Since joining the show four months ago when the new series began, Maxwell Caulfield seems to have become somewhat of a heartthrob to fans of all ages, as his role as Paediatrician, Jim Brodie.
At 43, whether it be that ‘older man’ image, his American charm, or his caring and down to earth attitude towards his young patients – fans have warmed to his character and have felt a certain compassion towards him since discovering his wife to be – technician Nikki Marshall – slept with his teenage son Andy and dumped an unsuspecting Jim at the altar.
Maxwell Caulfield is delighted to be back in “old England”. So often associated with high-gloss American soaps is he that one forgets that his roots are in the Midlands and that he has Scottish ancestry. He was very much a Londoner for most of his youth, a dedicated fan of Chelsea FC and a boy scout in west London, before moving to the heart of Soho.
“I had a very strong sense of myself when I was in my late teens and early twenties, albeit culled from the American rebel hero characters that I admired,” he explains. He figures that is why he was tossed out of The Drama Centre, where he studied. “After suggesting I see the school psychologist, they showed me the door quite quickly because they thought I was a somewhat disruptive influence.
They thought I wasn’t mature enough for the kind of schooling they had in mind. I was too busy being a slouching punk!”
Maxwell decided to take a shortcut to getting his Equity card and enrolled as a go-go dancer at the Raymond Revue Bar, living, at the time, above a topless bar in Great Windmill Street. “I didn’t fancy carrying a spear and making cups of tea in rep theatre for nine months, which is what you had to do to get an Equity card back then.”
He lasted 10 weeks as a high stepper, dancing to Pink Floyd for the delight of German and Japanese tourists, before getting embroiled in a brawl on stage. “All of a sudden I could afford a Suzuki motorcycle. It was great fun while it lasted but I was glad as hell when it was over,” he says.
After feeling stifled, Maxwell jetted off to “La La Land”, where he has spent much of his adult life. Maxwell claims he never aspired to being on American television; “I went to Hollywood sooner than I’d meant to. The move from being discovered on Broadway and being thrust into a three-picture deal with a major Hollywood studio all happened
Maxwell then met his wife, Juliet Mills – “the great steadying influence on my life” – at the age of 21 (she was 39) when they appeared together in The Elephant Man.
He moved back with her to LA, where they still live with their daughter Melissa who is, he says, “very much a Mills girl – she’s got the fabulous eyes and she’s a natural comedienne”.
Maxwell is not discouraging her from becoming an actress – “she’s seen what a great lifestyle it can afford you: the travel, the variety and the opportunity to meet people” – but he is keen that she head to New York, “where she’ll have more control over her own destiny”.
As a young actor, Maxwell was selected from thousands to appear as Michael Carrington in Grease 2 (1982), the sequel to one of the most successful musical films of all time. Both he and his co-star, a fresh-faced newcomer called Michelle Pfeiffer, were hailed as “overnight sensations” and he was promised the movie was going to make him a star.
But the film did not live up to its billing. “We opened opposite ET and we got creamed. The studio yanked it and I came down to earth with a bump,” he laments.
Maxwell is pleased that the film has found a life through television and video in the ensuing years. “It shows up regularly and it has a cult-like status, which I’m proud of.”
Then came Dynasty and The Colbys, which epitomised the Eighties. Maxwell was cast as bad boy Miles Colby in the saga of a wealthy Denver family in the oil business.
‘On Colbys, we had such legends on the show that will never be seen again – real movie stars in the true sense of the word. The show also had a runaway budget – something absurd like $20,000 dollars alone was spent on fresh flowers a week! It was crazy. I was wearing designer suits and driving Ferraris and now I’m playing a saintly individual of the National Health Service! ‘
After a decade, these cultural landmarks in television came to an end and Maxwell Caulfield went on to win rave reviews for his roles on Broadway, including Entertaining Mr Sloane and An Inspector Calls.
Those performances led to him winning the prize role of Bob in The Real Blonde opposite such luminaries as Matthew Modine, Kathleen Turner and Darryl Hannah.
Now that he’s back in the UK, Maxwell is staying at the home of his father-in-law, Sir John Mills. Luckily, they get on well. “Sir John is the genuine article – a living legend and deservedly so. At 95 years of age, with failing eyesight and the inevitable physical challenges that being a nonagenarian brings, he really is a study of bravery. And he’s always happy when I’m picking up a regular pay cheque!
“Coming back here has reignited my love of acting and put me back in touch with my essence,” says an enthusiastic Maxwell. “I’m really delighted with the character they’ve fashioned for me. He’s a bit of a live wire and a bit of a romantic, it would appear.
