Skip to main content

Charles Dale: 'Big Mac stands up for himself'

Charles Dale: 'Big Mac stands up for himself'
Charles Dale: 'Big Mac stands up for himself' (Image credit: BBC)

Big Mac prides himself in being Casualty's friendly, reliable porter. But he's no pushover, says actor Charles Dale... How did you feel about having a whole episode devoted to your character? "It's great! I love playing Big Mac, he’s very funny, makes me laugh, so all the little bits and pieces that I do running around pushing my trolleys is always good fun, but actually to have something that you can get your teeth into is good and interesting. It's quite unusual for Casualty because there's a lot of flashbacks." We last saw Mac being arrested. What happens next? "Mac basically realises that it's time he stood up for himself and that he can't run from things that happened in the past all his life." We see him helping Jessica and then they run into a gang... "That's right – a gang of young lads. Big Mac lives on a tough estate and he knows everybody on that estate because he's that kind of person. And he's been there long enough to watch some of them grow up. It's like anything, you always know who the troublemakers are." Does Mac feel that he has made Jessica a target? "Yes, because basically in a previous episode Mac caught one of the gang trying to steal drugs from the hospital and from that point on he becomes a marked man as far as they're concerned and they're going to terrorise him as much as they can. And because of what's happened to Mac in the past, his mental state isn't that strong that he can handle them. But over the course of the episode, he remembers what he used to be like basically and the person he used to be and that he's got to stand up for himself and the people around him." Did you learn more about Mac doing this episode? "I pretty much know about my character's life from the off, I don't know why, I've never been able to pinpoint it, but fortunately as an actor it's always been something that's come very natural to me. My characters have always made sense to me and it does make life easier." Casualty still pulls in between five and seven million viewers... "When you consider, I mean when I was a young actor, this amount guaranteed you a second series, now for a show in today's day and age with the internet and cable channels and all the various other things going on, to pull in regularly this many viewers is extraordinary and long may it continue!" Mac is a lot different to other characters you've played. Are you like him in any way at all? "Am I like Mac? (laughs) I think like Mac, I want the best for everybody and want everybody to be happy and anything for a quiet life. I think to a certain degree we're alike in that. Mac is still coming to terms with the fact, in reality he's deeply introverted and he can't believe that people at the hospital actually like him. The job at the hospital has been a whole new thing for him because people actually talk to him and are nice to him. And on occasions find him quite funny. That to him is an entirely new experience. He's been isolated all his life, he looked after his mother til the day she died. He’s been scared to go out and he’s terrified of life. But because of people in the hospital he’s slowly discovering it." Is he the sort of character you reckon you could have a pint with?! "(laughs) I'm not sure if I’d go that far! I think maybe two years later of him working in the hospital, yes! But Mac has this mask that he puts on from time to time, which is his pomposity and his know-all approach, all that kind of side of him. But that’s basically a mask that he puts on to keep people at distance when he gets afraid or embarrassed. He's totally immature in the respect that he hasn't hadn't a life so he’s never really experienced life, you know, girls are a complete old mystery to poor old Mac." Could you ever do Mac's job for real? "They do such an extraordinary job. I start crying at the Andrex commercial when the puppy comes on so I don't know how people deal with death all day every day. Of course there are massive highs when they have successes, but you are dealing with sadness, grief and pain on a fairly constant level. Obviously they have ways of combating that, but, no, it wouldn't be for me." How are you with all the blood and gore? "No it doesn't bother me, well except for one time that did make me flinch. There was a lad with a bamboo cane coming out of the cheek of his backside and I was in the green room watching it on one of the monitors and as they pulled it out that really made me go: "Wahey!!" How did you become involved in acting? "I always knew. I did amateur dramatics. My mum and dad were big amateurs, and very good quality amateurs so I grew up sitting in the back of rehearsal rooms playing with my toy soldiers so I always watched people rehearsing. Then I did various youth theatre things, went to the National Youth Theatre and was in drama school by the time I was 17." Your CV is impressive! You haven't been off our screens! "(laughs) I wish that was the truth! If you do look at my CV it does look like that! I’ve been very fortunate over the years and I have been very busy! That's the joy of being a character actor – viewers don't get sick of us quite as quickly I think!"

Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix. 

An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.