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The longest serving TV actors as Derek Thompson quits Casualty after 37 years

From Last of the Summer Wine to The Simpsons - which actors have played the same role for the longest?

Casualty actor Derek Thompson has played Charlie Fairhead for 37 years. (BBC)
Casualty actor Derek Thompson has played Charlie Fairhead for 37 years. (BBC)

Casualty star Derek Thompson has announced he is quitting the soap after 37 years.

The 75-year-old actor has been a familiar face in the BBC medical drama as nurse Charlie Fairhead since its pilot episode in 1986.

In 2017, the actor was the top earner in the scripted TV (drama and comedy) category at the BBC, earning between £350,000-£399,999 and ranking above stars such as EastEnders star Danny Dyer and Doctor Who's Peter Capaldi.

Read more: Casualty's Duffy leaving the hospital drama after 33 years

Thompson is the longest serving Casualty actor after co-star Cathy Shipton left in 2019.

But which actors sit alongside him for playing the same role for the longest time?

William Roache - Coronation Street, 63 years

William Roache as Corrie's Ken Barlow.
William Roache holds the world record for longest serving TV soap star. (ITV)

William Roache, 91, holds the Guiness World Record for longest serving actor in a television soap.

He has starred in Coronation Street as Ken Barlow in the ITV soap opera since 1960.

His character had to be temporarily written out of Corrie in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, but he returned after a few months off screen to socially distanced filming in order to protect him from catching the virus.

But as Roache celebrated his 90th birthday with a special ITV documentary Happy Birthday Bill he insisted he has no plans to retire.

Read more: Coronation Street's William Roache reveals secret to staying fit into his 90s

Roache said: "People will say when are you retiring? Are you going to take a break? But then what happens?

"Whilst I can do it, and whilst they will have me, I have no intention of retiring. I am so fortunate to work for an organisation that is happy to have me."

Sir David Jason, Open All Hours, 43 years

David Jason and Ronnie Barker as Granville and Arkwright in Open All Hours in 1973. (Alamy)
David Jason and Ronnie Barker as Granville and Arkwright in Open All Hours in 1973. (Alamy)

Sir David Jason, 83, is perhaps best known as Del Boy in Only Fools And Horses, but that show has only managed 22 years.

He began starring as shop boy Granville alongside Ronnie Barker in sitcom Open All Hours in 1973. The popular show ran for four series until 1985.

Then in 2013, eight years after Barker's death, the show was revived as Still Open All Hours, with Granville now running the corner shop himself.

Read more: David Jason recalls incident with heavy sugar cube prop that 'nearly ended career'

This makes Jason's performance as Granville one of the most enduring roles on TV outside of soap.

Lynda Baron, Open All Hours, 39 years

Television's favourite tight-fisted shopkeeper, A E Arkwright, who is Ronnie Barker, with co-stars Lynda Baron (Nurse Gladys) and David Jason (Arkwright's nephew/assisstant Granville) outside the shop during a break in filming Open All Hours in Doncaster.   (Photo by PA Images via Getty Images)
Lynda Baron [c] as Nurse Gladys with Ronnie Barker and David Jason in Open All Hours. (Getty Images)

Lynda Baron reprised her role as Nurse Gladys alongside David Jason in the first two series of Still Open All Hours.

She died in March 2022 aged 82, having done a stint in EastEnders as Jane Beale's mum Linda Clarke.

Read more: The Demon Headmaster: The kids' TV show that terrified a generation

Baron was also known to a generation as Auntie Mabel, seeking adventures in her aeroplane with her dog Pippin in CBBC show Come Outside in the 90s.

Chris Chittell - Emmerdale, 37 years

Chris Chittell has played Eric Pollard in Emmerdale for 37 years. (ITV)
Chris Chittell has played Eric Pollard in Emmerdale for 37 years. (ITV)

Chris Chittell, 75, may not have been in Emmerdale Farm when it first started in 1972, but he is currently the rural soap's longest-serving actor.

Eric Pollard arrived in Emmerdale 37 years ago in 1986 as a crooked businessman and quickly made a lot of enemies.

During his time in the soap he has been the centre of many storylines, including struggling with grief after the death of his beloved wife Val in 2017. And in 2022 he helped the show celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Pollard has said of leaving the show: "I can see Pollard heading downhill in five or 10 years' time. But you're only ever as good as your last storyline.

"I've always said that when the writers stop writing for Pollard, I'd leave. And although I'd hate it, I'd just shake everyone's hand and say thank you very much, as the journey has been wonderful."

