Sunetra Sarker joined the cast of CASUALTY in December 2007 as feisty doctor Zoe Hanna. She talks to holby.tv about her time on the show so far and what this series has in store…
How has Zoe developed since last series?
Zoe is well and truly part of the hospital now. She had a bit of a rocky time in the last series. Having said goodbye to Sharice who she fostered, she went into quite a dark place and came out of it again after she dated Jordan. Then ofcourse he fell ill and she nearly killed a patient. So she’s now keeping herself to herself and not making too much of a fuss at the beginning of the series; she’s laying low, but whenever anyone lays low you know what that means – eventually something will have to happen to them!
How does the new series start?
We always start the series with a bang and there’s always a feeling of imminent emergency which we’ll see in the first two episodes. We’ve got an amazing opener which I think will make people come back for the second episode. There’s always some crazy stunts that we get to do which is always fun – the boys especially like to get those harnesses on and dangle from ceilings! We’ve also got some emotional storylines underneath this all.
What about the new arrivals this series?
You see eight new Student Doctors joining the team but mainly focusing on four of them. We follow their stories and it gives you a chance to see the difference between the well seasoned doctors and the newbies and see how intimidating it can be. There’s a feeling of new blood entering the show. That’s always good as you get to explore new characters.
How does Zoe interact with the new characters?
Zoe doesn’t really have the time of day for the new F2’s, she’s not at all interested so probably doesn’t know any of their names to begin with. She probably wouldn’t think twice of nipping out for a cigarette while they’re dealing with something they shouldn’t be doing. As the series goes on they all have to develop some sort of relationship with them as you do with anyone you work with but they do treat them very much like ‘the kids’. I think some people warm to them quicker but most of the senior doctors do feel like they’re baggage to begin with.
Did the new cast have to undergo any initiation process for real?
We were all going to pretend we had different issues and make out that each of us had something such as Ben (Jay) being deaf in one ear, Tristan (Adam) wearing a wig and never looking Derek (Charlie) straight in the eye as it filled him with rage etc and we were going to do prayer sessions to begin with for a laugh! With so many joining in one go, you didn’t feel like you had to pick one under your wing like you would when one new cast member joins. We wouldn’t be that cruel then!
How does Zoe feel about how things were left with Jordan?
I think Zoe feels really bad about the fact she left Jordan when he had a brain tumour. From her point of view, the reason why she walked away from the situation was because she couldn’t take being close to someone as that would involve caring and she doesn’t do love. She tries to get in touch with him but I think it’s more about her story and how she feels about letting somebody down when they needed her. So I think we do explore at some point Zoe’s feelings eventhough she made out that she didn’t really care about him… I think she did secretly!
How would you describe the variety of romances on the show?
There’s lots of different characters who have had romances at different times and you’ll find they’re either opposites attracting eachother or two people that are very similar like Zoe and Jordan. They’re both selfish, both reckless and rebellious characters. So not the kind of people that would run towards the word relationship. But yet there’s an interesting dynamic in seeing how people who are very similar or how people like Ruth and Jay who are very dissimilar still find an attraction. We also had Alice and Curtis’ romance which again, probably two similar people in some respects, she’s quite shy and he was very gentle and they had a softer romance so we do cover different areas of love in the ED whilst tending to the sick!
Will CASUALTY be tackling any controversial subjects such as swine flu?
I think we’ve stayed away from swine flu deliberately because it’s too current and we don’t know the ins and out of it yet. But we do deal with other controversial subjects; we sometimes do genuine cases that you do read about. We deal with stories that reflect the current economic climate such as poverty and homelessness. We are touching on things that are really going on outside; we’re not separating ourselves too much from the real world. But Casualty does have to use it’s dramatic licence to a certain extent and allow for it to be an entertaining piece of drama. Most people who watch it will have had some experience being in a hospital and it won’t be half as dramatic as what we’re showing it to be.
Have you had any notable guest stars this series?
We’ve had some fun ones; we had Russ Abbott and he was such a good laugh. He’s a real variety performer as well as a great actor – he really pulled it out the bag. He was humble and fitted in with the rest of us like a normal jobbing actor. And I didn’t stop laughing from the jokes he told.
What have been your most memorable storylines to work on?
I did enjoy my Sharice storyline, it was nice working with Amy and Adrianna. It was a nice idea for them having Zoe fostering a young girl and it sort of not working and I have genuinely enjoyed the whole Zoe/ Jordan storyline and how they didn’t think they had chemistry and then it went all down hill.
Another memorable moment was one episode where Zoe finds out she’s infertile and she gets drunk and dances on her own in a bar. You never know when you’re filming which shots they’re going to use. I remember at the time I only had two shots at it and I remember thinking I hope they use the one where I’m not too crazy.. but they did! You don’t get a say in which ones they use unfortunately!
What feedback have you had from viewers?
I’ve been really welcomed. Having played quite happy-go-lucky characters before I quite like playing someone like Zoe. To begin with I wasn’t the most likeable character. I was expecting a lot of backlash but surprisingly, especially girls, have really taken to her and I’ve got a bit of girl power behind me! I’ve been sent some really lovely letters, who say genuinely nice things and how they like how Zoe has developed. So it’s great to see that you can play a feisty but almost cold character and still be liked.