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William Beck Interview

William Beck talks to holby.tv about Dylan and his recent marriage revelation.

Since joining the show back in March last year, fans have already taken a great interest into William Beck’s quirky character, Dylan Keogh. Following the surprising revelation in the last episode shown just before Christmas that Dylan is actually married to fellow doctor, Sam Nicholls, William gives a fascinating interview with holby.tv about his role and what’s in store..

How is Dylan when we are introduced to him in the New Year after the big revelation?

When you come back to Holby (version 2!) the story is about the hospital and how the ED has been rebuilt. The problems and various storylines in people’s personal lives kind of go into stasis at the beginning so on the whole Dylan is how he was. I think to a degree he’s got a monkey off his back and it wasn’t at his behest. He’s put in a position where people know things about him that he hasn’t chosen for people to know about. But atleast they are out there now. That said, he is somebody who is really allergic to teasing. There are one or two brief moments where he is forced to confront the revelation that appeared in the last episode.

When did you find out that Dylan had a wife?

We are sometimes given the storylines relatively close to when we shoot them and in this instance I knew two weeks before Charlotte came in that there was someone coming in to play Dylan’s wife (at that time I was told ex-wife). The process is so quick that before we had a chance to shake hands, you’re doing scenes together. After a couple of weeks, Charlotte and I were having a discussion about some of the things that might be good to bring into the characters’ relationship and it occurred to us that we hadn’t been told whether we were still married or not so we made a quick phone call to a panic stricken producer, who decided dramatically it would be more interesting if they were still married so at that point we realised it was going to be something fun to play with.

With that, I have to say in the last episode [16], I wouldn’t want anyone to be under any illusion that their revelation, eventhough significant to Dylan was the main point of the episode – the main storyline with Ruth and Jay was so wonderful, lovely and so moving that what was going on between Dylan and Sam and also Zoe was a nice counter point to that. It was nice to play in a way that wasn’t unrealistically overdramatic. People do find themselves in relationships that don’t work out and strange coincidences. But I hope it’s been done with a grain of humour at least.

Why has Dylan kept it a secret?

I think that Dylan would be very keen to keep anything a secret as he keeps his personal life as far away from the hospital as possible, Dervla accepted of course. In his world, he is essentially married to his dog! (that does sounds dreadful!) but I think in many ways he has lobotomised the part of his brain that was dealing with that marriage to Sam so that secrecy is his instant analysis that one feels when a secret has been outed in public. It’s something he shut down and refused to deal with. It was always something that was likely to come out but whether he imagined he would run away to Tahiti before Sam would tell everyone, I don’t know. In the end, the decision was made for him.

Why do you think they haven’t divorced?

I think divorce involves a degree of mediation. I think it probably involves, in the legal profession, a discipline that Dylan has a natural antagonism towards. It would also mean dealing with something in a way in which Dylan just doesn’t do. Whether or not there are other issues to do with whether he has come to terms with the end of the relationship, I don’t know if Dylan would be aware of those things. People do become estranged for many reasons and I think their reasons were more to do with Sam’s career progression and the fact she went off to join the army which would probably have made the divorce less necessary.

We’ve seen a flirtation between him and Zoe, is he likely to be interested in her?

The flirtation I think is simply a product of two people that have a real professional respect for each other, a man and a woman in the same working environment where they are dealing with matters of life and death and rely on eachother. I think relationships develop in that gap that and viewers bring to it whatever they want to bring from it. From Dylan’s point of view, I think it will be something that has escaped his attention entirely. I think it’s a quirk of Dylan’s, he doesn’t court respect or admiration in anyway other than professional and as such I think that makes him intriguing to the people that work with him and for the viewers that watch.

He’s quite emotionally stunted though, isn’t he?

He certainly doesn’t connect with the vast majority of people. He has a low threshold for incompetence and you see those times when he comes across patients or colleagues that are competent or have moments of real clarity and see that connection being made. Sometimes it comes across so strongly, too efficiently and sometimes inappropriately and Dylan for some reason is particularly good with people that are disadvantaged either through their condition or because they are young or because they’re having a tough day at work and in those situations he does go some way to forming a relationship in a more orthodox way but most of the day for Dylan is taken up trying to make up for the mistakes of other people, at least in his mind.

You get some of the best lines on the show. They must be a joy to say?

Some of them are yes, they are terrific! From the very first time that I read the breakdown that they send you before you audition, it was almost a hand in glove fit for somebody I’d known for a number of years. I’d known them as long as I wanted to know them for! That continued to be the case throughout, as it so happens that person was particularly verbally gifted at being demeaning towards people. He was also more often than not absolutely right and as long as Dylan is accurate then all of that stuff is terrific. There are moments when it sometimes verges on the pejorative and you have to be a little bit careful. I’m very aware that humour is one thing but to be prejudicial towards anybody, in a context of the Department and of the NHS and the way they interact with the public, it would be completely unacceptable and I think that Dylan would be aware of that too but he does tred a very fine line but of course it is very enjoyable.

What reaction do you get from viewers?

Not much as I go about my day-to-day life but I am aware of the reactions to the character from the people that watch the show. It’s so flattering to know that people enjoy it. You always try to bring three dimensions atleast to your character and for whatever reason Dylan has worked. It’s computed and the parts have slotted in. I think Dylan could be put into any situation and I could make him a human being. Dylan is much more adaptable than he might seem and that is a rare pleasure. The fact that viewers are enjoying it and also sometimes that he irritates viewers, that is great too. You hopefully want to be loved and hated – that’s how strong characters are handled in reality.

