‘I was misunderstood as a kid’ reveals James Redmond. ‘I probably had ADD – attention deficit disorder – which meant I was hyperactive and never paid attention. I was disruptive and got kicked out of a few schools, so I was constantly being assessed.’
But James did well in his exams, infuriating his teachers who, he says, must have been thinking: ‘He was outside the door for most of my lesson!”
‘One teacher said to me your either going to be in jail, in rehab or a very good manager which I thought was quite interesting. I look around the CASUALTY green room and see a lot of well rounded people but think all these people have come into a profession where in order to do it you have to be comfortable with attention and court it which is a strange trait to have.’
Despite his academic achievements, he was always getting into fights and claims, ‘I felt like an outcast in my teenage years, with no one to talk to.’
James has been able to draw on considerable personal experience for his role as Abs, a psychiatric link nurse, in CASUALTY. He sees himself, he says, in some of the individuals his character has to treat at Holby.
Abs has a certain charm but is a bit of an oddball. The breakdown in hierarchy at NHS hospitals means that he is able to diagnose and treat certain patients, despite not having medical training. Like James, he was a bit of a tearaway as a kid and was
arrested for joyriding. On one occasion, he took his younger brother with him without his parents’ knowledge and crashed. His brother was paralysed and Abs has not spoken to his parents since.
‘Abs is now fascinated by anybody who has mental problems or issues,’ says James. ‘He is keen to champion mental health and is constantly frustrated when it is hidden away and ignored.
James feels the same. ‘I saw child psychologists when I was at school (or should I say ‘not at school’). The people I got on with were not just asking the obvious questions – they just chatted away and often they had had problems themselves. But, to some, therapy is a dirty word … people are scared.’
James has done some research for his role as Abs, and has found the whole learning experience particularly interesting, ‘I have done some but I haven’t had a lot of time so will be going back in a few weeks time,’ he said. ‘I went to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and shadowed some nurses there. But Abs is a strange character to do some research on because he has this psychiatric background and was a bit of a tearaway himself.’
He continued ‘Most patients I have seen so far have had physical problems not mental problems so I’m going to go back on a Friday night which is when the more mentally unstable people come in I’m told!’
‘I was a bad boy at school and saw lots of psychologists and it’s been interesting learning about yourself and others,’ he said of his research. ‘It’s a taboo subject mental health – I was talking to an advisor who had a great line ‘every single person who has walked the earth has needed therapy’ and most people get it from either our partners, friends or colleagues ands it’s when people don’t get that, and when they can’t talk about the problems that they will face difficulties and it can manifest into a psychosis.’
‘We all live in a physical cycle, we’re all the same just creating new programs like a computer in different ways and we can reprogram ourselves which is interesting. People will happily come in and say ‘yeah I’m an alcoholic’ but wouldn’t talk about their personal problems such as that they can’t talk to their wife. I guess it’s an English thing – so there’s some good storylines coming up and I get to get on my soapbox’
James continued of his character ‘Abs is a bit of a loner and sees himself alone in his battle but he doesn’t care. He’s driven and passionate about his work but doesn’t suffer fools gladly. He’ll bark at anyone who gives him any grief, even if it’s Harry, his boss, and he doesn’t sugar-coat anything. What’s more, he knows that they can’t afford to lose him because he’s the only one who can do the job.”
‘I’ve played rogish charmers before, and he’s not like that at all which is great as he’s different to play,’ he said ‘He’s a bit odd and difficult to get on with. He doesn’t really get jokes and jokes that he does get are very dry. In one of my first scenes, I charge into my office and these two girls go ‘who who?’ and he replies ‘owls very good’. – he’s got that type and level of humour’
James also gets to return to his roots ‘It’s quite nice doing the accent as well as I’m from Bristol so the producers though ‘oh great you’re from Bristol – you must do the accent!’ As they always get letters from people saying ‘where is holby?’ and it’s difficult to tell when there’s so many different actors, so they were keen to get it in. I was talking to my friends who have stronger Bristol accents than me to get into the accent again.’
Only just a newcomer, fans will already be wondering what possible love interests his character will have in store, but James hasn’t been told ‘I haven’t heard anything yet, people are trying to say do you think you’ll get with Claire but no-one has said anything to me,’ he joked ‘Everyone seems to be paired off already!’
But he enjoys seeing the working relationships his character has with others, ‘It works really well especially with the character of Tess, who lives by the rule book and doesn’t tolerate anyone who steers away from that,’ he said. ‘Abs is the opposite, he is vocational and is fascinated by mental problems, and will give them loads of time. He’s laidback and speaks very slowly – while everyone else seems to be running around in a crisis’
James’ career has steadling developed over the years, after he left school, James decided to go travelling. ‘I couldn’t find a job that I could keep for more than three months,’ he says. ‘I did monotonous factory jobs and worked in nightclubs but got bored easily.’
He spent two years in Greece, where he was scouted by a model agency and ended up on the catwalk for the next four-and-a-half years. ‘It was 1994 and Blur and Oasis were top of the UK charts and, because I looked like an Indie band kinda guy, my face fit,’ he explains.
James lapped up the glitzy lifestyle. ‘The traveling was great, I was working with beautiful girls and the money was good – I had a flat in Milan, a flat in New York and one in London all at the same time.’
The 6ft 3in actor oozes sexy confidence when he adds: ‘And I didn’t really have to try too hard!’ He did, however, have to watch his belly. ‘I’ve always been quite sporty, which helps. I play football and love tennis. Obviously, I’d like to have a physique like Brad Pitt but I’m a skinny bloke with a bit of a belly – more Mick Jagger after a heavy drinking session.’
Fashion icons such as Calvin Klein and Paul Smith didn’t appear to mind but it soon dawned on James that he was ’26 and trying on clothes for a living. What the hell am I doing?’
James gave up modelling and decided to pursue a career on the small screen. Following a string of TV ads, he signed up for acting lessons and, almost immediately, was offered a part in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. “The first day on set was a nightmare,” says James, recalling his panic. ‘I even had a stutter at the time. It was very daunting as I hadn’t done as much training as my other colleagues. They’d seen me from my Carling advert and they were very keen but I told them I couldn’t act, and they went ‘that’s ok you seem alright in the advert and audition’ so were quite impressed – I still seem to be blagging it!’
‘I still find it strange putting on forms ‘actor’ as I sometimes find it hard to believe as I haven’t got any qualifications for it’ he jokes. A course of speech therapy and dedication to the cause meant that legions of female fans now remember James for his part as Fin, the loveable rogue with a penchant for older women. ‘I had a few elocution lessons as I went to boarding school,’ he says of his stutter ‘It’s still not perfect . I got teased at school but got round it by being a class clown. But now I’ve had good response from fans, saying it has helped them’
A stint of presenting on ITV’s SM:TV followed, ‘I had a bit of a blip when I planned to do presenting for a year – and ten weeks later got the sack’ But James seems unfazed by the experience and was keen to not be written off ‘I didn’t say anything to the press but my bosses put a statement for me in the papers saying I was going to move back into acting and I was like ‘was I?’, I didn’t realise I had made that decision!’
‘But it was settled amicably and I went straight off and did some stuff for the BBC including Mile High,’ and has fond memories of his time on SMTV. ‘It was fun and I really enjoyed it. I got to work with Cat Deeley, Tess Daly and Brian – I thought I was doing well and was told I was but was then sacked which I think was more to do with the fact that Cat was leaving and they felt they wanted to find a better partnership than just keep me and find someone to go with me, which is what I’m guessing.’
‘I was a bit upset at the time, and you find out who you friends are but I then got straight back into work. I’d just bought a house and moved to London and was looking forward to my year contract there. I’d never done it before but was very keen, so it was a shock but I have been very lucky since,’ he said. ‘I wouldn’t change it now – you learn stuff about yourself and about the business and appreciate the good things that happen more.’