Nancy Cartwright - The Simpsons, 36 years

Actress Nancy Cartwright attends
Nancy Cartwright has voiced Bart Simpson since 1989. (Getty Images)

Nancy Cartwright, 65, first voiced wayward schoolboy Bart Simpson in a short animation on The Tracy Ullman Show in 1987.

She has now played the role in animated comedy The Simpsons for 36 years to date, tying with co-stars Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner who voice Bart's parents Homer and Marge.

Read more: The Simpsons 'could continue forever' says writer

While perhaps not as mainstream as they were in the 90s, The Simpsons have become icons of pop culture and the show is still being made today.

June Brown - EastEnders, 35 years

June Brown played Dot Cotton in EastEnders for 35 years. (BBC)
June Brown played Dot Cotton in EastEnders for 35 years. (BBC)

June Brown starred in EastEnders for 35 years before she quit the show in 2020.

The soap actor — who died at the age of 95 in 2022 — will always be remembered as chain-smoking laundrette manager Dot, one of the original residents of Albert Square when the BBC soap launched in 1985.

Dot left Albert Square to live in Ireland when Brown announced her retirement.

Read more: EastEnders icon Dot Branning’s most underrated moments

But following Brown's death the BBC celebrated her character by holding a fitting funeral in Walford for her character Dot Cotton, with many EastEnders stars returning to pay their respects.

Ray Meagher - Home and Away, 35 years

Ray Meagher poses with the award for most popular actor at the 60th Annual Logie Awards at The Star Gold Coast on July 1, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.  (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
Ray Meagher has played Alf Stewart in Home And Away since it began. (Getty Images)

Stone the flamin' crows! Ray Meagher, 78, is the longest serving Australian soap star.

He has played Summer Bay's Alf Stewart in Home and Away since the Aussie soap launched in 1988.

And after 35 years it doesn't look like Meagher has any plans to step away from Summer Bay.

Read more: Ray Meagher signs five year Home and Away deal

In January he revealed: "I signed a contract last year for another five years! So I’ll definitely see that out.”

Peter Sallis, Last of the Summer Wine, 34 years

Bill Owen & Peter Sallis Television: Last Of The Summer Wine (TV-Serie) Characters: Compo Simmonite & Clegg  Uk 1973-2010, 12 June 1976   **WARNING** This Photograph is for editorial use only and is the copyright of BBC and/or the Photographer assigned by the Film or Production Company and can only be reproduced by publications in conjunction with the promotion of the above Film. A Mandatory Credit To BBC is required. The Photographer should also be credited when known. No commercial use can be granted without written authority from the Film Company.
Peter Sallis [r] and Bill Owen as Clegg and Compo in BBC sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine. (Alamy)

Last of the Summer Wine was a BBC comedy that ran from 1973 to 2010, documenting the unfortunate antics of a group of pensioners in the Yorkshire Dales.

Peter Sallis — also known as the voice of Wallace in Wallace and Gromit — was the only actor to star in all 295 episodes.

Read more: Wallace and Gromit return in AR story The Big Fix Up

Sallis, who played Clegg in the Sunday evening sitcom, died aged 96 in 2017.

Nick Pickard - Hollyoaks, 28 years

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 02: Nick Pickard attends the British Soap Awards 2018 at Hackney Empire on June 2, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)
Nick Pickard was one of the original cast members of Hollyoaks and is still in it today. (Getty Images)

Nick Pickard, 48, was one of the original cast of E4 soap Hollyoaks when it launched in 1995.

The former child star — who had appeared in EastEnders and Grange Hill — has become an integral character to the soap as Tony Hutchison.

During his 28 years in the show he has survived a brain tumour and been married three times, including to Mandy Richardson and Cindy Cunningham.

Nick's brother John Pickard also joined the soap as Dom Reilly in 2005, bit only lasted five years.

Stefan Dennis - Neighbours, 18 years

Stefan Dennis as Paul Robinson. (Channel 5)
Stefan Dennis as Paul Robinson. (Channel 5)

Stefan Dennis, 64, appeared as Paul Robinson when Neighbours first began in 1985.

Harold Bishop actor Ian Smith may be older, but he didn't join until 1987.

Dennis took a break from the show in 1993 and did not return until 2004.

But even at 18 years he is the longest serving character on Ramsay Street.

And Aussie series Neighbours has just been saved by Amazon after getting the axe so Dennis still has time to clock up more soap service.

Watch: EastEnders John Altman pays tribute to June Brown