We have a private consultation with Kevin Whately and Amanda Burton – TV’s most popular doctors!
Kevin Whately’s roles as Dr Jack Kerruish in Peak Practice and as Sergeant Lewis in Inspector Morse both seem light years away from his part as Neville in Auf Wiedersehen Pet – the role which first shot him to TV stardom.
‘I love working on Peak Practice and I loved working on Morse but Auf Wiedersehen Pet was very special’ Kevin says. ‘They were very funny scripts and, somehow, I had less responsibility in those days.’ Kevin has very happy memories of the series but admits, ‘It could so easily have gone horribly wrong if we’d had a very strict director and floor manager. But in fact, they let us get away with murder and I think some of that chemistry came across on the screen.’
Although Kevin doesn’t see himself as the star of Peak Practice, he does agree that he’s more in the spotlight now than when he was playing Morse’s sidekick. ‘It’s sometimes easier to plod along behind somebody, keeping your head down,’ he jokes.
Kevin says that his Peak Practice role is exceptionally hard work. ‘It might be good for my career, but it’s not good from a stress point of view!’ he says with a grin. ‘We film at least twelve hours a day, then learn our lines in the evening, so it’s more like fifteen or sixteen hours a day.’
Before taking the role for Jack, Kevin took advice from the head of his local medical practice in Bedfordshire who invited him to sit in on consultations. Asked if he could see himself as a doctor in real life, Kevin thinks it over for a moment. ‘I don’t know,’ he finally says. ‘In some ways I’ve got the right temperament. I’m not intelligent enough for it, but I’m quite happy working hard and working long hours and I’m quite sympathetic, I think. I’m a good listener. But as for the medical side of it, I’d be pretty hopeless!’
Kevin’s children, Katherine, 11, and Keiran, 10, are singularly unimpressed by their dad’s television fame. ‘They’re just about reaching their teens so they’re quite embarrassed about it in some ways,’ Kevin says with a smile. ‘I think they get a lot of mickey-taking at school but I’ve talked to a lot of actors who say kids of that age go through it and then in their late teens they forget about it!’
Occasionally, Katherine and Keiran and Kevin’s wife, actress Madelaine Newton, travel up to Derbyshire while Kevin is filming Peak Practice. ‘the people here are smashing,’ he says. ‘It’s very like Northumberland, where I come from. They don’t bother you, they just accept that you’re there in their community for a while.’
By the end of filming this present series of Peak Practice, Kevin will certainly be ready to enjoy his summer break. Back home, Kevin unwinds by taking his dog for long walks, spending time with the children, listening to a lot of music and playing his guitar. When it comes to TV shows, he was a great fan of the series ‘Tutti Frutti’ but confesses his all-time favourite show was the children’s programme ‘Whirlybids’! If he could play any role he would choose, ‘Something very swashbuckling that I’d be hopeless at – Robin Hood or William Tell!’ And his immediate ambition? ‘A good nights sleep!’ he replies with a yawn.
The first series of Peak Practice attracted 14.7 million viewers, putting the programme high in TV’s top ten shows list. ‘We had some pretty spectacular episodes in the first two series’ says Amanda Burton who stars as Doctor Beth Glover.
‘But this series is just as dramatic.’
In one scene, Beth is called out to an epileptic boy who is stranded on a high ledge in a collapsed, disused factory building. Beth volunteers to try to reach the trapped, frightened lad in a telescopic fireman’s cradle to give him the vital medicine he needs. ‘I wasn’t taken particularly seriously when I said I had no head for heights,’ Amanda recalls. ‘Being hoisted fifty feet in the air in a fire basket was quite…um…interesting! The fireman were great. They were so calm – which I suppose they have to be – but they made you feel very confident and perfectly at ease after a while’
Amanda admits that Peak Practice isn’t the cushiest acting job she’s ever undertaken. While filming, thermals and long johns are a definite must! In fact, rumour has it that while filming the last series she was frozen to the point of hypothermia. ‘In just about every episode!’ Amanda admits with a smile. ‘It’s not any less cold this series – I’m just getting more used to it!’
Although the working hours are long and Amanda has to spend a lot of time away from her London home, she is very fond of Derbyshire.
‘I really enjoy spending time in the county and I’ve got to now a lot more of it by going on walks and nature trails,’ she says. Amanda gets home to London as often as she can but says, ‘The children come up to Derbyshire on holidays and at weekends. I’d rather see my children more, of course I would, but I can’t always be there.’
When it comes to medical expertise, Debra Grimley, the programmes medical advisor, is always on hand to check that medical procedures look authentic.
‘There are things that you’ve got to do which have to be absolutely spot on,’ Amanda explains. ‘You’ve got to hold all the instruments correctly, and above all you’ve got to look confident.’
At one point during filming, Amanda herself needed medical attention.
‘I was over-enthusiastic with a car door, I’m afraid! I was rescuing someone who was trying to commit suicide. I broke into his garage and wrenched his door open – smack into my mouth! I hadn’t realised I’d damaged myself until I wondered where all the blood was coming from!’
How much does Amanda have in common with Beth?
‘I do admire her,’ Amanda admits. ‘I like the way she deals with things. She isn’t frightened of saying exactly what she feels.’
Has the role brought Amanda lots of public recognition?
‘I don’t get recognised too often,’ she says. ‘Maybe because I change my hair and wear hats! It’s lovely sometimes though, and it makes a bad day worthwhile if somebody comes up and says how much they enjoy the programme and how much it means to them. But I’m not very good at being watched. I’m getting rather bashful in my old age!