For an actor who’s survived more deaths than most, the original Mr Manimal remains optimistic
There’s a Casualty/Holby City special this Saturday. What is it?
It’s an organ donation episode. It’s the end of the BBC’s organ donor week, and we’ve combined with Holby to do a story that is organ-donor driven but has some reality TV elements to it.
What, as in people will vote out the organ they don’t like?
No. We’ve already created the drama part but the programme’s going to be bookended by Professor Robert Winston who makes an appeal in order to promote the notion of donation, which is also being pronounced as Do-Nation – as in the nation should respond by getting on to the organ donation register.
Casualty teaming up with Holby City again. Last time you did that you burnt the hospital down…
Yes, that was our Christmas show. We’ll be more careful this time.
Is there fierce competition between the two?
I think there’s a healthy rivalry, but they are our sister show. Casualty has been on the air some 20 years. Six years ago they created Holby to take over, but Casualty never went and Holby hasn’t been able to catch it.
When you’re working together do you try and put them off?
No! Not in the least. Half a dozen artists from each show participate and everyone’s mutually supportive – we’re all trying to do the best for the audience. The rivalry’s very much off screen, if indeed there is any rivalry. There’s always a bit of us and them because we shoot in different locations. But we’re both very successful shows. And of course Casualty knows it’s in its rightful place as the number one…
Naughty! So the question is, when is your character, poor old Harry Harper, going to get any serious action with the ladies?
I think it’s a question of watch this space. But Harry has certainly had a lean time of it since his wife turfed him out two-and-a-half seasons ago.
Do actors on Casualty get “Casualty moments” – the prickling sensation that something awful is going to happen when you get close to a boiling kettle or dodgy scaffolding?
There are moments when you do have a heightened sense of the because you’re around these stories all the time. You find yourself getting down about life when you’re filming certain scenes – there’s emotional stuff going on around you. It must be like that being a doctor – if you only ever see people in ill health it must be negative factor to how it affect your day.
I was a big fan of Manimal, the 80’s police drama in which your character could change into animals to help solve crime. It didn’t last long but it’s become cult viewing. Why do you think that was?
Because it was an extremely clever idea. I always liked the character and the concept, and I think it was ahead of it’s time. The sad part was that I didn’t feel they fully exploited either of those things. Also, we were put up against Dallas and we couldn’t make a dent. Some people have said it was a duff show, but I think the fact that it has become such a cult has proved me right. Who knows, it may come around again someday.
Would you reprise your role?
Well yes, but it would be different. Son of Manimal or something like that.
Talking of animals, you own your own stud farm with over 50 horses. Do you prefer the company of horses or humans?
I think you’re lucky in your life if you’ve got variation. You enjoy both more by halving alternatives
Have wild horses ever dragged you away?
Ha! No. Fortunately not, or not yet.
One final question: in Death On The Nile you were shot twice; in Quatermass, you were beaten up and shot; in Caboblanco, you caught a bullet in the shoulder and almost bled to death; in I, Claudius you were drowned; in Falcon’s Gold you were beaten up, chased. beaten up again and finished up hanging from a helicopter; in Jaws III, you were chomped by a 35ft shark… I could go on. What do you think your chances are of surviving much longer in Casualty?
Whatever happens, it will be a glorious exit on one way or another, and it won’t just be a posting somewhere else, that’s for sure.