Every TV hospital has one. A young, dashing doctor who loves nothing more than flirting with nurses and demonstrating his professional flair. In Breathless it's Dr Richard Truscott played by Oliver Chris (Green Wing, Blueston 42). The suave surgeon patrols the corridors of his London hospital with women trailing in his wake, but it's fiery redhead Jean Meecher (Zoe Boyle) who's managed to tie him down, or has she? If we were her we'd keep an eye on his old flame, Margaret (Sarah Parish).
ITV's new Mad Men-inspired hospital drama charts the highs and lows of a busy gynaecology unit in the 1960s. When RadioTimes.com had a nosy around the set earlier this year, we sat down for a chat with Oliver to hear all about the fun he has delivering his chauvinist lines and entire days spent snogging for the cameras.
Tell us about Richard Truscott...
He’s a pretty good doctor, a fairly senior gynaecologist - he’s Otto’s protégé, his right hand man, but he’s just not ready for the responsibility. He’s not ready for the responsibility of his job, he’s not ready for the responsibility of his relationship... He's forced into this marriage with this girl and they’re like the prom king and queen. She’s the prettiest nurse in the hospital and nurses married doctors but in this case she's got pregnant and then suddenly forced down the aisle. It’s not that he doesn’t love her - he’s not had time to let that love grow naturally. He starts to doubt himself and his way of showing that is by going off and trying to pick up girls. And given the early 60s chauvinist sensibilities, that kind of Mad Men style sensibility, his jokes are all fairly tasteless and he says lots of awful things and basically just comes across as a bit of a bastard, but doesn’t really mean to. He thinks he’s being completely charming.
Is it quite fun to say the sort of things you'd never dare to come out with in real life?
It’s amazing, absolutely amazing. You just have to relish being in a different time, being allowed to say different stuff that you’d never be allowed to say now and it’s awesome fun. I’ve been talking about prolapses and hysterectomies in kind of like glib terms for the last two months and it’s been hilarious. Oh no! That's a quote. Please don't say that. "Hysterectomies are hilarious". The character just has these incredible lines that are so unsympathetic, you could never say them today so having free rein is brilliant.
Are you looking forward to be hated?
No! Old ladies will be shouting at me in the street. I’ll go to my grandma’s house and she won’t give me any cake. “You did that awful thing to that lovely woman,” she'll say.
You have a romantic involvement with Sarah Parish's character, Margaret - what was that like to film?
I know Sarah a little bit and it was really weird because we had one day of just snogging. Every scene we were semi naked and snogging, just rolling around – it was all very film noir. There were lots of negligees and bare chests and whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears.
Doesn't that get awkward?
With anyone else it might have been, but Sarah Parish is just so fun. She’s a friend and she’s pretty down to earth so we just laughed about it. Also you get used to it. We’re all old now – well I won’t speak for Sarah, she’s not, she’s very young, I mean she’s barely 27 – but you’ve been there and done it by now so it’s not weird.
What made you want to be a part of Breathless?
Everything about it. I’ve done a lot of comedy and I really like the fact that this is a drama. There’s a lot of humour and it’s often very black humour - it’s really on that knife edge of what’s tragic can also be really quite funny, and I really love trying to infuse comedy into the drama, to try and walk that wobbly tightrope. And the character’s just amazing. I remember when I auditioned for it, I went home and said, “This is the most amazing part I’ve ever read for and if I get it I’m probably going to be the most hated man in England”. It’s brilliant. Just to take total relish to say some of the hideous things I say.
Breathless begins tonight at 9:00pm on ITV