Casualty star Di Botcher talks about Jan Jenning’s dramatic drug running storyline and reveals lovely behind-the-scenes secrets...
Casualty star Di Botcher has won over legion of fans as paramedic Jan Jennings since joining BBC1’s ever-popular medical drama in 2018.
The paramedic is well known for her warmth and strong sense of duty, but it’s all change for Jan this week when she turns to crime to save her son’s life.
Viewers recently saw Jan’s jailbird son Ross West (Chris Gordon) beg her to smuggle in prescription drugs to stop him being attacked by fellow prisoners, and this week in Casualty Jan finally gets the dreaded call that it’s finally time to make the drugs drop.
Here Di Botcher, 61, talks about Jan Jenning’s emotional storyline and reveals how there could be a whole Casualty show dedicated to her bloopers…
What can you tell us about this week’s exciting episode?
Di Botcher: “Jan’s caught in a terrible dilemma. She thinks she’s the only one who can help her son, but it’s in the worst possible way. Having stolen medication from dead patients she gets a call saying there’s been a stabbing in the prison. Her heart lurches because she knows it’s her cue to smuggle in the drugs. Filming it, we were in full PPE and I was worried about that, but the director said he could still get the sense of absolute terror from my eyes – Jan’s petrified!”
You recently admitted you wanted a storyline that really shook Jan up…
DB: “Yes, and this is it! I’ve always thought of Jan as having a really strong moral core and, here she is, with that moral core wrecked!”
Has it been emotionally tough to film?
DB: “In doing this storyline it’s reminded me that I’m not one of those actresses who can laugh and joke and then just go for it when they say ‘action’. If there’s a big storyline it feels like a huge weight on my shoulders that I carry around for days.”
What do you think Casualty fans will make of Jan turning to crime?
DB: “I’m not sure they’ll like it at all! I’m hoping that the script and the acting mean people will understand why she’s doing what she’s doing – her son is her Achilles heel, she’s hopeless over him. But I wouldn’t be surprised if people don’t like this side of her. It’s just so out of character.”
What can you tease us about what the future holds?
DB: “Well, it’s not going to be all sunshine and lollipops, and the truth does come out. I think there’s only so much mental torture Jan can go through. Basically her life goes to pieces and all I can say is that she gets discovered by the last person in the world that she’d want to find out…”
What do you love about playing Jan?
DB: “I love her character. She’s got a sort of earthiness to her, a practicality and a warmth. She can be very strong, but once you’ve got her loyalty you’ve got her it forever. She’s just such a capable, caring woman, who believes in public service, and she’ll go above and beyond for her patients and fellow paramedics. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her though!”
Do you enjoy being part of Team Paramedics?
DB: “I love it, especially filming in the ambulance station because I know I’m going to be with my gang. The only thing is there are two swinging doors, but only one of them works and we never know which one. So quite often they go, ‘action’, and you end up walking bang into the door that doesn’t work. There are lots of bloopers and they’re usually of me swearing!”
Do you get much feedback from real paramedics?
DB: “My mum was very ill before Covid and had to be taken into hospital a couple of times and the paramedics just made fun of me! They’d say things like ‘why don’t you do this, as you’re so good!’ Recently I’ve also had a few comments, though not from paramedics, about how much Jan shouts at Leon [Cook, played by Bobby Lockwood]. They often tell me to just leave Leon alone!”
This episode of Casualty airs on BBC1 Saturday March 6 at 8.20pm
Interview by Hannah Davies