Casualty star Amanda Mealing reveals MASSIVE spoilers (including Grace's return and the future of Connie and Jacob!) as the BBC1 medical drama returns…
Casualty returns to our screens tonight after taking a break for COVID-related reasons.
BBC1’s ever-popular medical drama Casualty airs with a new episode on Saturday 02 January at 7.35pm, and nobody could be more delighted than Casualty legend Amanda Mealing. “We just want to film, we just want to work and it breaks our hearts when fans have been asking, when are you back?” says Casualty star Amanda, 53, during our exclusive video chat.
“So it’s so nice to finally be able to say, ‘Yes, we’re back’, and hopefully this opening episode will be worth the wait!”
The new series dives straight in the deep end as the whole of the ED is plunged into a Covid nightmare.
The exhausted staff, including Ethan Hardy (George Rainsford), David Hide (Jason Durr) and Robyn Miller (Amanda Henderson), battle to save lives, to the point where one of the regulars succumbs to the deadly virus, leaving steely clinical lead Connie Beauchamp at breaking point.
Casualty star Amanda Mealing tells us more about filming the harrowing scenes, upcoming storylines, and Connie's future in Holby…
How does the drama play out in this week’s emotional Casualty opener?
Amanda Mealing: "The ED is thrown into the nightmare of the pandemic, so it’s about highlighting the sacrifice and the endurance of our real-life NHS staff.
"Connie is actually the perfect character to show just how much this monster took out of our frontline workers. Because she’s always immaculate and in control, to see her utterly broken, vulnerable and in despair is powerful. Patient after patient is dying in front of her and she can’t find a solution."
It’s shocking to see Connie like that. Was it tough to film?
AM: "It was exhausting. I’m loath to say that because of knowing what the real frontline workers have been through. But it was incredibly intense and the pressure to get it right was quite a burden because we didn’t want to make it in any way superficial or glossy."
Who else is at the centre of the drama when Casualty returns?
AM: "Derek Thompson (Charlie Fairhead) and I are kind of the narrators throughout the episode and we spent two and a half days on set, just the two of us.
"So basically for two and a half days I was welling up and just in this state. Then after spending all that time being so upset and traumatised, I had a sort of physiological reaction – I was shattered, I was on edge and I couldn’t sleep."
Charlie and Connie have had their ups and downs. Does this mean their friendship firmly back on track?
AM: "Yes! Charlie has said, ‘I forgive you,’ but I don’t think he believed it and I don’t think Connie did either. So I think this is the turning point for the two of them.
"They’re back to being supportive of each other and being friends to each other, which is lovely to see. And it’s so lovely to work so much with Derek because he’s my bestie!"
A much-loved member of the Casualty team dies of coronavirus at the end of the episode. How does that affect everyone?
AM: "Obviously I can’t say who it is, but really impacts! It takes a while for everyone to come round to the idea that this person has gone because they were always there, they were a permanent fixture, so it’s really tough.
"It sounds trivial to say it, but the whole cast got a tiny sense of how bonding this Covid experience must have been for the frontline staff."
How do you hope viewers will receive this hard-hitting Casualty outing?
AM: "I just hope we’ve done justice to the real frontline workers… they’re absolute heroes and I really hope people remember the sacrifice that they made and are still making now."
What can you tell us about the other storylines coming up in Casualty?
AM: "After this opener, we very quickly get back into all the other Casualty stories that we all love. So of course there’s the Connie-and-Jacob thing [Connie and Jacob have had an on/off romance]… so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens between them.
"Also Connie’s daughter Grace comes back, which is lovely but also terrifying because the little girl who plays her is a sassy chick now and probably taller than me! Even as her TV mother I’m like, where has my girl gone?
"Connie doesn’t stay vulnerable for long and, oh my goodness, she quickly gets back to being the old Connie, which has been so much fun to play!"
What New Year’s resolutions do you think Connie should make?
AM: "Oh my goodness, she just needs to chill out, she needs to let go and she needs to just let someone else take control! It’s never going to happen, though; she’s a control freak. But that’s what New Year’s resolutions are about – we make them and break them immediately, don’t we!"
Were there big changes on the Casualty set to make it Covid safe?
AM: "Yes, massive changes! We can’t be within two metres of each other. There have been times when I’ve been talking to a tennis ball on a stick pretending it’s someone else. And I was doing a scene with Charles Venn (Jacob Masters) the other day where we were sitting at opposite ends of this bench. We then had to do a split screen, so it looked like we were closer together."
What other changes might surprise Casualty fans?
AM: "Everyone’s also having to do their own hair and makeup, and our costumes have to be bagged up into individual bags every night, which are then taken away and cleaned. It’s crazy times. But luckily we’re an ED, so there are plenty of wipes and rubs everywhere!"
Finally, there were rumours recently you were leaving Casualty. Please can you reassure us that’s not the case…
AM: "Well, I’m here at the moment. I don’t know, it all depends on how contract negotiations go. I guess it’s not up to me, is it?"
Interview by Hannah Davies
The new look Casualty returns with their COVID-19 special on BBC1 at 7.35pm, Saturday 02 January 2021
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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.