Casualty’s longest-serving actor to leave soap after 37 years

Casualty star Derek Thompson has announced that he is leaving the BBC soap after 37 years.

The 75-year-old actor, who plays Charlie Fairhead, is the longest-serving castmate of the hospital drama, which follows the doctors, nurses at patients in the A&E department of the fictional Holby City Hospital .

On Tuesday (30 May), Thompson announced that he was leaving the show after nearly 900 episodes. His last episode will air in 2024.

“The time has come for me to hang up Charlie’s scrubs after the most wonderful 37 years,” Thompson said.

His character Charlie has been a central part of Casualty since it began in 1986.

The BBC describes him as the “lynchpin of the hospital’s emergency department”, who has been at the centre of “countless major storylines which explored challenging and thought-provoking subjects”.

Thompson explained that the character was inspired by a real nurse called Pete Salt, saying: “Together with the writers and producers, I have tried to bring to Charlie the compassion, kindness, heroism and sound judgment that we all see and love in Pete.

“I want to say thanks to Pete and everyone else over that time who has inspired me in bringing this character to life,” he said.

Thompson on ‘Casualty' (BBC)
Thompson on ‘Casualty' (BBC)

Thompson will continue filming on the show until the autumn, with his final scenes airing next year in the “culmination of a gripping exit storyline which will see the character front and centre of the action”.

Casualty’s executive producer Jon Sen said: “Derek and I would often joke that, after such a long and dramatic career in the NHS, there was almost nothing that Charlie hadn’t seen.

“So it was an amazing surprise to me when Derek arrived with a brilliant idea for Charlie’s exit as part of an upcoming storyline, which was too good to pass up. We will all miss Derek enormously.

He continued: “Over nearly four decades, Derek has crafted an iconic character who is woven into the fabric of British TV history. We will miss his craft, his humour and his on-screen presence. We’re also going to miss a friend, so for the next few months we’re going to have a ball filming Charlie’s final chapter.”

During his time on the show, Charlie was run over by an ambulance on his wedding day, suffered a near-fatal cardiac arrest during a gang siege, and saw the “heart-breaking “farewell” of his loving relationship with fellow nurse Duffy (Cathy Shipton).

In 2017, the actor was the top earner in the scripted TV (drama and comedy) category, ranking above stars such as Danny Dyer and Peter Capaldi, according to figures from the BBC’s annual report.

Additional reporting by Press Association.