Fresh out of drama school, Madeleine Mantock joined the cast of CASUALTY at the beginning of this series in August. She talks to holby.tv about how she’s settled into the show and what’s coming up for her character Scarlett.
How does it feel to be in Cardiff rather than Bristol?
Not that strange to be honest because when I joined, it was always a part of the deal. Bristol was lovely but it was always temporary home for me, a kind of passing-by phase. I know a lot of the cast had set up home there, but I came straight from drama school and I’m quite settled here now.
Have you actually moved to Cardiff?
Yes, it’s essential really as I am working here most of the time. However, I’ve still got my boyfriend and friends in London and I try to see them as much as I can.
Your character Scarlett started off being quite tentative, is she coming into her own a bit more now?
In the “Next of Kin” two-parter (the last episode to be filmed in Bristol), Scarlett finds herself acting as the heroine after going in to the fire to save an elderly couple. Prior to this, the balance between Scarlett and Lloyd has always been that he is the more confident one, and so this tips the scale a little bit and causes some tension later on. She never expected to be the heroine, and finds it hard to accept the praise from the team when they return to work. But it is actually Lloyd who helps her to realise that she did a good thing and that she should be proud of herself. After this point, she definitely begins to see herself in a different light and it is the start of a transitional period for her. I think working in the hospital is encouraging her to grow up a little bit because she is coming in to contact with a lot of people, who she wouldn’t have otherwise met.
How is she getting over her fear of gruesome injuries?
She’s definitely getting better. Both Lloyd and Tess have tried to help Scarlett with her squeamishness (albeit in very different ways!). In one episode, Scarlett had to treat an infected amputation and Tess caught her running off to throw up. She advised her to “work on her poker face,” whereas Lloyd thought it would be most effective to show her the gruesomest of cases in an attempt to prevent further bouts of nausea. She held it together in the end though.
It is hard to remember sometimes that there is a line between reality and prosthetics on this show. There have been so many times when I’ve rushed to help someone who’s on crutches, or apologised profusely when shaking a taped up hand. If you see someone with a bloody face, you think they’re hurt, it’s just a natural reaction. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to that.
Have you shadowed any real nurses?
About four months in to the job I went to a hospital in Southampton. We shadowed some nurses and were lucky enough to grab them for a chat too. I was interested to learn how much training was involved, and was surprised at how much influence the nurses have with regard to a patient’s treatment. The power structure between doctors and nurses was also less apparent and they referred to each other by their first names. On our show, all of the orders are given by the doctors, so I’d like to see the nurses taking charge a bit more!
Did you have any medical knowledge before joining the show?
Not at all. I was definitely more interested in the creative side of school and fortunately I’m quite a healthy person so haven’t had much contact with hospitals. It was strange to experience a real hospital after spending so much time on set, because in the real version there is a certain clinical smell and there isn’t half as much space. It’s all very practical, everything stored away in little drawers and boxes. Real people are admitted and they bleed real blood, which is an odd concept when you spend so much time only pretending to be a nurse .
Is this your first job out of drama school?
It is indeed. We had our showcase in March in the West End and shortly after in April I auditioned and got the job. It happened over a four day period of auditions, and has been a bit of a roller coaster ever since!
I didn’t actually graduate until September, but was allowed to leave early on a ‘special scheme of study’ and was marked on my first episode.
How did your classmates react to the news?
All of my friends at Arts Educational were really supportive and pleased for me. I am happy to be able to say that they are also doing very well and I’m very proud of my year. Drama school is a unique experience for everybody but because you spend three years there, it’s very intense and you learn a lot about yourself. It’s a struggle emotionally and financially, so these people that you study with become your extended family. We all know that we have to leave at some point, but it was strange to be one of the first to go; and I actually trained in Musical Theatre, so I have taken a different avenue to that which I had expected.
Did you have to support yourself by doing other jobs whilst at drama school?
