Ex-Emmerdale regular Chelsea Halfpenny is back on our screens this weekend when she joins the cast of Casualty to play junior doctor Alicia Munroe. For upbeat Alicia, it’s a shock to the system, first when she’s teamed up with frosty Lily Chao and then when she uncovers the secret of a pregnant patient. But how was it for Halfpenny to get into scrubs? We get all the gossip on the actress’s arrival in A&E…
So, viewers might not know, but you have done Casualty before, haven’t you? Yes, I played a patient back in 2004. My character had a broken leg and the props department made a prosthetic because it had to look swollen. When I started on the show this year, I asked the props people if they still had my leg. But they didn’t, so I was a bit gutted about that!
Did Derek Thompson [Charlie] remember you? Yes! It was more the name ‘Halfpenny’ that he remembered because it’s quite unusual. We have reminisced about who was there at the time because, of course, he’s seen every generation of cast come through.
Tell us about the auditioning process for playing Alicia – did you have to prove that you can treat patients? Yes, I had to do an operation on a dummy patient, which was overwhelming because I really didn’t have a clue. Luckily, the medical advisors and Crystal Yu [Lily] helped me out. I had to stand over this weird doll and feed a tube into its throat to help him breathe. I was a bit squeamish, to be honest.
And what’s it like getting to grips with the medical dialogue? Pronouncing the words and making it seem like you know what you’re talking about is one of the most challenging things. The brief says that my character is a brilliant doctor, so I have to make the viewers believe that she’s been in medical school for five years. Thankfully, the jargon is written out phonetically in brackets in the scripts.
Which cast member is best at speaking the medical jargon? Well, Amanda Mealing [Connie] has been doing it for a long time, so she’s an absolute pro. We did a long scene where she had to go from the doors of A&E to Resus giving all these instructions while also stopping a patent from bleeding – and she never put a foot wrong. I’m always nervous if I have just one line in a scene like that because if I mess it up, everyone’s going to be saying, “Oh for God’s sake!”
So as for Alica, she’s very upbeat and enthusiastic – surely that’s going to annoy Lily? Yes, the storyline will all be about their working relationship and how they clash. Lily has struggled with being personable, so she’s annoyed by Alicia who is obviously very comfortable socially. Alicia can be friends with someone straight away and Lily struggles with that side of things. They both could learn from each other, but because it’s such a pressured environment, it doesn’t end up that way. As the audience will see.
And is Alicia going to be romantically linked with anyone in A&E? Weirdly enough, they’ve not paired me with anyone yet. I’m sure it has to happen because there always has to be some love interest. The only two who are of my age, really, are Cal and Ethan. Maybe there could be a love triangle?!
Have you got any big stunts coming up? Watch out for the episode that’ll be shown on the 14th of November. It all revolves around Alicia and I get to voiceover the whole episode. It’s really high drama and you get to find out a lot more about her character. It was actually the most challenging couple of weeks I’ve ever had in my career because I had so much to do.
How long did it take for you to feel like part of the team at Casualty? With long-running dramas, it usually takes a bit longer, especially if people have been there for a long time. You’re working so much that you haven’t always got the time to socialise and make friends, but on this job particularly, I found it really easy. It helps that everyone’s in Cardiff during the week, so we do get to spend time with each other outside of work hours.
And were you sad not to have been at Emmerdale for Val’s final episodes? Yes, I loved that week of the helicopter crash. I thought it was brilliant. So I made sure I tuned in for that. It’s a shame – but obviously I was filming for Casualty. I love Charlie Hardwick [Val] – in fact, I totally miss them all loads. But I thought she had a brilliant exit.
Chelsea Halfpenny arrives in Casualty on Saturday 19 September at 9.20pm on BBC1.