague who worked with Zoe when she first joined. When Maggie turns up again out of the blue it creates a feeling of life outside Holby for Zoe, who is having doubts about work and life.”
What do you hope Casualty fans will take from this special episode?
“I hope the audience who follow Zoe’s stories feel they are seeing inside her head. In Zoe, I have been so lucky to have a character who has so many colours to play. I also hope everyone enjoys the chance to watch a very different kind of Casualty episode. Continuing drama has a formula and this episode takes you into a new style of television that is really exciting to see!”
Watch Sunetra in action, as Zoe faces a night of life or death decisions, on Saturday, March 28 on BBC1 at 9.05pm