Casualty: George Rainsford on life as new medic Ethan Hardy and taking lunch breaks with Matt Smith

"It's very surreal to be in this canteen where you’d see alien monsters from Doctor Who having dinner next to injured people from Casualty with bits of tree sticking out of their leg," says the actor

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Casualty: George Rainsford on life as new medic Ethan Hardy and taking lunch breaks with Matt Smith
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Call the Midwife’s George Rainsford joins the emergency department of BBC1’s Casualty this evening as witty whizz kid medic Ethan Hardy.  Slightly geeky and self-deprecating, Ethan doesn’t exactly put his best foot forward during his first shift, mainly because there are pressing family concerns that he doesn’t divulge to his colleagues. Here to tell us about this and the joys of sharing Cardiff canteen space with the cast of Doctor Who is the actor himself, who reveals all about his new life in scrubs:

So George, what kind of a person is Ethan?
He’s serious and hardworking, but he’s also somewhat awkward socially. He has this methodical, cautious approach, but he does end up making slightly inappropriate jokes and using self-deprecating humour.

We don’t exactly see Ethan in his best light during his first episode…
That’s right. His mum’s ill and he’s trying to negotiate her ongoing care with the help of his brother, who’s not being very forthcoming. So he arrives late and somewhat stressed for his first shift at Holby General and he has a lot to deal with.

Yet he does seem to melt the heart of Lily – will we see a romance there?
Time will tell. All I can say for sure is that he relates to her, especially when it comes to her social difficulties. He sees someone who is fairly similar to him and, as the series goes on, I think we’ll see a bond there.

Is it difficult to jump on board a continuing drama like Casualty? 
My fear was that I’d get to my second month of filming without having found my feet. But everyone has been really lovely. The cast have been helpful with the schedule, which can be pretty crazy at times. So it’s actually felt like joining a family rather than something that’s completely alien.

Are you squeamish?
I’ve been able to distance myself from it because I’m looking at it from a technical point of view. Having said that, I was doing a scene the other day where I was reinserting a tube into a man’s chest. It’s all prosthetics, but the make-up team had lots of blood pouring out and I remember thinking that it was pretty gross.

There’s a lot of friction between Ethan and his brother Caleb (Richard Winsor) – can you tell us about that?
Yes, there’s a complicated family history that will be revealed over the series. But, fundamentally, they have very different personalities  - Cal is instinctive and flies by the seat of his pants whereas Ethan is much more reserved. Cal has this easy charm, particularly with new people, but Ethan struggles to begin with. Although once you get to know him, you realise that he is very caring and sweet.

Did you and Richard Winsor audition at the same time?
We had a screen test together and then we got the train back to London. There was a spark straight away – the chemistry was definitely there and we’re now flatmates! We’re both going back to London to see friends and family at the weekend, but it makes sense to have a flat next to the Casualty studios in Cardiff.

Speaking of which, you’re filming in the same studios as Doctor Who – have you stumbled onto the Tardis set?
I go way back with Matt Smith – we did the National Youth Theatre together. So before he finished on Doctor Who, I’d go to lunch with him. It was really funny to see us both playing doctors of sorts in the same building. And very surreal to be in this canteen where you’d see alien monsters having dinner next to injured people from Casualty with bits of tree sticking out of their leg.

Are you going to be doing any more work on Call the Midwife?
Unfortunately not. I had an amazing time on that show but, sadly, I wasn’t involved in series three. But I’ll watch it as a fan and I’m good friends with Jessica Raine, who I still see socially.

We know that Holby City star Amanda Mealing is reprising the role of Connie Beauchamp, this time on Casualty – will Ethan be crossing paths with her?
Ethan is slightly intimidated by Connie. We’ve had some scenes together and she’s quite a formidable character. Ethan respects her, but is nervous around her at the same time.

And what’s been the most daunting thing for you about working on Casualty?
Well, they often do those long tracking shots that are done in one take. There are quite a few pages of dialogue and they move the camera through the hospital to give the viewer the sense of a busy environment. They’re really fun to do but it’s terrifying if you’re left with the last line of that particular scene. I was certainly nervous to have one of those during my first episode.

George Rainsford makes his Casualty debut in the episode airing tonight at 9.20pm on BBC1