Casualty star William Beck on Dylan Keogh’s beard: ‘It got rather out of hand!’

Our hair-raising chat with William Beck, who plays Dylan Keogh in Casualty, on the ED doctor’s troubled year

It’s been a big year for Casualty doctor Dylan Keogh (played by William Beck).

In January 2018 destructive drinking habits quietly slipped into the relapsed alcoholic doctor’s daily routine. Not even a visit from best pal Zoe Hanna (Sunetra Sarker) helped Dylan realise he couldn’t cope with the stress of being acting clinical lead. By the end of the month Dylan was almost fired and hit rock bottom.

Happily, February saw newly sober Dylan back at work and committed to Alcohol Anonymous. However, it was around this time Dylan first met fellow alcoholic Ciara Cassidy (Belinda Stewart-Wilson) who was on a rollercoaster ride to her own rock bottom. At first, Dylan strongly denied the mutual attraction…

In March Dylan found himself fighting more demons than a video game character when nurse Robyn Miller’s new husband Glen died as a result of a brain tumour and his ex-wife Sam Nicholls (Charlotte Salt) tackled him about his alcoholism.

After months of successful sobriety, in July Dylan was spun off his axis when Sam died in the line of duty. At this point Dylan opened up to Ciara, and they became a couple. But their happiness was short-lived – Dylan discovered Ciara was married, and then in September she tragically lost the baby she was carrying.

October saw Dylan hit the bottle harder than ever and give up on himself and life in general. Enter mentor Zsa Zsa Harper-Jenkinson (Sharon Gless) who not only helped Dylan find a renewed sense of hope, but also saved his father Brian’s life by performing emergency brain surgery in a bar!

You’d think that was enough drama for one year but the shocks kept coming, and they’re not over yet!

Here we talk to William Beck about the highs and lows of 2018 for his character Dylan Keogh, and how his beard gathered a cult following online…

Are you pleased with the direction of Dylan’s storylines this year?

Dylan's traumatic year in Casualty gets the thumbs up from actor Will Beck

Dylan’s traumatic year in Casualty gets the thumbs up from actor Will Beck (Picture: BBC)

“Yes, I think after however many years and x amount of episodes that we can trust that the foundations of the character have been built. I’m blown by the winds of the way writers are asked to write, and the variation that the show needs. But, happily I feel that there is now next to nothing that they can’t ask Dylan to do, [where we] could find a way of doing it and still retain [the character]. Although we don’t suddenly want him opening a kindergarten!”

The prospect of him almost becoming a father earlier this year was intriguing…

“Yes, and in all of that, we sometimes forget that in a different sort of situation it might seem slightly preposterous. But who knew – it turns out Dylan’s got snow on the roof and a fire in the grate!”

What do you enjoy about working with Belinda Stewart-Wilson on the Dylan-Ciara romance?

A very special relationship. Ciara offers grieving Dylan a shoulder to cry on

A very special relationship. Ciara offers grieving Dylan a shoulder to cry on. (Picture: BBC)

“Ciara is such a fabulous character and Belinda has such a fantastic way of mixing a little bit of Ciara and a little bit of the actress together. There’s a bitter sweetness to [the relationship]. They share something, they both want the same thing, and they can’t have it.”

The other woman in Dylan’s life this year was Zsa Zsa Harper-Jenkinson. How was it working with Sharon Gless again?

“She is amazing! The wonderful thing about my job is, even if you are star struck, you get to pretend to be somebody who isn’t! Not that Sharon would have made it that way. She is absolutely wonderful. I thought I might have made a faux pas when I said I remember when I was a boy and being allowed to stay up in my pyjamas at my grandparents house to watch Cagney & Lacey, but it turns out she was delighted. Sharon told us amazing stories about Hollywood. She was the very last actress to be signed under the old contract system. Who doesn’t want to hear about that? Working with Sharon was an unforgettable experience.”

The unforgettable Sharon Gless as Zsa Zsa

The unforgettable Sharon Gless as Zsa Zsa (Picture: BBC)

You know we love Dylan’s one-liners. But what else informs the character?

“I’m very lucky with the lines Dylan gets. Sometimes I get things off my chest via him! But the truth is you pretty much forget the line the moment it’s done because there’s the next thing [to film]. The moments I enjoy the most are perhaps the ones that aren’t written. I enjoy when there’s an opportunity to look baffled by something. In TV there’s so much dialogue so it’s lovely to have a moment to go ‘huh?’ it’s also a moment to relax just a little bit before picking up again. It seems to serve the show no matter what the context of the episode, serious or comic… a look of total confusion!”

Have you noticed how fans love Dylan’s lifestyle from his boat to Dervla the dog?

“I have and I don’t know what to make it of it!”

Dylan's beard has a cult following online

Dylan’s beard has a cult following online (Picture: BBC)

There’s also been a fascination with his/your beard this year!

“Yes, the beard became a thing… it all got rather out of hand! The thing about a show like Casualty is you can’t make any sudden decisions because we film up to four episodes, which overlap, at any given time. Something like growing a beard or shaving it off has to happen at predetermined intervals.”

When did you decide to grow it?

“The beard actually started because I was running late for work one day. I’d been off on holiday and prior to that I’d been off for a couple of episodes so I had this enormous beard! It was my total intention to shave it off when I arrived at work, but they wanted me on location. So when the make-up department asked if we were going with the beard, I said okay, go on then!”

It’s fitted in nicely with Dylan’s journey this year…

“Yes, it appeared in the first episode Ciara came in. Keen fans may notice that throughout the whole of the Ciara storyline and intervening period Dylan’s hair apparently has a show of it’s own. I hope people didn’t feel the need to run from the room when I appeared on screen!”

Catch William Beck in this year’s Casualty Christmas special, which centres on cleanly shaven yet troubled doctor Dylan Keogh. Will he finally find closure after his rollercoaster year?

Casualty Christmas special airs Saturday 22 December at 8:40pm on BBC One