Casualty EXCLUSIVE: Nigel Harman on ‘dangerous’ doctor Max Cristie

Casualty has a new clinical lead, and Max Cristie (Nigel Harman) means business!
Casualty has a new clinical lead, and Max Cristie means business! (Image credit: BBC)

Casualty exclusive!

Watch out Dylan Keogh fans — there’s a new doc on the block and he has a very complicated history with the recently demoted and disgraced clinical lead! 

This week consultant Max Cristie — played by EastEnders favourite Nigel Harman - joins Holby ED under extraordinary circumstances when the train he’s travelling on is derailed, causing a major incident.

Having saved a young girl at the scene, Max strides into Holby ED and starts ordering Dylan around. By the end of the stressful shift he’s wowed hospital manager Marcus Fidel and is appointed acting clinical lead!

Here, in an exclusive interview, Nigel tells What To Watch about scrubbing up to play Max…

Our full spoilers on Nigel Harman's first ever Casualty episode

Casualty exclusive — Nigel Harman on playing new Holby ED clinical lead Max Cristie

Max sounds like quite a character!

“Yes, he’s very front footed! Max gets stuck in, speaks his mind, and stands up for what he believes is right, which gets him in a few scrapes. He practises medicine on instinct and is very at home with trauma surgery. He acts quickly if it means saving a life and worries about the fallout afterwards. It makes him slightly dangerous and exciting to be around!”

How does he end up in Holby ED?

“Max is a locum doctor for hire on his way to another hospital when the train he’s on comes off the rails and crashes. Lots of people are injured, Max finds a young girl who is dying and performs an emergency thoracotomy. That leads him to Holby ED because he won’t leave her side. When he gets there, they’re understaffed and need some help. Max jumps in with both feet and hits the ground running!”

Max at the train crash.

Max is on a collision course with Dylan Keogh. (Image credit: BBC)

What! No interview?

[Laughing] “Yes, that's what I like about these shows — we don’t go through the process or paper work. You turn around and Max is in scrubs and running the place!”

Like your character, were you offered this role?

“Yes, and it was nice to be asked! Because the show is filmed in Cardiff and I live in London, I talked it through with my agent and my family. Then I had a meeting [with the Casualty team] and that was that. It was very straightforward! Of course, I still had to read some scenes. I suppose they had to check that I could walk and talk and all of that. I passed the test!”

Why did now feel like the right time to return to a continuing drama?

Nigel played fan favourite Dennis Rickman in BBC One’s EastEnders from 2003 to 2005, before starring in ITV1 period drama Downton Abbey and Sky comedy Mount Pleasant as well as treading the boards in the West End.

“Partly Casualty’s history. It’s breathtaking that it’s 36 years old. Also, working on a medical drama was always on my wish list because it’s a specific skill set to pull off as an actor. 

“There’s a bit of a link going back to my EastEnders days too, with Jon Sen and Liza Mellody [Casualty’s executive producer and series producer have both previously worked on the soap]. It feels like we have similar DNA running through us. It all clicked into place!” 

Nigel as Dennis Watts in EastEnders with sister-by-adoption Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean).

Nigel as Dennis Watts in EastEnders with sister-by-adoption Sharon Watts (Letitia Dean). (Image credit: BBC)

What research did you do for the role?

“I had a great sit-down with a doctor who was actually a clinical lead and is one of the research assistants here at Casualty. They helped me out, especially with the emotional side of being a leader in the NHS at this time. 

“Also, one of my friends is an Intensive Care Unit nurse and has been really useful. It’s been interesting to find out that, depending on what department you’re in and what your speciality is, everyone has a different way of doctoring. Max’s root style reveals itself as the episodes go on.”

Is the medical terminology challenging?

“Medical jargon is like learning a language! It’s getting easier, but in my first scenes I was struggling, sweating and tense. You’ll probably notice as the episodes go on I’m relaxing a bit more. Now I look forward to the speeches in a masochistic way! I'm not always sure what I’m talking about, but hopefully it looks as though I do!”

How are you finding all the blood and gore?

“Well, it’s slightly different for us because we know how it works, so it loses its gore-ishness. What you're not seeing is someone behind the shot, on the floor with a massive syringe squirting blood!

“So far I’m not squeamish, although, last week I filmed a scene where there was a severe bleed that squirted into my face. That was quite an experience! I had to carry on, covered in blood, while people around me were laughing!”

It sounds fun behind-the-scenes!

“It’s really good craic. We have a laugh on set. When there’s a cast meal I just know it’s going to be thunderous because when we all sit down together it’s hilarious. I very much look forward to them - although whoever’s filming first thing [the next day] may be a bit slow!”

Can you give us any teasers about Max’s backstory?

“It’s really exciting and has evolved constantly since I’ve been here. It will come through that he was a paediatrician who became a general surgeon and then, eventually, clinical lead. He has a natural affinity with people who are vulnerable and defenceless. They strike a chord within him which may, or may not, be revealed as we go along. The only person who knows him is Dylan, but that’s from when they were at university together 20 years ago.”

Shocked Dylan is unhappy to see Max.

Clash of the Titans! Max declares war on Dylan. But why? (Image credit: BBC)

Why do they clash?

“They were both top of their class, so there’s a rivalry there. Max enjoys goading Dylan - he’s just too easy to wind up. There are quite a few good one-liners! 

“What I love about these two is that they’re chalk and cheese - one is head, and the other is heart. Yet, underneath it all, there’s a deep respect. They work brilliantly together in a high-pressure environment.

“As long as Dylan reacts the way he does, Max is going to take the mickey. There’s a childishness to two grown men of a certain age in positions of great responsibility acting like schoolboys. It’s good fun. There are some good tussles coming your way!” 

Could Max become involved in Dylan's care home investigation?

"Yes, Max does get involved a bit, shall we say...!"

Dylan Keogh investigates care home abuse in hard-hitting Casualty 2023 storyline.

Max looks like he's interested in Faith.

Nursing a crush... Max's head is turned by Faith. (Image credit: BBC)

Max impresses Dylan’s ex, nurse Faith Cadogan, this week. Could she be a potential love interest for him?

“You’ll have to wait and see! Max appears to get on with Faith (played by Kirsty Mitchell), but we don’t know his relationship status. He’s an enigma. If you’re fishing for relationship information, I’m going to take the fifth!”

Is there anyone he gets on with from the get-go?

“I think paramedic Iain Dean (Michael Stevenson). They seem to get on straight off the bat. There’s no airs and graces. Max, coming from a working class background, doesn't need all the social niceties; he just likes to crack on. He gets on with people, but [initially] is more trying to work out the lay of the land and suss the place out.”

Finally, you’ve been filming on Casualty since last Summer. Do you think future storylines for Max might rival Dennis Watt’s in EastEnders?

“Knowing what's coming, it’s going to be an exciting ride! Max doesn’t mince his words or walk slowly. He’s very direct and he strides. There’s a storyline that’s coming your way that’s really interesting. What we’re about to film now is high drama!” 

High drama is the order of the day - check out Casualty's shocking new trailer for more!

Nigel Harman makes his first appearance on Casualty as doctor Max Cristie on BBC One on Saturday, February 18, 2023, at 8.40pm. The episode will be available on BBC iPlayer after transmission.

Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and 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.