Fans were thrilled to learn that original cast member Cathy Shipton would be making a guest return to CASUALTY for the show’s 20th Anniversary in a special two-part episode set in Cambodia.
Duffy – the ‘mother’ of CASUALTY has come a long way since we were first introduced to her back in Series 1. Then a happy-go-lucky young nurse, her life and attitude was to change following a rape attack. Over the years, Duffy became stronger and tougher and was slow to let men into her life. She had a doomed relationship with HIV Peter Tranter, who later died in a car crash and had a brief relationship with Dr Andrew Bower, which led to the birth of her son.
When Andrew returned in Series 7, the pair hit it off again and decided to marry. The couple had another son and although had their rocky patches (which included Duffy’s affair with Max), Duffy was devastated when Andrew was tragically murdered by Holly’s stalker Tom Harvey, whilst she was heavily pregnant with their third child.
Duffy struggled with single motherhood and later fell for Security Guard Ryan, who ran away with her money. Despite this mistrust, when he returned declaring his love, Duffy decided to give things ago with him and headed to New Zealand to start a new life, despite Charlie’s misgivings.
Cathy kindly talks to holby.tv about this new stage in Duffy’s life since we last saw her…
Duffy has been with you for 20 years now and fans are delighted to see her make another guest return, what was it like stepping into her character again for the special anniversary episode?
It was very exciting – especially as Duffy was setting up a free clinic in Cambodia – so I was very pleased not to be in that old blue frock. You see a different Duffy, who has moved on in her life and using her medical skills where they really count and finally happy in love!
Filming abroad in such a location as Cambodia must also be very exciting, what was it like to film out there? How long were you out there?
We were there for just under three weeks. We were led to believe that it would be very hard work – and it was. 13 hour days in over 100 degrees! However the cast and crew were ace, we were working with Cambodian actors and I had to speak Khmer – the language and had great help. Most of all the people are gracious, smiling and very friendly.
What can you tell us about the storyline which results in Duffy and her old colleagues ending up in Cambodia?
Having received a lot of insurance money after Andrew died, Duffy left the show to make a new life in New Zealand with Ryan. Unsurprisingly he lets her down. She gets involved in nursing aid in Cambodia and decides to use the money to set up a free clinic with a mobile unit – Charlie, Comfort, Abs and Guppy bring supplies and help her launch her dream.
Is it true that Duffy and Charlie end up arguing in this new storyline?! Do we find out if she’s still with Ryan who she left Holby for?
Ryan is out of the picture – there is a new man of whom Charlie is unsure. But would he ever like any man in Duffy’s life? A bit of jealousy perhaps lead to some very heated rows, great fun in that heat!
Did you get a chance to do any sight-seeing in Cambodia in your time off from filming the episode?
I didn’t work for a few days and yes I did get to look around Phnom Penh and out to the Killing Fields. The country went through huge tragedy in my life time and sometimes it was hard to take it all in. There are still landmines and you see many disabled beggars and there is much poverty however the people are resilient and optimistic and are building their future.
CASUALTY celebrates it’s 20th year this year, why do you think CASUALTY is still a success today? How do you think it has changed from the early years you appeared on the show?
In the early days the show was politically quite strident which annoyed some politicians but really pulled the public in. There is a huge heart beating in the show and continued respect from all those who work on it and take care to tell a story and tell it like it is. I think the public know and like that.
Apart from Derek, do you still keep in touch with any other cast members from CASUALTY?
I keep in touch with Brenda Fricker, Barbara Marten, Sandra Huggett, Adjoa Andoh and see Claire Goose occasionally. There is a kind of network and all the news gets around everyone.
Over the years what have been some of your most memorable/ challenging Duffy storylines?
I suppose three storylines have been the first – a rape storyline, having a boyfriend with Aids and being a single parent and keeping a professional career. These issues have been dealt with properly and generated a lot of post from viewers.
Did being in CASUALTY increase your medical knowledge in any way? Would you be a good person to have around in an emergency?
If anything it has made me a bit more calmer in emergencies and I don’t feel intimidated by medics. When dealing with your own or family health you need to know what they are talking about and I feel less confused and mystified by medical jargon.