Exclusive — Casualty's Elinor Lawless: 'I’d be the world’s worst doctor'
Casualty exclusive: Elinor Lawless on Casualty conundrum Stevie Nash and the joy of working on the iconic medical drama.
Casualty consultant Stevie Nash has proven to be a deliciously controversial addition to the ED. Since joining in August 2021 Stevie has plotted revenge on poor wee Ethan Hardy, clashed repeatedly with clinical lead Dylan Keogh, rescued best pal Faith Cadogan from a creepy one-night stand, been accused of sexual harassment by Matthew Afolami, and delivered countless sharply sarcastic one-liners.
Despite all that, Stevie Nash is fast becoming one of the BBC medical drama’s most endearing characters. Eternally baffled by her emotions and the source of much comedy, is this walking contradiction on her way to becoming a classic Casualty character?
To find out more we talked to Elinor Lawless about playing Casualty conundrum Stevie Nash and the many joys of being part of the iconic series…
Working on Casualty often means early starts. Are you a morning person?
Elinor Lawless: "I would say, no! I never have been - all my family are nighttime people. I think it’s an Irish thing. But needs must. I’m definitely getting better at being a morning person."
How do you find the hectic filming schedule?
EL: "I absolutely love it. There was a moment, I think it was my second week on the job, where I was watching the camera operator and the lighting team lining up for a shot and I thought, I’m in a place where all the stuff that mattered to me as a kid matters just as much to other people. That’s a lovely feeling - to be in that room with those people telling stories."
Do you watch your Casualty episodes back, or do you prefer not to?
EL: "I do watch them because it’s really useful in terms of looking at what works. For me, it’s homework. I watch back to see what I need to do more of or what I can bring to the structure of a scene next time."
There was a strong reaction to Stevie when she joined the series. How do you view her?
EL: "I know! What I find interesting about Stevie is that she lacks self-awareness. And you do see people in your everyday life where you think, can you not read the room?
"I like that she’s just human; flawed, unreasonable, kind and lacking in emotional intelligence. She's really good fun to play."
How did you approach playing her?
EL: "When you first come in it would be very easy to play a Machiavellian or Lady Macbeth type but actually, she's complicated. She doesn't talk about her feelings. She works through them as in, she gets her head down and just bulldozes on! It’s really fun to find those nuances with her. I don’t want the danger of her becoming one dimensional. Stevie’s got a big heart - and a lot of misplaced anger!"
Is it liberating, in a way, to play someone so blunt?
EL: "Completely. I couldn’t get away with it in real life! This is what I love about acting - we get to play and tell stories for a living. That just fascinates me. What I love about Casualty is that they’re important stories. None of us can avoid suffering or heartache and we’ve all been in hospital at one time or another, so it’s really lovely to tell these stories."
You had a guest role on Casualty previously - did that lead to this role?
EL: "Yes, I played as a completely different character in a heartbreaking episode that aired in August 2019. She was a mother whose baby was taken into the ED. It turned out she had sepsis and she lost her child. I was thrilled to bits to be invited back to audition for Stevie."
You’re a comedian and Stevie gets some great lines. Is that all scripted or do you get to ad lib?
EL: "I did stand-up for a couple of years and it’s great. What’s lovely about Casualty is that the more the writing team gets to know your character, [the more] the rhythm of Stevie feeds gets fed into the script. We’ve got a great team of writers here and they're always up for playing around a little bit with things to see what works on the day. I think they’ve really found her voice."
Is Stevie’s voice your voice, so to speak?
EL: "Oh, yes. A lot of work I’ve done, particularly theatre, would be RP so it’s actually really nice to get to use your own voice. I've a wild habit of popping the word ‘dude’ into things. And I think because of my [Northern Irish] vernacular, there’s a certain turn of phrase that just becomes part and parcel.
"It’s lovely to work in my own voice. Though, when I go home people say ‘You sound wild English!’ While on set, everyone’s going ‘what did she say?’ Whenever I say ‘now’ or ‘power’ in a scene, they’re like - oh Eli!"
Does the medical jargon feel like learning another language?
EL: "Absolutely! We’ve have two brilliant medics, Claire and Nick, who are part of the show at all times. If you've got a procedure or something coming up you can book some time in with them and go through it. I did a bit of suturing the other week and it’s fascinating."
Are you squeamish?
EL: "No, not in any way - I love it! I love all the prosthetic stuff. My cousin, Roddy, is a brain surgeon and he’s shown me bits of surgeries. It’s fascinating. I actually based Stevie on Roddy a wee bit. He’s my inspiration. He’s got a heart of gold and also this really dry wit."
Do you think you’d make a good doctor?
EL: "I’d be the world’s worst doctor. I’m the last person you want at an emergency. I could sing you a song, but in terms of saving your life - not a chance."
Amanda Henderson told us you love to sing on set. Is that true?
EL: "Yes! Because we're dealing with such serious subject matter, it’s nice. I know so many medics that do - like my cousin Roddy. He is incredibly compassionate, but needs that release, you know? I'm partial to a little bit of S Club Seven, old school ‘90s, Ash and Feargal Sharkey on set!"
And finally, could Stevie be here to stay for a while longer?
EL: "It depends on what they see for your character going forward. There is a real kind of family here at Casualty. I know a lot of people say that, but there really is. Everyone looks out for each other. I feel very blessed to be part of something where the work matters and the people matter."
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With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and www.whattowatch.com covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.
As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast.
After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.