He also talks frankly about the good and the bad aspects of working on BBC1’s flagship medical show and gives Big Mac fans a glimmer of hope…
We can’t believe you’re leaving Casualty after eight years. What was behind your decision to go?
"All things come to an end! Casualty is a big show and has been absolutely lovely. It’s been a massive part of my life, but it's time to move on."
Talk us through your last storyline. Charlie’s been suspended while covering up Big Mac’s painkiller addiction. Why doesn’t Mac come clean?
"At first Mac thinks he’ll ride it out and it will all be fine. Then his best friend Noel (Tony Marshall) gets very cross with him. Noel suspects Mac stole a patient’s pills and let Charlie take the blame. At this point Mac tries to fake the facts and says he didn’t steal the pills, someone else must have… "
What causes Mac to change his mind?
"There comes a point, after Mac helps a troubled patient, where he realises he needs to stand up and be counted. And he does. He tells Rita everything about his painkiller addiction and medication thefts. She wants to help him sort it out, but Mac says no. He feels he’s ready to leave the ED and live his life…"
And no one can talk him into staying?
"No, he gets on his motorbike and goes – and who knows what will happen! In many ways Mac’s put his life on hold since he was on the Galahad in the Falklands War. Afterwards he looked after him mum until she died and then got a job in Holby hospital. Yes he’s had some nice times along the way, but now he needs to go and see what’s out there in the world… to live instead of exist."
People are going to miss you!
"I’m not so sure, people move on pretty quickly. It would be nice, but I’m a very small part of the show and there’s so much else going on…"
You’re too modest! Can you give fans some hope… could you potentially return?
"Never say never! They haven’t killed me and I make a very brief cameo for the 30th anniversary episode. It’s been absolutely lovely being in Casualty and playing Big Mac, but I want to do something new. I’m auditioning for musicals at the moment – it’s a whole new world!"
What will you miss most about playing Mac?
"The many wonderful actors I’ve had the pleasure to share a set with. Especially Tony Marshall, who plays Noel. He’s a ray of sunshine! We’ve had a fantastic relationship. I think we’ve only fallen out twice in eight and a half years! And it was nonsense when we were tired and it only lasted about 20 minutes. He’s a great man."
What were the worst and best things about the role?
"I never liked the lavender uniform! I really loved being out on the road with Matt Bardock and Jane Hazlegrove, who played paramedics Jeff and Dixie. Being on location every day with them was probably my favourite time on the show."
Are you pleased with Mac’s exit storyline?
" Yes, the team have been very good and let me have quite a lot of say on the way it turned out. It’s a great studio with a fantastic crew. We had a lot of discussions about scripts, which is always good. I’m one of those actors that really likes to have input – I’m a pain in the backside!"
Catch Charles Dales’ final Casualty episode this Saturday on BBC1.
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