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Casualty star Cathy Shipton: 'Tonight’s Casualty is a fitting tribute to Duffy'

Casualty legend Duffy smiling broadly in her dark navy nurses uniform
(Image credit: BBC)

Casualty star Cathy Shipton has a lovely message for fans affected by Duffy’s heartbreaking final episode…

Duffy’s final episode of Casualty was always going to be a tough watch.

Since Cathy Shipton announced last year that she was stepping down from the iconic role she has played since 1986, TV fans have been on tenterhooks anticipating her final episode.

Tonight that moment finally arrived, and it’s fair to say quite a few tears have been shed by viewers, if the reaction on Twitter is anything to go by.

Charlie and Duffy share a kiss in happier times

Considered the Mum and Dad of Holby ED, Charlie and Duffy have been in love for over 30 years (Image credit: BBC / Alistair Heap)

Cathy has played nurse Lisa ‘Duffy’ Duffin for over three decades. During that time we’ve seen her as a freshly qualified nurse, endure terrible hardships, and have more than her share of ups and downs. But through it all was her relationship with Charlie Fairhead (Derek Thompson).

Tonight the couple were parted forever when Duffy, who has been living with dementia, passed away in Holby ED - where it all started - with Charlie by her side.

We talked to Cathy Shipton, who played Duffy in Casualty for over three decades, about her last goodbye…

It’s the end of an era…

Cathy Shipton: "In a way it’s bittersweet. When I finished filming last October it really did feel like a job well done to have brought Duffy to her conclusion; she’s a character that I’ve lived with through different stages of her life."

Are you happy with how Duffy's final Casualty storyline has played out?

CS: "It’s been handled beautifully. Two years ago when we started talking about Duffy’s dementia storyline I made some stipulations about how I hoped things would be handled, and all those requests have been honoured. The writers and researchers took so much care in telling this story truthfully and painfully. "

And tonight’s Casualty episode is a fitting tribute?

CS: "This last episode encompasses and reminds the audience who Duffy is and was. I feel Duffy is an extraordinary ordinary person. I wanted her to be a nurse right up until the last minute. It looks stunning, and the effort from every department to make this the best it could be and honour the character. To throw Duffy right back into her first days in her nursing uniform, thinking that she’s going to help Charlie on a snowy night… It’s absolutely a fitting tribute."

Will you miss working with Derek?

CS: "Definitely! Derek’s been in the show since the beginning, while I’ve come and gone, but we’ve always been in touch and that won’t change. During the last episode I was making jokes, wondering about who Charlie’s next love interest will be and Derek was looking daggers at me! I said, ‘He’s going to have to have a shoulder to cry on’, and he was ‘Don’t, don’t!’ In the end Derek said, ‘That’s it’, and went off to get a cup of tea!"

Duffy and Charlie hug in happier times

No words needed. RIP Duffy (Image credit: BBC)

Did you have a farewell party after filming?

CS: "Yes we did, and it meant I could let my hair down! They made a compilation of all my time on the show and, of course, it went on forever!"

How did you originally come to play Duffy?

CS: "When I got the call for Casualty in January 1986, it was for the part of a blonde, bubbly receptionist. But people often thought I was a nurse, a social worker or a teacher. So I asked if there were any nurses in this new hospital drama they could put me up for… and that’s how I was put forward for nurse Duffy! There was something that I gave off to people [that made them think I was a nurse]. Derek used to call me an electric blanket, because, he said, 'You make everybody feel good!'"

Do you have a message for fans affected by Duffy’s departure?

CS: "To remember that there are people in real life living with what Charlie and Duffy are going through. What we are doing is shining a light on that. We’re just telling stories, but I hope it might be able to help people. There will be complete sadness, because I know she is much loved, so I have to thank people for that and their support of the show. I hope, like me, they feel uplifted by the wonderful life of this character and all that she has meant."

Interview by Hannah Davies

Cathy Shipton’s final Casualty is available to view on BBC iPlayer. Casualty continues next Saturday on BBC1 at 8.55pm