Casualty's new recruit Lee Mead joins the BBC medical drama tonight (March 1), taking on the role of Ben "Lofty" Chiltern.
Lofty is being introduced as a likeable new nurse for Holby's Emergency Department, but he doesn't make the best first impression as his debut episode sees him cause chaos for his future colleague Robyn Miller (Amanda Henderson).
In real life, Mead is making the move over to TV after ten years in musical theatre. Digital Spy recently caught up with him to chat about the switch and what's to come for Lofty.
How does it feel to have joined the cast?
"I'm loving it - it's a whole new experience for me. I'm having a great time and it's a new phase of my career now, because I've done a lot of theatre for the past ten years and this is my first regular acting role on TV. I'm really enjoying it and it's a great time."
How did you first hear about the role?
"I got a call from my agent last year, around August or September time, asking me to go and read for a role in the show. I was given a few scenes to read and went in there in front of the producer and the casting people. I managed to deliver what they required and got the role, so I was really chuffed.
"I'd already done a guest episode in Casualty in 2011. The executive producer Oliver Kent obviously kept me in mind after that, as he put the call in to my agent for me to go in for this part. They actually wrote the role for me, which is a real honour, especially as it's such a big show. It's very rare that happens!"
As you mentioned, Casualty is very different from your previous work. Has it been easy to adjust to the fast-paced nature of it?
"It's a very different way of working. In a theatre show, you have four or five weeks of rehearsal with the director and the other actors. Then once the show opens, you work in the evenings but have your daytime free.
"When you're filming Casualty, you're sometimes on set for ten hours a day from 7am to late. There's also a lot of waiting around between scenes, but what I really enjoy is the whole process and how intricate the whole thing is. It's really interesting to see how the whole thing comes together. As well as the actors, there's a crew of about 30-odd people working on each scene that you do, so a lot of people come together to make it all happen!"
How would you describe Lofty?
"Lofty is a cheeky chap, really! He's a nice bloke with good intentions, but he's also very lazy. Lofty has been living at home and he's kept telling his parents that he's going to get a job at some point and get his own place, but he just hasn't got round to it yet! He's a trained nurse, but he's just been enjoying taking money from his parents and going out drinking!
"It gets to the point where his parents have had enough, and his dad virtually kicks him out. Lofty then lies and says that he's got his own place, but he's actually nicked the keys to a student flat that his dad owns!"
That's how we first meet Lofty, isn't it?
"Yes, Lofty has snuck into the loft of one student flat and he's been staying there for about four or five days. He's been sneaking down, nicking their food and clothes! In the end, he's caught by Robyn while he's ironing his shirt at two in the afternoon! She chases him out and he ends up leaping over fences in the pouring rain.
"Unfortunately Robyn then puts her foot through a rake, as you do in Casualty! There's a moment where Lofty has to decide whether to leave her and run, or do the right thing. He decides to do the right thing, but that means missing his job interview that he's got at the same hospital that day.
"Fortunately Robyn ends up getting him the interview back, and he gets a job as the new nurse. The nickname 'Lofty' comes from the four or five days he spent in the loft trying to nick food!"
It's a very unusual way to bring in a new character! Were you pleased with that?
"I was! I thought it was quite fun and I knew from the start that this would be a very interesting character. Lofty brings a great energy to work with him. He's got quite a fun element to him and a positive outlook. Lofty is also quite clumsy, though - he often says the wrong thing and there's the odd occasion where he's falling over things!"
Do the existing characters warm to Lofty?
"So far I've shot about four or five episodes, and generally he's got along with most people. There's a couple of moments where he gets into trouble with Tess and Charlie, though. There's an episode where Lofty actually takes a patient away from the hospital with Dixie on a day trip.
"That's quite a fun episode that we did, but they do get in a bit of trouble over it. Essentially they're doing a good deed, but it does lead to a bit of trouble for Lofty as he gets demoted for a while and sent to another part of the hospital!"
What was your first day on set like? Were you nervous?
"I was nervous, yes! I get nervous with every first day on a new job, but I think that's down to wanting to do well and wanting to deliver. After a few days of working on set and meeting the guys, it was fine. It's been a lot of fun, a really great process and also a new challenge for myself."
Do you have an idea of how long you'd like to stay for?
"It depends on the storylines, really, and how far we can take Lofty. It'll also depend on how well the character is received. I'm signed for a year but I don't think too far ahead, to be honest. I'm enjoying my time here now and I'll assess the future closer to the time. As long as I am enjoying myself and the audience are liking the character, it'd be nice to stay on - but we'll have to wait and see!"
Read our spoiler for tonight's episode of Casualty
Read more Casualty spoilers and news
Casualty airs Lofty's first episode tonight (March 1) at 9.20pm on BBC One.
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