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'Doctors' Elisabeth Dermot Walsh talks Zara's baby arrival: Interview

By
Elisabeth Dermot Walsh

© BBC

Doctors favourite Zara Carmichael begins an exciting new chapter of her life next week as she welcomes the arrival of a baby boy.

Zara panics as she goes into premature labour at The Mill in a week's time, and with her partner Daniel Granger (Matthew Chambers) unreachable, some of her colleagues are forced to step in and oversee the delivery of her child - who she later names Joe.

Digital Spy recently caught up with Elisabeth Dermot Walsh, who plays Zara, to hear about the storyline and what's to come for her on Doctors in the next few weeks.

How did you prepare for Zara's labour scenes?
"It was very daunting, really - especially as we know that so many people watching Doctors are people who are staying at home with their children. It will be fresh in their memories, so I didn't want to do it wrong! But of course, when you start researching, you discover that it's different for every woman - and if you ask people about giving birth, everybody will say something different.

"I've been preparing for it for a long time, though, as it's what my character has wanted ever since she came into the show. That was nearly three years ago, so to finally get the thing that I've played her as wanting for so long was quite emotional to shoot."

What goes through Zara's mind during the labour?
"She's completely hysterical. She's such a control freak, but in this situation, everything is out of her control. That doesn't make Zara happy at all, so she's way out of her comfort zone in every way. She would have liked it to be in hospital - preferably, she would have liked to have been the doctor in charge of her own labour! (Laughs) But of course that's impossible.

"In the event, Daniel isn't even there, she's not in a hospital, and some of her least favourite people are present! It's all extremely undignified, with not a hint of glamour or ease. So it's not what she would have preferred at all."

How does Zara feel about Daniel not being there?
"When she goes into labour, she's absolutely frantic to get hold of him, and most of her labour cries are Daniel's name. She's in despair that he's not there. But of course, when the baby is coming, the baby is coming - so she just has to get on with it!"

Cherry is there with Zara while she's in labour. What's the atmosphere like between the two of them?
"It is extraordinary, because Zara often treats Cherry so badly. Occasionally, Cherry gets her claws out and fights back, but usually she just shakes her head and shrugs it off when Zara is so rude to her.

"Just prior to the labour, Zara goes on Cherry's hen night and they have a huge row - and Zara nearly spoils the whole thing. So at this point, they really are on the least friendly terms that they could ever be. But I think the labour brings them together. I'm not sure how long that will last, though!"

Zara Carmichael (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh) and Daniel Granger's (Matthew Chambers) baby has arrived
What do you think of Zara and Daniel calling the baby Joe?
"I think it's really appropriate, because Daniel's father figure was Doctor Joe Fenton, who was on the show for years and was the patriarch of Doctors for a long time. So that's a very significant name for Daniel, and I think it's very loving of Zara that she doesn't insist on calling the baby something like Lysander or Demetrius - as she'd teased him that she would!"

Zara struggles with not being able to hold the baby, doesn't she?
"Yes, the baby is premature so he goes into an incubator - and that must be heartbreaking, because just when she most wants to touch her baby, comfort him and look after him, she can't. I think Zara worries about how that's going to affect her bonding with the child. She's really wanted a baby, but she's not naturally maternal - or she doesn't think she is, anyway. So that's a terrible worry for her."

How will Zara cope with motherhood?
"Well, we know that Zara is a tremendous control freak - and I suppose that's in her favour in terms of being organised, but against her in terms of the natural chaos of having a baby in your life! So I can't imagine her with baby sick down her designer jackets, but I'm sure it's coming!"

Zara Carmichael (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh) and Daniel Granger's (Matthew Chambers) baby has arrived
How will parenthood affect Daniel and Zara's relationship?
"Well, we can only hope that it keeps them together. They love each other very much, but they're a pair of tinkers! They both have pasts, they're both naughty, they'll both lie without batting an eyelid to get themselves out of trouble, and they've both been quite immoral in the past. They also fight so easily, so I think they've been given a new extraordinary subject to fight about!"

Have you enjoyed working with babies on set in the past few months?
"It's been amazing. We've had three or four different sets of twins playing Joe, so that's six or eight different babies. I hope the audience don't spot the difference! On any one given day, you'd have one set of twins, and then if one doesn't want to play, they can be whisked away for a cuddle with their real mummy. But for me playing Zara, I suppose it's very misleading about motherhood - because if the baby cries, someone just whisks him away and replaces him with one that isn't crying!"

Zara Carmichael (Elisabeth Dermot Walsh) and Daniel Granger's (Matthew Chambers) baby has arrived
Zara and Daniel's relationship has a loyal following among the Doctors fans. Is it flattering to have that support?
"Yes, it's just wonderful that people like them as a couple. They're both not afraid to behave badly, and yet the public seem to enjoy them and enjoy their relationship. I think that's because they have a true connection - I do think they're meant to be together.

"And the Twitter followers are so supportive and wonderful. Because of the nature of Twitter, you get instant feedback from an episode after broadcast. It's really touching. Over the last year, I've also had lots of letters from people who are trying to have babies or going through IVF, or have sadly lost children. Doctors is an entertainment show, but I think people like that we're portraying big issues as well."

Are you sticking around on Doctors for the foreseeable future?
"I am, yes! I love it. I feel very lucky to be here, and the best part is playing such a fun character, who is so contradictory and has so many different facets. I really enjoy playing someone who so readily behaves appallingly!"

> To find out more about Zara's future and life at Doctors, read the second part of our interview with Elisabeth in Soap Scoop.

Doctors airs Zara's labour scenes on Monday, February 13 at 1.45pm on BBC One. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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