Maxwell also has huge praise for the long running series, ‘Casualty is a bonafide hit, so it never hurts to be associated with it’s success As I say I’m very happy to have the job. This show reaches a large section of the British public, a huge audience particularly for a Saturday night.’
‘When a show runs as long as this – one of the reasons it’s stayed so long is because its cost efficient, its not a show that’s teetering on the edge of paying its way but at the same time they have been able to set up a long line of talent.’
‘I think Simon MacCorkindale particularly has really come into his own, his role is tremendously authentic and he’s also an international name. Then you’ve got young lady Christine Stephen-Daly – whose super talented. I could go through the whole cast! Interestingly Derek and Ian, are wonderful low key actors. I can definitely learn from these folks.’
‘Any time you get a chance to work consistently as opposed to the sporadic way one tends to work in Hollywood these days where it has seemed to become like a lottery unless you’re in the front line, then any opportunity to work on a week in week out basis has to be good in terms of honing your craft.’
‘The show is shot at a furious pace – you have to therefore have your mode of call and know what your in the midst of doing because if you only start acting when they say ‘action’ you’re in trouble as the scene is over before you even start.’
Joining the show was a huge step for Maxwell, ‘In the first few weeks the combination of jet lag and being in denial that I’d actually signed the contract made me a little uneasy,’ he said. ‘There’s a rotation in this show where we are always filming two episodes simultaneously. We draw on a large amount of crew and personnel, so for the first three weeks I was seeming to meet about 30 new people a day which was quite exhausting. And there’s also a lot of supporting artistes, who I find are an integral part of the show.’
But he enjoys working with the cast and crew, including the young children who plays Jim’s patients ‘What’s more, I get to interact with a lot of little shrunken actors – and it’s certainly never dull working with children!” Maxwell has generally played privileged characters – well-heeled and self-interested – but, he says, “I like playing a doctor, one of those archetypal figures that society admires. It is nice to play a somewhat selfless character and it’s making me recall the first-aid training that I received as a boy scout.”
Being credited with the intellect of a doctor was very gratifying for someone who never made it past “O” levels,” he jokes. Maxwell has been reading up on the human anatomy and is amazed at what he is learning about the female endocrine system. “I’m now totally in awe of women for having to contend with those hormonal surges. So that’s why they claim to be the tougher of the two sexes!”
Maxwell brings a certain Yankee sensibility to the part of paediatrician Jim Brodie. He’s a transatlantic character whose roots are in England but who has been through the American system and has some impulses that do not necessarily fall in with the way in which Harry Harper likes to run his operation.
‘I was keen not to play an out and out American, eventhough I am perceived as American,’ he says. ‘When I had a meeting with the executive producers for this show I was keen not to just come in a and be a complete fish out of water, so that I could play upon the fact that my roots were already in England, either that I had been educated or done the bulk of my medical practice in America and then returned back to this country.’
There were also discussion on his character’s image ‘As far as the wardrobe goes, to try and set me apart from the rest of the doctors that was easily done in so far as Simon MacCorkindale and Chris Colquhoun are very dapper looking guys – shirts and ties, so I could have a more casual approach to my wardrobe and with being a Paediatrician made this even more logical – so you’re not seen as such a threat to young kids who come into a hospital for the first time. To look more like a ‘pal’ than an authority figure.’
Jim also quickly lavished his attentions on Nikki and it amuses Maxwell to be playing the older man in a relationship, given his own circumstances.
While Maxwell is falling in love with Bristol, his wife Juliet is looking after his Jaguar in Tinsel Town. “She’s visited a couple of times and we’ve just done a lovely tour of the West Country but she’s back in LA in an NBC daytime drama called Passions, playing an eccentric New England witch,” he explains.
Maxwell is philosophical about the distance. “Juliet has been very supportive and believes in what I’m doing – Casualty being a stalwart of British television. We never relish the prospect of long-term separation but we recognise that it is part and parcel of the business and it is nice for once that we’re both making money at the same time. Usually one of us is and one of us isn’t. That insecurity comes with the profession. There’s always a price to pay and, in this case, it’s the distance.”
Maxwell has signed a contract till the end of this series, and will then assess his plans from there. On his future career he added, ‘I’d like to think I had the opportunity to work in both countries. I’d certainly like to make a success of this role. I’m joining a very strong ensemble of cast and I see myself as a team player. But I think my career is possibly moving to behind the camera than in front of it – writing and producing.’