Actress Charlotte Salt has already appeared in six episodes of this series of CASUALTY. She continues her role as Sam Nicholls as the show returns, after viewers have just learnt that Sam is infact the wife of Dylan. Charlotte chats to holby.tv about her role…
You started filming when the show was in Bristol, how was the move?
I was in Bristol for five or six weeks and so for me, I was never really married to Bristol but yet it was still quite upsetting – it’s been an institution for 25 years. Everyone knows where they are, there’s something romantic about it. I definitely felt it but it was easier for me – I could feel the difficulty for some of the rest of the cast. I do think some of the charm of Bristol, people were afraid of losing but I think we are creating our own charm here. It’s more about people, not the building. Everyone’s here so why not?
How much have you had to change your personal life for the Cardiff transition?
I was actually living in Los Angeles for 6 years previous to this job and then the last job I did here was ‘Bedlam’ so since doing that and Casualty it’s kind of brought me back from the States which is kind of nice. I worked a lot over here as a teenager and whilst it was great in LA, it’s nice to come home and be welcomed with open arms.
Have you moved to Cardiff then?
Yes pretty much. I had a base in London but I was never there so I live in Cardiff now – it’s beautiful. It’s leafy and green and homely.
The location in Cardiff is much more picturesque than in Bristol?
Yes it is so much nicer – you step outside and you get that fresh sea air instead of being on an industrial estate!
In terms of story, where do we pick up from Sam and Dylan?
When we come back, there is that moment between them when they say ‘Let’s talk about it.. what happened?.. you embarrassed me in front of everyone.. how could you’ and I think Sam is like ‘Just get over it!’ but also I think she finds it very entertaining watching Dylan squirm and how uncomfortable he is with everyone knowing about him.
Sam is quite open in many ways but also quite closed in that she doesn’t want anyone to see an emotional side of her but she’s quite happy for people to know the facts.
Just as they’re supposed to talk about this, episode 17 just kicks off! Explosions left right and centre, helicopters and Sam just gets into the thick of it and really put herself in danger, in a way to spite in Dylan. Sam want to know she’s still got his attention.
What is their relationship like?
They have been separated for over a year but they are still married and it makes you think why are they still married? Why haven’t they got a divorce? I think they are both holding onto an ideal. They both can’t face their own reality. They can deal with everyone else’s fears but not their own. That is something that will have to come for both of them soon. Sam acts like she doesn’t care but I think she sees it as a real sign of failure that they haven’t made their marriage work. They’re both high achievers.
In terms of how they got together, what is their back story? Do we find that out?
The plot is ever-changing! There was one idea that they got married on a whim but then when we saw the wedding photos in one clip, it wasn’t very Vegas like! It looked more like a church wedding, so it’s rewritten all the time! At the moment, if they do go with it, they fell for eachother through college and Dylan was her mentor. Then Sam joined the army and life kind of pulls them apart. I think she still loves him. I think when you’ve been there with someone, to that extent, you will always still love them and have a place in their heart. The writers are playing with the idea that there is still something there.
What is it about him that she likes? He is funny but also emotionally retarded!
I think that’s what Sam likes about him. She doesn’t have to say anything or face being all emotional with him or say she loves him because he’s not asking her. There’s many storylines coming up including one about a rape victim in which Sam gets very angry and frustrated because she doesn’t know how to handle the situation. She doesn’t know how to interact with them. So in that way Sam and Dylan are perfect to each other; eventhough they do seem quite different emotionally, they are not. It just works somehow; he is socially awkward and so is Sam in a way but she can mask it so much better. She has two sides to her personality.
Do they have quite good banter together?
Yes very good banter and she knows how to get under his skin, that’s what she lives for!
There’s been a hint of romance between Dylan and Zoe, will Sam see her as a love rival?
I think at the moment Dylan is quite unaware of the flirting but I don’t think Sam would be happy about it even if she doesn’t care. She wants his attention, She still feeds off having him there hence why she has never divorced him. Her hardest challenge would be letting him go as it is still so fresh seeing him, working together and to see Dylan with another co-worker – it is going to get messy!
