Get set for a power struggle in the ED this Saturday as former Holby City surgeon Connie Beauchamp arrives on Casualty to lock horns with trauma lead Zoe Hanna. So is Connie still as ruthless as ever? And who exactly is in the firing line? Actress Amanda Mealing reveals all:
Do you think that it’s still rare to see powerful, independent female characters like Connie on TV?
Very much so, unfortunately. When women are involved in a story, they are usually the wife, the mistress, the mother or the lover. They are attached to a man and it’s often his story and she’s just a part of it. So to have someone like Connie, who is a very prominent and dominant woman in a man’s world, is a lovely thing.
So, is Connie still a ball-breaker?
Yes, absolutely. She’s still a ball-breaker and she doesn’t suffer fools. That’s the essence of Connie. She’s not interested in making friends – she just wants what’s best for her and her team. She doesn’t take orders and she doesn’t do what she’s told. Because Connie always knows best. So all that causes a bit of tension, but she’s coming in to learn every possible aspect of the emergency department.
Who’s in the firing line?
Well, immediately, Zoe and Connie don’t get on. Zoe is very lackadaisical in her leadership, which is the antithesis of how Connie does things. So there’s immediate friction. Connie’s entire focus is on getting the leadership of the ED. She wants to take over and for it to be her department.
What’s her opening scene like?
We see a taxi door opening and a very expensive Christian Louboutin shoe coming out. So that’s Connie arriving. And then she just struts through the corridors at the hospital cursing everyone.
Do you ever channel Connie in real life? I imagine it must be quite tempting…
Oh goodness, you’d think so, but no. I know she can be intimidating because Sunetra Sarker [who plays Zoe] and I were doing a scene where Connie is really laying in to Zoe. It’s a major fall out. And after the take, Sunetra said, “Oh my god, you really scared me”. But can I get my children to pick up their toys? No!
When you left Holby City in 2010, you said you were leaving on a high and that you didn’t want to see Connie diminished – so why return now?
I can promise you that there have been daily calls on Twitter for Connie to come back. And this is three years after she went! It would have been difficult for her to return to Holby City because it would have been the same setting and dynamic. But we can do different things with her now that she’s in Casualty. And I do genuinely love her. She’s great fun to play.
Is she an easy character to slip back into?
Before I started filming, I was pacing around my kitchen trying to say the lines and thinking that I’d forgotten how to do her. But once I got the shoes on and was back in situ around all that medical equipment, it all came back very quickly.
Is the filming schedule hectic on Casualty?
Yes, but I have made it worse for myself. As well as the 12-hour filming days, I’m also training to do the London Marathon and studying for a psychology degree. It’s quite ridiculous. A couple of the girls on the cast call me Wonder Woman. I call myself Wonder Why Woman.
So would you like to practice psychology in the future?
I would. I’ve been acting long enough to know that it doesn’t last forever. So if the acting game no longer wants me, then I really would like to go into psychology. I think I have a natural empathy, which is half the job. And I don’t think it’s that far removed from my work. As an actor, I have to look at a script and work out why a person would do what they do and say what they say. So it’s almost like building a psychological profile.
Have you and your family relocated to Cardiff for Casualty?
Yes, we have. I initially said no to returning – the reason I left Holby City was because I was commuting all the time and missing my family. But, this time, we thought it’d be a great adventure if we moved. And we absolutely love it. I adore Wales, I get to do what I love and go home at the end of the day to see my family.
Plus, it all came about at an auspicious time. One of my boys [Mealing has two children: Milo, 14 and Otis, 11] was about to start his GCSE coursework and the other had just moved from junior school. So this was the only time we could make the move without it being too disruptive. All that’s left now is for Connie to be well received and I’ll have done my job.
Looking back to when you were on Grange Hill [Mealing played schoolgirl Tracy Edwards in 1980], did you ever think you’d still be acting over 30 years later?
Any actor, no matter what age they start, has dreams and visions of it being a long career. But I’ve honestly had an incredible time. I wouldn’t say lucky; I don’t believe in luck. It’s been a lot of hard work and determination and perseverance. It hasn’t always gone my way, but I’ve kept going at it. What has happened so far has been amazing and, without doubt, Connie has been the highlight of it.
Casualty is on Saturday 29 March at 9.20pm on BBC1 and you can see a behind-the-scenes peek below: