Casualty: Oliver Coleman on tonight's prison riot and the future for Tom and Sam

The actor at the centre of this evening's hard-hitting episode reveals what it was like to shoot behind bars

Casualty: Oliver Coleman on tonight's prison riot and the future for Tom and Sam
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Medic Tom Kent is facing danger tonight when he’s caught up in a chaotic prison riot. As viewers saw last week, Tom is at the jail to meet his biological father. But what he didn’t expect was for mob rule to turn the prison into a war zone. Here, actor Oliver Coleman talks to about filming the intense scenes and what the storyline means for Tom’s relationship with Sam Nicholls:

Casualty earns its post-watershed timeslot this week, don’t you think?
I hope so. It’s always exciting when you go post watershed because of the boundaries you can push. So I hope people will get excited and feel the tension.

You certainly get to do tense things like run down prison corridors with a patient on a hospital trolley while being chased by rioting inmates. Was it exciting filming those scenes?
Yes, that was a good time. We spent the afternoon filming that in a tunnel at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. And it was fun having to coordinate all those different elements – alarms going off, people chasing you, plus a patient who’s dying. It really gets your adrenaline pumping.

Are the riot scenes choreographed or is there an element of improvisation?
It’s all very choreographed but there were a couple of moments in the prison hallway riot scene when accidents happened – chairs and tables breaking when they weren’t supposed to. But everything is rehearsed in order to prevent cast and crew from getting hurt because you’ve got live flames and big people wanting to push you around. Having said that, the director Simon Massey does like to keep things fresh, so sometimes you know what’s going to happen but not how. But the moment anything becomes unsafe, you just say cut.

Do you enjoy being out on location?
Personally, the grittier and more involved it gets, the better. In the studio, it’s a routine. Like anything in a hospital, you know exactly what you have to do. But it becomes a completely different show when you’re out on location. So it’s nice to get a break from the studio – if there’s a puddle of mud, I’ll jump into it!

Tom proves himself to be cool under pressure. In the light of his recent panic attacks, did that come as a surprise?
Well, in a way, the panic attacks stemmed from him not knowing what his past life had been. So he’s gone into the prison and faced his fear by meeting the father who’d left him as a baby. Tom is wanting to be confident and not give anything away to his dad, but there’s still definite anger there. In fact, we did play around with making the scenes very over-the-top angry but it didn’t work. What we’ve gone for is more subtle, but after Tom gets through this whole story, viewers will see him go back to how he was when he first came into the show.

What will be the long-term effects of Tom meeting his biological dad?
It’s ticked a massive box because he now knows what this person looks like. He’s answered some questions and got things off his chest. But I don’t think he’s going to suddenly form a completely loving relationship with this man. He’s got a lot going on with Sam and he doesn’t really need this person in his life.

And speaking of that relationship with Sam –  would you like to see her and Tom happy?
I love their relationship, particularly the fiery aspects of their personalities and how correct they both think they are in their jobs. What I’d like to see is a more personal look at what they get up to away from work. And I think we will be seeing more of that – there’s a lot more fun things coming up for them both.

And are you happy to stay on the show for the foreseeable future?
I am. I’m very happy. We’re three months into filming the next series [Casualty takes a one-week break after tonight’s ‘series finale’ episode] and there’s a lot happening. I think people are going to be very excited about what’s going on for Tom and Sam.

Casualty is broadcast tonight at 9.10pm on BBC1