Is Dylan still on his boat?

Yes certainly in my mind! The boat is in South Holby, as is Dervla the dog. I’d love them to find a way of making sure they are not forgotten. The show going so often as it does, you sometimes find things get put out to pasture but Dervla and the boat are very much still key to his character. In my mind, that’s where he’s going home. I couldn’t imagine him going anywhere else.

Could you live on a house boat?

I could live on that one we filmed on as it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s big, comfortable and most important stationary!

So how much is Dylan involved in the opening episodes?

Not as much as some of the other characters particularly the first episode. It’s emphasis is mainly on the patients. Jeff and Dixie have really strong lines throughout that. From what I’ve seen with the paramedics, it is really terrific and looks authentic. From Dylan’s point of view I think the frustration on him is that he can’t have a more hands on role. He enjoys doing stuff and the nature of the accident is such that the people that are coming in are more pain management. He’s doing his bit, he’s a cog in the machine.

Sam puts herself in danger in the opening episodes, is that for Dylan’s benefit?

I think Dylan, for one reason or another, is hyper-sensitive to Sam’s location during episode 17 and he is aware that she may be deliberately putting herself in danger just to spite him but whether Sam is doing that for his benefit or not I don’t I don’t think it is for me to say. I think he is as pre-occupied for her safety as with the patients. It’s something in their history, the difference between them in that Sam likes to take unnecessary risks. Dylan is above all a rationalist and it is a major point of contention between them.

What’s the move to Cardiff been like? How have you settled in?

I was nervous to the point of I was in acute denial of it. My wife and I moved to Bristol having relocated from London to do Casualty and we felt that we’d only just landed there and then they started talking about the move. Logistically it’s such an enormous move, I thought for a while that it might not happen so when I went on my summer break and came back to find everybody had moved, I was alarmed! I was even more alarmed that I have to get up even earlier!

Regarding the show, I think we’re still finding out how demanding it is on the crew. Working practices that build up over 25 years in one location, are very difficult to move and even though we had a small break we really did hit the ground running. We had a week of camera tests, we were going at full speed from day one. Ofcourse there were teething problems but you don’t see them on the screen and that’s the most important thing. The excitement of being here tempered by the frustrations and the teething problems are hopefully only a benefit to what you see on screen. From the bits I have seen, they look really terrific. Visually the show looks different enough but yet sufficiently similar that it is not a big clunky change of gear. More power to them, this place is obviously going to go on to be an important part of the BBC’s output. There is potential and I hope this studio goes beyond that. The size of the studio here is only really comparable to somewhere like Pinewood. Being at the genesis of something like this is a real opportunity and privilege.

Are you going to stay in Bristol?

I don’t know. We look everyday at property over here and think about whether the move makes sense and what the implications would be. We have become accustomed to Bristol and to be honest at the moment there isn’t too much time to think about it. We’ll see, I’ll have to ask Dervla!

The New Year, sees Casualty also being filmed in HD, did you have any personal concerns about this?

Realistically speaking in this job if you’re not aware cosmetically then you’re not really doing the most important part of the job. It can be doing something as straightforward as getting enough sleep. It’s not as punishing as you might imagine, you have to mean every word you say. If you watched HD closely the moments that you are aware you’re watching something different is when something doesn’t quite work and from an actors point of view that happens more often than not when you stop believing in what you’re saying. That has all sorts of implications, the main one being that I have a lot of respect for the job I do, I have respected the character that I play and I mean every word I say.

Do you think your medical background has made your portrayal of Dylan anymore authentic or easier?

The authenticity is a major consideration to me as well as other people. Dylan is a very particular type of character, people may say he doesn’t work well in this type of environment, all of which is legitimate although the majority of people think that he was. I hesitate to say a medical background would entitle me to say that with any degree of certainty that what I was doing was authentic from a day to day point of view because I am not a doctor. I have only more respect for people that do do that that job, having done this. My fascination with medicine when I was studying it is still there and from that point of view my brain is hard-wired towards a fascination with medicine.

Does it make the delivery of medical jargon easier?

You want to make sure that you know exactly what you’re talking about it. It’s fair to say that most the scripts are not written by doctors and nurses, but it goes through the rigour of every department to facilitate the performance. It’s imperative. I wouldn’t have done this job if I didn’t have a fascination for the character and in Dylan’s case, a real funny mental fascination with medicine. And I love that stuff and I couldn’t imagine doing without it.

Do any cast members come to you and ask for advice on pronouncing things?

Far from it. We have medical advisors on Set who do an invaluable job and sometimes they do need to come in and correct you. Sometimes your instinct is to go with the pronunciation you’re comfortable with but there is a very particular quality when you are delivering dialogue in a real hospital and it’s more about being explicit than it is necessarily to be explanatory. By that I mean, some things are quite thrown away but need to be said for example when you ask for a patients bloods, U’s and E’s, LFT’s. They are phrases you hear time and time again both here and in hospital but they need to be said. You need to have a relaxation about them and sometimes its a case of making sure you run through dialogue often enough before you film it to make sure it doesn’t sound clunky. People who do this show have to be aware that it is a major part of it. I enjoy it although I’m sure some others may not as much!

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