Yes, I had lots of different jobs because I wasn’t on a full scholarship. Luckily, in my second and third years I received funding from the BBC Performing Arts Fund, but in the meantime I worked in retail, a wine shop, even the local pub! You have to be able to pay the rent every month as well as your fees, so it was essential.
Has anybody taken you under their wing on the show?
Different people have in different ways, it depends who you happen to be working with. Ben Turner’s character mentored my character in the show, and he was just as helpful and lovely in real life. Derek is always great to share a scene with and Sunetra and Suzanne are also very lovely. They are all genuinely nice people who have lots of knowledge, experience and funny stories to share. Sometimes I forget how new I am to this because you just end up feeling part of the team.
Have you had any feedback from real nurses?
Most of the feedback I have seen has been about my hair! When I first started, the Producer liked my hair how it was, but then it was agreed that as Scarlett takes herself more seriously, she should tie it back. That’s where the change comes from. I can understand why people were voicing opinions about it because that hairstyle wasn’t a true depiction of a nurse on duty.
Have you been recognised yet?
A few times, but it’s not like I can’t leave the house for fear of being mobbed. I’ve been recognised in the local Tesco and IKEA and also at the theatre (although on that occasion I was recognised for working in the wine shop!) Sometimes people can’t place where it is they know you from, they just recognise your face.
What’s the dynamic like between Scarlett and Lloyd?
Ever changing! The back story was that Lloyd had done a placement in another hospital whereas Scarlett hadn’t. They came from very different backgrounds, and I think it’s fair to say that professionally he didn’t think very highly of her. He’s judgmental, opinionated and has no trouble getting stuck in with the job, whereas Scarlett is a bit more reserved and unsure. As the series goes on, she changes as a person and so does the balance between Scarlett and Lloyd. They begin to help each other through things and start to see each other in a different light.
There is also the possibility of a romance between the two of them in the future, which will be interesting to explore. I always thought Scarlett and Lloyd had a brother/sister kind of relationship, so I’m excited to see how the producers and writers are going to feed the romance in to the scripts.
Are there any practical jokes on set?
I always try to have a little bit of fun on set. It’s good to know when to reign it in though, because if it gets to take eleven and you still haven’t got it right it very quickly stops being funny. I will happily admit to being a bit of a giggler though, it’s a necessity to have a sense of humour when there is so much blood and gore around all day.
They also film ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ here in Cardiff, have you had a chance to see their set yet?
No, but I have heard it’s a very grand and beautiful set. Sometimes I see some of the cast in the canteen and it’s nice to have other productions working nearby. Not only is it great to meet new people, but it also helps to make the workplace to feel like a melting pot. It’s certainly refreshing to see something other than doctors and nurses uniforms!
Were you a fan of Casualty before you joined?
I had seen the show before, but wasn’t a dedicated fan at the time of my joining. There wasn’t a lot of time for TV whilst I was at drama school, but I do remember watching it with my family in the past. I knew who Dr Winters was, so in the past four years I had seen one episode at least. I did manage to watch a couple of episodes before I started, just to get an idea of the show and the people. No one wants to turn up on the first day and not know anyone’s name.
Do you come from an acting background?
Not at all. My Dad is a personal trainer and my Mum was an aerobics instructor but now works in occupational therapy.
What would be your dream job?
I have a huge passion for musicals. It’s a very big dream of mine to one day perform on Broadway. That would be incredible. I actually tried to visit New York a few years ago, primarily to see the shows on Broadway, but our flight was cancelled because of the Volcanic Ash Cloud. We never got to go in the end so New York is definitely on my to-do list.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I try to keep fit and enjoy singing and reading, but I do also like to watch trash TV and not do much at all sometimes! I try to get back to London as much as I can and try to go to the theatre as much as possible. I have recently been enjoying watching the current graduating year’s final shows at Arts Educational. It’s quite a big adjustment to go from being a student to having a job that you go to every day, especially one as full on as Casualty, so I definitely make an effort to keep connected to that old part of my life.