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Exclusive: 'Casualty' producer Nikki Wilson talks future storylines - interview

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Casualty's series producer Nikki Wilson

© BBC

Casualty returns from its transmission break tonight (July 7), airing new recruit Alex Walkinshaw's debut scenes as cheeky nurse Fletch.

Fans can expect a big few weeks ahead for the BBC medical drama in the build-up to its two-part series finale later this month, so Digital Spy recently caught up with Casualty's series producer Nikki Wilson for all the gossip on what's in store…

Which Casualty moments or storylines are you most proud of from recent times?
"I'm really proud of the three-part gang story that we did earlier this year. It was a departure for the show to do a guest story that played out over three episodes, and we also put an awful lot of time and effort into doing research with the writers.

"We spent time not only with rehabilitated gang members, but also members of the police and community support services to get a real picture of what life is like for young people who get drawn into that world. That would definitely be a highlight for me.

"The other strand that I've really enjoyed the progression of has been Sam and Dylan's story - watching their relationship unfold and how we've charted that alongside the GMC investigation for Sam. I think that's been really successful. Additionally, tying that in with the Red Button special was so appreciated based on the feedback that we received from audience members."

How has the show coped with the production move to Cardiff?
"The move was really well managed - we literally shut down filming in Bristol in the middle of August last year and opened up in Cardiff two weeks later, so it all ran very smoothly.

"The huge advantage for us of being in Cardiff is that what was spread over five sites in Bristol is now all in one place! In Bristol, the exteriors of the hospital, the CDU set and the ambulance station were all separate locations from the interior sets, which meant that we had to be quite restrictive in terms of how much story could be told in each one.

"Also, in Bristol the flow from the outside to the inside of the hospital would never happen - it would always be that we'd film the exterior scene and pick up several days later with the trolley coming into the studio. Having everything on one site has meant that our directors have really embraced the challenges of seamlessly flowing one scene to another - having the camera following our medics on a journey through the hospital and passing story batons from one character to another. To me, it feels a lot more like a real hospital with a flow of energy that you would see in any real-life A&E."

Once the Cardiff episodes started airing, we noticed a lot of comments from viewers who felt that the show seemed a lot more like the Casualty of old. Did the set move coincide with a conscious change in style?
"In the previous year, the show had veered quite heavily towards more serialised stories, so we wanted to take it back to being much more 'story of the week' based, with big guest stories and stunts. But of course, those stories are very much played through the prism of our regular medics who we know and love."

Alex Walkinshaw as Adrian 'Fletch' Fletcher in Casualty

© BBC

Alex Walkinshaw as Fletch

Alex Walkinshaw in Casualty

© BBC



When Casualty returns to screens on July 7, Alex Walkinshaw joins the cast as new nurse Fletch. What can the viewers expect from him?
"Fletch is a brilliant character and I'm already completely in love with him! He's a real cheeky chappy who has changed his career later in life. Fletch was a car mechanic who ran his own garage, but his business went under during the recession, so he chose to re-train as a nurse. From talking to the Royal College of Nursing, we discovered that this is quite a regular pattern at the moment - real-life A&Es are seeing a lot of people coming into nursing later in life.

"Fletch brings a real sense of humour into our nursing team. You'll see a real charm, energy and playfulness from his character, which is absolutely joyous."

Gemma Atkinson also recently revealed her return as paramedic Tamzin. Is she back for good, or just for another guest stint?
"Tamzin is coming back for several months. We've got quite a long story planned for her, but there is an end to it. So the viewers will see that she's back for a while and she injects a new energy into Jeff and Dixie and their relationship. There's actually quite an explosive ending for her, which is going to be really exciting!"

Apart from Fletch, are there any more full-time characters joining the show in the foreseeable future?
"Long-term, we are planning to introduce a new group of student nurses, which we're all very excited about. There haven't really been any new student characters since the new F2 doctors were brought in a couple of years ago, so there are some new student nurses on the way. They won't be on screen until early next year, but we're already devising them and starting to look at casting as well."

Can you tell us about any special guest stars that fans should look out for in upcoming episodes?
"We have Connie Fisher returning for a bit of a longer stint this time round. She'll be playing Amanda, the same character that she portrayed in episode 30 with the mineshaft story. You'll see her come back into the hospital and start volunteering in the shop. She causes some waves, so we're really looking forward to having the character back."

Are there any more crossovers with Holby City in the pipeline?
"We do have a couple planned, actually! There are a couple of stories on the way in Holby City where our characters will be going over. On top of that, we've also got one in Casualty in the next series - there's a moment where Big Mac and Elliot have a scene together. We do look for opportunities where we can cross the shows over and give audiences that treat."

Are there any plans for more feature-length episodes for big stories, as we saw with the gas explosion earlier this year?
"We don't have plans to do any more feature-length episodes, as what we've actually found is that Casualty stories are sustained so well over 50 minutes.

"We think it works much better when we have two-part or even three-part stories, like we saw in the gang episodes. We're focusing more on finding big stories that can give you those treats of two or three parts, rather than a feature-length version."

Sunetra Sarker as Zoe Hanna in Casualty

© BBC

Sunetra Sarker in Casualty

© BBC



Character-wise, does Zoe have any big storylines coming up?
"Oh yes! There are big, big storylines on the way for Zoe. We absolutely love the character, but I think she hasn't had much in the way of big stories recently. There's a big challenge coming up for Zoe at the beginning of the next series, and that will take her right the way through the series…"

We still see comments from readers who'd love to see Zoe and Jordan back together. Is there any hope there?
"I'm afraid not! Zoe and Jordan have moved on and they won't be romantically linked again, but they will always have that shared history and a special 'close colleague' relationship."

What can we expect from Jordan in the next few months?
"Jordan has got some big, big challenges coming up. On screen we've now established his romance with Yvonne, the police officer character. That comes to a really explosive climax soon! The two-part finale of the current series is going to be huge for Jordan and really, really exciting. It leaves us with a nail-biting ending. So if you're a Jordan fan, keep watching for the end of the series..."

One of our readers picked up on Dixie's comments about her desire to know what it would be like to be a mother. Will this be brought up again?
"That's an interesting one - your readers should definitely tune in for Jeff and Dixie's Red Button special later this month, because we get to know them a bit more and find out more about their relationship. Also, Dixie's relationship with Jeff's children is explored in that episode, so it's definitely one for their fans."

Derek Thompson as Charlie Fairhead in Casualty

© BBC

Suzanne Packer as Tess Bateman in Casualty

© BBC



Are there any stories on the way for Tess and Charlie?
"Well, with Fletch coming into the show along with the new student nurses, there's going to be a lot of focus on the nursing team in the next series. The viewers can expect new challenges for Tess and Charlie as a result of that."

Linda has had big stories recently. Can you tell us what's next for her?
"Again, the end of the current series is one to watch out for! There's a surprise visitor who turns up and throws up a new set of challenges for Linda, which then play out at the beginning of the next series..."

What's coming up for Dylan?
"Well, of course, with Connie Fisher's character Amanda coming back, that's going to be an interesting storyline for Dylan. He obviously saved her life very heroically in the cave episode, so she comes back with rather a hero worship of him! That will test him, that's for sure!"

Can you tell us what's ahead for Lloyd and Scarlett as their story continues?
"I'm going to say watch the end of the series again! The two-part special at the end of the current series sees Lloyd and Scarlett's relationship really tested to its maximum. You'll have seen on screen that Scarlett has now met Lloyd's family, and they return in the upcoming finale, which sets the cat amongst the pigeons."

Is there any hope for Sam and Dylan's relationship?
"Wouldn't you like to know! (Laughs) All I can say is that on July 7, there is a big episode for Sam and Dylan. It's going to bring up a whole new heap of stuff for them, so keep watching for that."

You mentioned better stunts due to the reduction in episodes - are there any particularly big ones on the way?
"Our two-part finale is a biggie - those episodes are going to be epic. It sees rioting on the streets of Holby, so there are some really big sequences there. Also, it's been directed by Reza Moradi, who directed our big feature-length opening from Cardiff, so there's lots and lots to look forward to there..."

Can you give us any final teasers?
"In terms of exciting events and stunts, the opening episode of the next series sees Sam and Tom out as medics at a music festival when a huge disaster unfolds. It will be a big episode and very exciting for our viewers."

> Read the latest 'Casualty' spoilers and news

Casualty airs tonight (Saturday, July 7) at 9.10pm on BBC One. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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