Zoe and Sam’s relationship is also quite interesting, we also have a lot of banter together. When Sam gets in trouble after assaulting a patient, Zoe is on her back about that. Zoe is quite senior to her and Sam doesn’t like that so already there is tension there. Even though Zoe is on her side, Sam can’t see it. There’s been a lot of arguments and we’re sure to see Dylan’s name coming out of it!
Can you explain more about the GMC storyline coming up?
At the end of the episode , Sam is at her last tether. Someone goes to attack Dylan and her initial instinct is to protect him. She gets them into headlock but a couple of episodes later he comes back to haunt her and she is in serious trouble. Sam is so black and white, she see that she was just defending a colleague and that he should have been arrested for assault not her but unfortunately that’s not how it works. She needs to get her head round it and finds it hard because she’s not in control of the situation. She’s young and she thinks she knows more than she does. Just because she’s been to Afghanistan, she’s back from the army now and that’s not how it is in real life – you can’t just do stuff like that. A lot of things from her past in Afghanistan will come back and will reflect quite badly on her.
Have you had to do any research?
Some of my friends are married to guys in the army so I’ve been talking to them. All of them say it’s two different worlds. You come back and there’s time to adjust, back to your routine and then you’ve got return to the army and be blown apart again. It’s a very strange duality. That’s a very interesting thing to play with.
Do you enjoy Sam being a bit of an action hero?
It’s brilliant and there is an episode a bit later where I had to do some abseiling. It’s so much fun! There’s a lot of time doing hospital scenes so when you do go outside it’s great as its all about the patients one-on-one and the medical stuff is fun. I much prefer being on location because you could be anywhere doing anything. It’s much more high adrenaline.
Do you do your own stunts?
We have our own stunt team who are excellent and always make sure everything is safe. My problem is I will say I can do anything but when it comes down to it I’m all talk! But the directors are great – you always feel very comfortable.
Do you find it difficult learning the medical jargon?
Yes definitely as just when you think you’ve mastered it there is more and it just keeps coming and coming! My problem is I always learn to pronounce it wrong when I’m learning my lines so that when I come in they say it’s pronounced differently! It can be quite frustrating when you’re saying your lines and you just want to say it right. It does get easier though, my first few weeks on the job I thought my head was going to explode!
How have you found the prosthetics?
They’re pretty vomit inducing! I have to make sure I eat something stable for breakfast! Some of them are amazing – the other day the make up team had a woman whose femur had broken through the flesh so they had a whole prosthetic skin produced, tied around her leg instead of a fake leg so it looked more realistic and it’s really impressive. Then when you’ve got them screaming in pain on film, with the hospital scene – it all looks very real. You definitely get lost in it and then you think you can save them!
Life before Casualty, were you quite squeamish?
I wouldn’t say I was really squeamish but I’ve never encountered things like this before. I’ve never been in trauma or ED before so when we went in to do research at a hospital I suddenly realised it wasn’t about being squeamish but having a job to do.
Do you feel medically more confident since playing Sam?
Yes I do, you really do! It is funny, as in any job when you spend more time as the character than you do yourself – I feel like Dr Sam sometimes!
What response have you had from viewers?
The response on Twitter has been really nice. Really positive. People commenting on things, following me. I was quite concerned how my character would be perceived; she is so hot headed . You don’t want people to think she’s just so cocky – you want people to get what she’s on about but the feedback has been on the positive side. They have taken on her feisty side.
Even though I was coming up against Dylan and Jordan who have such a massive following, they can laugh at them characters and enjoy the banter between them rather than thinking Sam shouldn’t be talking to them like that so that was nice. There is always a risk especially when you cast females so I’m really happy with all the response. It’s nice that people are enjoying your work and enjoying your character. I don’t want to make people like her as that would be boring. Being a sweetheart is not her but if I can play her, put all these qualities into Sam and as long as people understand her that’s great.
Had anyone guessed about them being married beforehand?
No most people totally didn’t see that coming! But honestly though it works I believe it.
Did you know you were going to be Dylan’s wife when you came into the show?
Yes I was told I was going to be his wife and I had a screen test to audition with Will.
What is Sam & Jordan’s relationship like?
