Oliver Coleman makes a dramatic debut to CASUALTY in first of the New Year episode as paediatric doctor Tom Kent. He talks to holby.tv about his character and how he makes his entrance…
What can you tell us about your character?
I play Tom Kent who specialises in Paediatirc medicine. Before coming to the ED, he’s done a 6 month rotation on HEMS (Helicopter Response) so his arrival is on a helicopter on the dual carriageway so it’s very exciting for an actor.
What’s Tom’s background?
He was going to be a professional swimmer when he was younger and then he stopped. His dad was pushing him to swim in the Olympics and he decides to study medicine. He was very good at what he did, people liked him. He decided to specialise in paediatrics because he wanted to make sure the kids do exactly what they should do as kids – he didn’t want to see parents pushing them and he’s also a big kid himself basically. There’s episodes where he’s running round with kids, goofing around and making them feel better emotionally and physically.
His doctors ethics are very strong – he’ll always stick to the book, keeps confidentially and stands up for his patients even if it is going to cost him his job. If he feels its right and should be done then he’ll do it himself. He’s very caring and wants the job done right.
What about Tom’s personal life?
His personal life is very secretive at the moment. He doesn’t know what he wants in life. He’s still figuring himself out as being a kid. In work no-one knows much about him, he’s very down the line, keeps himself to himself. He’s friendly towards staff but just doesn’t give much away about himself. In relationships he doesn’t commit that strongly.
How does he arrive in Holby?
As he’s dropping of a patient with HEMS, he meets Jordan. They’ve encountered eachother before; Jordan has previously offered him a job before which Tom turned down and now he realises he’s made a mistake.
Do we find out why Tom turned Jordan down in the first place?
Yeah you do, we just find out he wanted to study and go back to Uni. Jordan questions his antics. He really wants him here but I think Tom likes to do his own thing. But at the end of the episode he starts to realise that he could learn a lot here. He’s always up for a challenge. He wants to put himself in the middle of something, and make a difference and once he’s here Jordan and him do work well together. They really challenge eachother how they work.
Had you been in a helicopter before?
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been in a helicopter before in South Africa. Our Dad took us all out there and we went over the Victoria Falls which was pretty amazing.
What research have you done for the show?
I spent two days with the real HEMS people up in London. They’re amazing people. A charity organisation, not funded by the NHS. They have 3 years backlog of applications all around the world, doctors come in for 6 months rotations, paramedics for 9 months and they only deal with the worst of the worst.
That’s why when they come off their rotations they often go on to high stressful jobs. Ambulance Paramedics will usually only often see one serious trauma every few months but for HEMS it’s everyday.
How they stood their in the orange jump suits, it’s very much like Top Gun – the elite of the elite. I have a lot of respect. Tom’s afraid of heights so it wasn’t the best job for him!
I also spent time with paramedics. We got called out to three stabbings and a car crash. I was very shocked, when they’re driving you’d be amazed how many people don’t move out the way – some people think it’s better to just stay still. From what I saw, I was amazed how quick they were and how much goes on, I was a bit naïve to it all and how hard these guys worked. And how normal these guys were – how they talk after they’ve done such things. It was very eye opening.
With your experience with the HEMS, does it give you a sense that Tom is kind of from a dark place then?
He is very solid but he is still a bit of a kid at figuring things out. He works hard and is very loving to his team but certain episodes come up where you see he’s not afraid to speak his mind and be upfront and honest with his patients. He’ll tell kids the truth because they need to learn. There’s one kid that pushes a trolley into a burning car and is lying to Tom about what he’s done, but Tom knows, he’s very inquisitive and he doesn’t miss a thing – he’s like Colombo in a way! He needs the answers to treat, so he can make them better so I don’t think he’s coming from a dark place as such. He’s got some hidden secrets that will come out but he’s a well rounded guy and he’s very passionate about what he does.
How are you doing with all the medical terms?
It’s hard, in many ways even just the length of the words! Also once you find out what you’re saying, it does make it easier. A lot of people just learn the words but I have to know what it is and why I’m saying it.
We have a lovely guy with us called Pete Salt, who is our medical advisor. He goes over all the medical terms.
One of the other things I find hard is putting on the medical gloves in scenes!
Playing a paediatric doctor, you’ve had to work with lots of children?
It’s been great. My first episode was with two lovely little kids and they were amazing. I love working with kids anyway because they just come in, having watched Noddy and had their Coco Pops, and just say their lines! I’m quite a tall guy and I like just going down to their level, you can have a lot of fun with them!
Are you prepared for all the admiration that comes from playing a paediatric doctor?
Hmm I wasn’t until you just said that! I have to say I’m probably quite naïve to all that might happen. It would great for the show and nice to have that response for a character.
My older brother already teases me and calls me ‘Dr Drake Ramoray’ and my younger brother is pretty much tagging onto that!
Are they proud to have a ‘doctor’ in the family?
They’re proud to have a doctor – just didn’t think it would be me! My Mum was a paediatrician, she trained as a physio and paediatrician at Great Ormonds when she was younger. She had lots of old medical books which she gave to me after I got the job. It’s fascinating, it hasn’t really changed. All the treatments are pretty much the same. Now she’s a psychotherapist, sometimes I call her up. I like to really understand characters, the mental side of why people do things so I ask her advice on how she probes them. She’s actually been a big help to me.
Are you going to have a special gathering for your first episode?
I probably won’t have a choice! My Dads already getting ready with the SkyPlus! And some of my friends have already suggested having a gathering but I haven’t thought about it too much yet!
Does it feel daunting coming into a show like Casualty?
Coming into the show and seeing Derek Thompson was when it really hit me. I think I called him Charlie for the first two weeks! I couldn’t help myself! I used to watch him as a kid. I think it would have been more daunting if I went to Bristol but I was very lucky to come to Cardiff first and first day for everyone here was also my first day, so that gave me a lot of space to feel like it was ok. I think because everyone found their feet here at the same time, all I had to worry about was the job.
But the show has been going for 25 years and you want to do your bit – you don’t want to be the bad cog that makes a mistake or doesn’t make it work! All those things, you want to carry on the tradition, you want to be part of that family and for ten years down the line to be remembered as having done a good job. So there are moments when it hits you.
But everyone is so nice, so welcoming, it is like a family. They’re always checking how you’re doing, the door is always open if you have problems so so far it’s been amazing. I’m really lucky.
Has there been anyone in particular that has looked after you?
Sunetra has been very nice, Linda is also lovely. Everybody taps in to check. They all always check you’re alright and to ask them if there’s anything that I need to know. I don’t want to pinpoint one person as they have all been so nice.
Did you move to Cardiff for the role?
I have yes. I have a flat by myself in Pontcanna. It’s central, a nice easy drive, beautiful residential area so it’s great. I have lived in London for ten years but I am a country boy at heart.
How have you found the prosthetics?
I’ve only had one serious one so far, where a lady broke her femur bone. I had to keep telling myself it was fake because it looked so gruesome! I wouldn’t say I’ve got the strongest stomach but if I’d have seen it in real life I would have probably fainted! But they do look so real.