Casualty: Fenisha tends to patients in 'Code Orange' episode
Charles, 47, has played nurse Jacob Masters for six years on Casualty and in that time, the character has seen lots come through the doors of the Holby City A&E department. However, nothing could have prepared the cast for the reality hospitals and NHS staff have faced this year in light of the coronavirus pandemic. With the medical environment seeing hundreds of patients coming through their doors each day since the beginning of March, it was inevitable the BBC drama was going to reflect the reality of the situation for so many front line workers. In one of the most hard-hitting pieces of television to date, the beloved team don the PPE to try and save the lives of all those who enter their care.
Speaking about returning to filming and covering the pandemic exclusively in the first episode of the new series, Charles said: “We felt very strongly we had something very, very special.
“One of the strong things about Casualty is the fact that it tackles those issues that some shows will feel somewhat lairy about challenging.
“Being the UK’s number one medical drama, it was incumbent upon us to tell this particular story – we had to touch on this COVID situation; one of the most devastating episodes in the history of humankind.”
Over the past three decades, viewers have come to love the characters of the medical drama and have developed somewhat of a bond with them.
For this reason, scenes from this evening’s instalment will be more emotive as the front line workers put their lives on the line to save others.
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“That’s what makes it so special,” Charles explains, adding: “You’re dealing with characters that have engaged themselves to the heart of the show.
“We are telling stories that are real, these stories have happened, they are happening. In the case of the COVID situation and this virus has been so devastating.
“We had to be as authentic, dare I say not pull any punches because it would have been a disservice for us to have done that.
“It is an episode that is going to trigger memories. It will upset viewers but at the same time, it would have been something that perhaps would have been frowned upon.”
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Felt very strongly we had something special
The actor added: “It’s just something of such high significance this particular episode and the audience will follow that journey with us.”
Within the episode, the effect the virus has had on the BAME community will also be addressed, with Charles stating: “Hearing that people from ethnic minorities were susceptible to this wretched virus, it was very hard and painful to hear.
“It’s painful enough to hear it’s killing people generally but to hear that, it made me more cautious about my own family, just making sure that they took the necessary measures to protect themselves from this.
“There will be nurses and doctors who watch the show from the ethnic minority, that will resonate more so [with the episode].”
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It has been several months since viewers were last treated to an episode of the BBC medical drama as production was shut down nationwide.
Back in September, a previously unaired episode which saw the characters tackling an unknown threat was broadcast.
Code Orange was scheduled to air earlier in the year but due to similarities to the global health crisis, bosses decided it was insensitive to broadcast when planned.
Cast members are now filming new episodes for the brand-new series, although filming is taking longer than before.
Of the measures in place to protect staff, Charles explained: “Safety is paramount, safety first and foremost.
“So as a result, naturally, shots take longer than they would have. Extreme precautions have been put in place.”
With a person designated to ensure actors keep two metres part, the process was somewhat tedious at times.
“It’s definitely had an effect on how long it takes us to shoot scenes whereas before, we could have maybe packed in four or five,” the former Strictly Come Dancing contestant added.
“We have an entire scene that would run to two pages or two and a half, that will take most of the day now as a result, because of the restrictions,” Charles continued.
“But we are very okay with the process now and we have become very accustomed to it. We deal with it now very efficiently, which is great.
“It doesn’t feel like a huge task for us anymore which is wonderful. You want to be creative, you don’t want to feel as though you have these restrictions.”
Casualty returns tonight at 7:35pm on BBC One.
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