Asked if the experience has put him off presenting? ‘I would still consider it, if anyone would have me! But acting is my first love really. But I thought after doing a soap, it would take a while for me to be taken seriously – people still see soap as a bit of a sell out’ But he needn’t have worried, SMTV was followed by a role in Sky’s steamy drama, Mile High, filmed in Majorca and centred on the lives of six young air stewards, one of whom was played by James’s fellow Casualty actor Sarah Manners. ‘Mile high was very saucy,’ he said ‘I’m lucky as whenever I’ve been asked to get my kit off it’s always been comedy roles. I was grateful that Will Mellor and Gary Lucy did sexy scenes whereas I did the comedy nudity which is a lot easier to deal with!’
James is now thrilled to have landed the role of Abs in CASUALTY and is enjoying working with Sarah Manners again ‘It’s the fourth show I’ve done with her in it, three I had scenes with her, so it’s amazing – we did Mile High together and then when she got CASUALTY, I sent her a card saying ‘congratulations’ – then when I also got a job, she sent one back in a joking ‘brilliant you and me.. again!’ way – it kind of takes the shine off mine really!’
‘But it’s nice though. I’ve not done too many scenes with Sarah so far although my first scene was with her, so although it was very daunting joining a long running show with the BBC and I was very nervous – I walked in and there was Sarah, and it made me feel more at home’
It didn’t take him long to feel comfortable in his new job ‘Probably a bit too quick, probably a week or so. Everyone is really friendly – which I’m sure you’re all really bored of hearing but it’s true, there aren’t many egos and it made me feel quite at home really quickly especially being from Bristol too. – rather than staying in a hotel miles from home not knowing anyone’
James remembers watching the show when he was younger, ‘I lived abroad for seven years, but when it first started I remember watching Derek Thompson. I was a big fan then in the first few years. I was like most fans thinking ‘right someone’s going to fall off this now’ and would try and guess what was going to happen but it seems to have all changed now and focused more on the main characters so its strange walking in after watching it for so many years “
CASUALTY also meant time back in his hometown and a short stay with his parents before getting his own place, ‘Just when I’m getting married and wanting to settle down and start a family, I’m offered a job near my parents, in my home town. Perfect!” he says.
James wasn’t so sure about living back at home, though. “You’re always 12 years old to your mum! My alarm went off on my first morning back and she was very excited. When she heard the beeps, she left it five seconds before calling upstairs: ‘Son,
are you getting up now?’ I had to say, ‘Mum, I’m 31 years old and have been getting myself up for the last 15 years!’”
James, who also has a younger brother and sister joked ‘It was like I was Timothy from Sorry! The good side was getting the food and laundry but I couldn’t wait till I got my own place’
Last August saw James marry his partner, Yvette, of almost two years in Bristol. ‘She’s a make up artist and works in fashion, I met her at a party when I also worked in the fashion industry
James said it was a small wedding ‘otherwise I’d be too nervous and it would be much more expensive’ and said a few members of Hollyoaks including Nick Pickard and Ben Hull attended.
For his stag do, James went to Ibiza for a week ‘ I thought it was quite a new thing to do but everyone seems to be doing things like that these days. I’ve got eight really close friends and we’d been trying to get away for a holiday for about ten years and there’d always been someone who couldn’t make it or couldn’t afford it, and this may be the last time – and thankfully everyone could make it which was great’
‘It’s not as wild as you think though, I just wanted a place where I could play tennis, and football, as I hate sunbathing. So I chose somewhere where there were some good bars, places to see and good weather. My girlfriend went for a weekend to a spa which was a bit more civilised.’
James is hoping for a long term future in CASUALTY ‘I hope so, as I’m hoping to settle down, it’s a good stepping stone to do this show. I’d be more than happy to stay in here for a few years,’ he said ‘It’s worked out really well as my Dad’s a Scouser and my first job was four years in Liverpool and now I’m doing this in my hometown of Bristol’
And, with his feet firmly on the ground, he no longer feels he is at odds with the world. “I talk to other actors who say, ‘So what’s your ambition, then?’ And I say: ‘To be a daddy and be happy’.”