Sam and Jordan are more like father and daughter. I even played Michael’s daughter before in ‘Born and Bred’ so if anything else happened between them it would be like incest on Casualty! Jordan is very caring and has really got her back. He gets that she’s hot headed and flies off the handle but that she’s a good person and is trying to do the right thing. They are trying to play it that Jordan sees himself in Sam when he was younger.
What attracted you to signing up for the show?
The attraction to signing up for a year was at first daunting but I can’t believe how fast it’s gone already! You can really get into your character and start to live your character almost real-time. When you’re developing a character, she’s more growing as you do yourself, so it’s a nice way to play. It doesn’t get boring. You also learn so much in a job like this; I feel like such a better actor already than I was when I first started. Your peripheral vision is better, you can learn lines quicker because you’re doing it every day, 12 hours a day. You can also see yourself on screen and you can work on your mistakes. On other jobs you can watch it back three months later and it’s too late! It’s a great grafting job, you really learn and you’re working with great actors. People who really work hard to be here, the crew work so hard. You gain a lot of respect for people – it’s more of a team effort than in other jobs. In other jobs there’s more hierarchy but here everyone’s mucking in and on the same level and getting the job done because it’s got to be on the telly on Saturday.
Is it nice working with Michael again?
It is lovely being with Michael again, we always used to get on. He is very caring and he cares a great deal about the show. This is his life, he loves Dr Jordan, he loves all the characters that come into this world. He’s very giving and because we’ve got that history he’s always coming over to see how I’m doing. He also has this insanely amazing memory to randomly pick things out that happened in Born and Bred about 10 years ago!
What about working with William Beck?
Already there’s definitely elements of all our characters in ourselves and we have a great relationship off screen. He’s very funny, his humour is quite unintentional. He’s got a great off the wall humour. He is just so wonderful to work with and he also really loves what he does and cares about what he does. What I’ve learnt from him is how to be consistent with your character because everything around there is very changing. He’s quite disciplined like that whereas I’m more flighty and all over the place so it’s great to have someone else be more disciplined. Will is quite an anchor; at the show people gravitate towards him.
Have any of the cast that have left visited the new Set in Cardiff?
Georgia and Ben came down to do a bit of ADR. I didn’t see them which was a shame. They were such a life and soul of the show but I guess the show is always changing.
In Bedlam you got to wear some really lovely outfits, how does wearing scrubs compare?
Yes and blue boiler suits! I hate wearing scrubs but someone said to me just see it as you’re in your pyjamas all day! This is more about the performance rather than what you’re wearing whereas in Bedlam – it is more about the glamour and the look of the show. I’ve actually just filmed another episode of Bedlam, Casualty let me off for four weeks so I could film it in Manchester.
Costume is a big thing as it gets you into the character – you put on a pair of scrubs and its right let’s go! The odd times when you’re wearing civvies you feel more like yourself, so that’s quite dangerous! I don’t feel as much like Sam. Again it’s another discipline but maybe we should jazz it up and have a doctors ball so I can glam up again!
Are your parents proud to have a ‘doctor’ in the family?
My parents are beyond proud! The fact that I’m in something that they know about is great. I’ve worked for the BBC before and it’s a great institution and it’s wonderful to work with them again.
Are there any guest artists you’ve worked recently?
We had a wonderful actress called Jenny Platt – she was in Coronation Street. She played the rape victim patient who Sam was trying to get it out of her but she wouldn’t admit to it so Sam felt there was a missed justice. She was brave and nice to work with. A really good guest artist livens up the whole thing because it’s nice to interact with someone different.
I also did work with Clive Russell who plays a fireman in episode 17. I have a whole Florence Nightingale thing going on! It was such a heavy episode and it was great to work with him. We bonded and got so close to each other so we really felt that we were going through something together. Episodes 17 and 18 are two of my favourites so far.
So will we see a softer side to Sam?
Yes you do. I think she’s ultimately very possessive and loyal of her patients. She really puts everything into that person because she wants the best for them but then she can be quite hard on them and cruel to be kind too. She is so passionate and gets too involved so she needs to step back and be neutral but she’s got an opinion which is great to play – there is never a dull moment!