The Men Behaving Badly star made her debut as the character in BBC1’s Holby City in October 2009, where a six-month storyline saw Vanessa cause chaos for her colleagues. This time, however, she will appear in its Saturday-night sister series, Casualty.
Casualty spoiler: What brings Vanessa to Holby ED...
Vanessa is admitted to the ED with a suspected fracture after falling down a flight of stairs. On hearing of her arrival the other medics nominate veteran nurse Charlie Fairhead (played by Derek Thompson) to treat her — something he’s less than thrilled about!
Here Leslie Ash, 61, reveals more…
How did it feel to be asked to play Vanessa Lytton again?
Leslie Ash: "I was shocked actually! I couldn’t really see how the character could come back considering she was such a piece of work, so I was interested to see how they’d do it."
Remind us of Vanessa’s legacy at Holby City...
LA: "Vanessa was the CEO of Holby City Hospital. She was brought in by one of the consultants and actually championed the new robotics surgery for Connie Beauchamp [Amanda Mealing], but swiftly fell out of favour [because she got Connie suspended]."
Why did she leave?
LA: "Vanessa tried to cover her mistakes, very badly, and had to go basically. It’s always nicer to play a character with an edge, and she was certainly that!"
Vanessa claims to have turned over a new leaf, thanks to new husband, Mike (Coronation Street’s Bill Ward). Can she be trusted?
LA: "You’ll have to wait and see! I can’t say too much, but she comes back as a patient… It’s a well-written episode, and it was good to have something I could get my teeth into."
Are there any hidden advantages to playing a patient?
LA: "Yes! The nice thing about playing Vanessa as a patient was not having all the medical jargon. That was so difficult to learn and remember. It was nice to just come back and be a guest on this lovely show."
Vanessa has some big scenes with Charlie Fairhead. How was it working with Casualty legend Derek Thompson?
LA: "It was lovely to see Derek. I haven’t seen him for forty years, since my first job in [ITV’s Eighties police drama] The Gentle Touch. We had a lot to talk about! What was strange was acting in a highly dramatic episode with this two metre rule. It was strange but it worked."
How was it filming in Casualty’s Cardiff studios?
LA: "I enjoy being in Cardiff. It was like a ghost town at the time — no one was around at all, which was a shame. Nothing was open except Deliveroo!
"I had to do my own make-up, which was a bit of a surprise — I was looking forward to being pampered! Just being in that environment allowed me to get back into character quite easily."
Did you enjoy it enough to return more permanently to Casualty… The ED needs a clinical lead since Connie’s departure!
LA: "You never know!"
Casualty is 35 in September. What do you think is the secret to the show’s success?
LA: "It’s always very well-written and directed, with very talented actors. It’s in such a great spot on Saturday nights and people always love medical dramas — they always will."
What’s next for you?
LA: "I’m waiting for the release of a film I did called To Be Someone. I was reunited with about six of the actors I worked with on [1979 cult classic] Quadrophenia, which was great! It’s not a sequel to the film, but there is a Mod theme."
Finally, what would be your dream role or show to work on?
LA: "There are so many wonderful shows on at the moment. I’m looking forward to the future. There are so many roles open to women of my age now. Any role is a dream role at my age!"
Casualty continues on BBC1 — see our TV Guide for full listing.
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