Casualty stars on Cal's surprise return from the dead

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Casualty spoilers follow.

In case you've been living under a rock these past few weeks, you'll know that Casualty is marking its 35th anniversary milestone this weekend. And there are some big surprises in store.

Tonight's special episode (August 14) will see the show flash back to 2016 as part of Ethan's tragic story, with reappearances from his dead brother Cal, a late Noel, and a departed Big Mac.

But why is Cal back? And what does the future hold for Ethan in the wake of Fenisha's death? Here, George Rainsford and Rich Winsor, who play Ethan and Cal respectively, reveal all.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

How did you react when you learned that Cal would be coming back?

George: "I was thrilled to be working with Richard Winsor again. We lived together when he was a regular on the show and have remained great friends since. My only apprehension was in what capacity Cal would be returning. I mean, it can't be a good sign for Ethan if he is seeing his dead brother right?!"

Cal has come back from the dead! How has that happened, what's going on?

Richard: "He's come back to haunt Ethan's dreams! He's there to help Ethan through a very difficult time, be his voice of reason and make him see that life is still worth living, especially for Bodhi his son. He was always Ethan's rock in life, and he's continuing that in death."

What was it like being back on set together?

George: "We were both quite nervous for our first scene actually, but within five minutes it all clicked and we fell back into this really familiar dynamic. All the little Cal wind-ups and Ethan's frustrations instantly reappeared, which was wonderful. Without giving away any spoilers, the nature of what we were filming this time around was very different from four years ago, so there were lots of new things to explore too."

Richard: "I loved it. We just have so much fun, which was one of the main things I missed after leaving Casualty. It was like going back in time, it was great."

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

What was it like being back at Casualty and reprising the role of Cal?

Richard: "As soon as I put the scrubs back on, I looked in the mirror and it just felt like I'd been on holiday. It's like second nature playing Cal. I know it's a bit cliché to say, but it really feels like a family at Casualty. Seeing all the faces from the past and all the people on set, it just feels like a supportive family unit."

How has present-day Ethan changed since the one we see in the episode (five years ago)?

George: "We find Ethan just after he has learned about inheriting the Huntington's gene from his mother and that was the start of some incredibly life-changing moments for him. The last five years have included his brother being murdered, Ethan exacting some sort of revenge by allowing Cal's killer to die, breaking up with Alicia, saving Connie's life, getting promoted to clinical lead, and being utterly useless in the role, nearly dying in a market explosion, having a baby, having to tell the mother of his child about his condition and finally getting engaged.

"Quite the rollercoaster! In many ways he has grown up, he has lost his innocence, maybe some of the frivolous light-heartedness of youth, and inevitably carries some darkness about him. He has become accustomed to (at times consumed by) grief but is not defined by it. He still wants to be happy."

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

What can viewers expect to see in the special anniversary episode?

George: "I think as well as the return of some fan-favourites, the episode itself is unique in that it explores some events from five years ago that have a significant impact in the present. It's an origins story for some powerful storylines going into the new series. Namely, a new consultant called Stevie who has a devastating connection to Ethan."

Richard: "A lot of emotional heart-wrenching drama! A little bit of cheekiness from Cal, and some really lovely brotherly bonding between Ethan and Cal."

A lot has been going on in Ethan's life recently. How do you think he'll cope following Fenisha's death? And what's next for him?

George: "I think because he has experienced so much pain already in his life, he has an understanding of it and what's needed to recover from it. Ethan reacts emotionally to grief but, instinctively, runs away from addressing his problems. But as we know, they catch up with you in the end. So I think he has to use what has happened to him as a tool to improve the lives of others. Acceptance and finding peace in his own life will come about by being a great doctor and a kind and forgiving colleague. You'll have to stay tuned to see if that's possible!"

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

There's always been a bit of sibling rivalry between Cal and Ethan… but who's best at remembering their lines?

George: "I think we are about the same! You'd think I'd have four more years of practice than Rich but I often forget what I'm doing and swear profusely in front of the crew! What I had really missed from working with him is his infectious corpsing (the name we use for laughing during a take). He can't control his breathing when he suppresses a giggle and the agony on his face when he tries to do so is hysterical. It usually disrupts filming for a good half an hour once it starts!"

Richard: "This is a tough one! To start with, George, but after a few months, we were probably even. We were more likely to put each other off by laughing than anything. We've had moments where our bodies hurt from laughing!"

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Why do you think Casualty remains so popular after 35 years?

George: "As Will Beck said in his speech when we won the BAFTA, I think at its best, Casualty dramatises the everyday. Fans want strong characters that are relatable yet flawed and stories that are dramatic, current, and original. I'm constantly amazed at what they come up with to keep the show feeling fresh and yet still honouring its core theme: everyday heroes. And given the last 18 months, and everything we have seen our NHS and frontline workers do, that is something definitely worth celebrating."

Richard: "I think because it tells the truth, it tells true stories. Especially over the past year and a half with what we've been through as a country. A show like Casualty can really reflect the lives of people and try and shine a light on certain issues, like Huntington's disease for example, which has affected Ethan and Cal. These kinds of issues can really be brought to the fore and people can really relate to it. It's also a really great family drama that brings people together on a Saturday night. I always watched it with my family when we were younger."

What was your fondest memory of your time on Casualty?

Richard: "I think it has to be the National Television Awards. Going with a group of people you really love working with and receiving an accolade for something you all worked so hard on was just lovely. People came up to us and told us their experiences of how a storyline made an impact on them, and it made us realise how much Casualty is touching people's lives. It felt very humbling."

Casualty airs its feature-long episode tonight at 8.45pm on BBC One.

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