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Soaps Interview

Amanda Mealing (Connie Beauchamp, 'Holby City')

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Amanda Mealing as Connie Beauchamp

© BBC Pictures

BBC medical drama Holby City reaches its 500th episode next Tuesday and to mark the occasion, we caught up with long-standing cast member Amanda Mealing to chat about her six years with the programme. The 42-year-old joined the show as cardiothoracic consultant Connie Beauchamp in 2004 and has since appeared in well over 300 episodes. With the ability to silence a room with her stare, Connie has become one of the most-loved characters in the show's 11-year history. Here, Amanda looks back at her favourite moments over the years and teases what's to come from Connie over the next few months.

What does reaching 500 episodes mean to the Holby team?
"It's a huge achievement. Holby's always had a good, high standard and that's not easy thing to do when you're on every week for an hour. We're always pushing it and making it better, too. To still be around for the 500th episode is testament to the passion that we all have. I've said this before - and it sounds really sycophantic but it's true - everyone in every department at this show loves it. I can tell by the guest artistes that come in when they say that Holby's one of the best shows to work on. It's lovely."

You've been in Holby for about six years now - can you believe that you've been there for so long?
"I think I'm up to about 300-something episodes now! I can't believe it. Hugh Quarshie's been in the programme longer than me and he's only been in a few more eps than me! I don't know how I've managed to do it. It's probably why my children don't know me! [Laughs]. I remember signing my first contract that was for three years and I thought 'Oh my God!'. I really wouldn't have stayed around for so long if I didn't love the show and the character."

Why do you think Connie's such a successful character?
"I love her. When I started six years ago, there were two or three powerful, independent female characters on television. It's a rare thing for a woman not to be a love interest or a wife in a story. I get stopped endlessly by women saying, 'She's a bitch but we love Connie'. Love her or loathe her, you can't ignore her. And in a man's world, she just rules - she cuts them off at their knees."

Are you anything like Connie in real life?
"I've been asked this so many times and I always say no, but then when I think about it... I'm an ambassador for Save The Children and last summer, I took three months off to concentrate on that. I ended up calling Ed Milliband and Dave Milliband and I suddenly realised that I'd become like Connie! If a situation's about me or for me, then I'm not like Connie at all. But when it's something like charity, I can be as driven and as passionate as Connie. It's quite shocking really! When you walk away from a situation and think 'I wish I'd said that', they're the times when I wish I was like her."

Do you go home in Connie mode?
"You're joking aren't you? I've got a 6' 5" husband at home with two boys - I've got no chance!"

Do you practice Connie's trademark death stare in the mirror?
"[Laughs] That's one time when Connie does come home with me! If the boys are naughty, they get the stare!"

Looking back over the years, have there been any standout episodes for you?
"I'm lucky enough to say that there have been loads. It's so difficult. For so many reasons, there was an assisted suicide ep with Elliot's wife where she went to Switzerland. It's such a delicate issue to portray on television and both sides of the argument were put so fairly. Then there was this episode where, after four years, we finally 'went home' with Connie to Peckham and caught a glimpse of why she is the way she is because we met her father."

Do you have any memorable lines?
"My favourite ever line from Connie was in the early days opposite an upper class registrar. She was ordering him to do something and he was refusing, so she said: 'You went to public school, it won't be the first time you've had to bend over.' That's why I love this job. That line was fantastic."

What's been your favourite Holby storyline?
"Connie's always great in power battles. She loves striving for a position that somebody else is in. Connie would be great in politics. That's where she's at her best."

Who have been your favourite guest artistes over the years?
"There are only two people in my life that I've ever asked for autographs - one was Ayrton Senna because I'm a massive Formula One fan and the other was Richard Todd from The Dam Busters. He came in as a guest and even the younger cast who had no idea who he was were silenced by his acting. He just commanded the set. He died not so long ago, but his autograph is still inside my script folder."

If you could step into the shoes of another character for a day, who would it be and why?
"It would be quite interesting to play one of the nurses because Connie's very much the problem solver, whereas the nurses do all the caring and get to know the patients. I wouldn't want to do general surgery, though - it's too messy. Bowels and things."

What's on the horizon for Connie?
A little bit of her past returns to the hospital which she's keen to get rid of. She doesn't want everyone to know her roots. We start to see a little bit of vulnerability about her. I've just been filming a fight scene from which I have massive bruises on my neck! Let's jut say that Connie finds herself in a situation where she's attacked - we've not seen her vulnerable side much, so it's great to play."

Are there any storylines that you'd like to see Connie become involved in that she hasn't already?
"I suggested that Connie started losing sensitivity in her hands when she's attacked and slowly became disabled and incapable of doing her job. Or a hostage situation at the hospital - a lockdown situation or something! Now I've done my fight scene, I'm up for doing more action scenes!"

Do you have any plans to leave? Or will you be staying around for another six years?
"I love Connie but I think that I love her enough to want to leave her on a high. I'd never want to over-saturate her. If we ever get to a point where we've told her story, that's the time to stop."

Holby City's 500th episode - titled 'Bette Davis Eyes' - airs on Tuesday, April 13 at 8pm on BBC One. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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