At last, the agony is over for Peak Practice fans. For the last few months they’ve had to get by on a prescription of repeats. But this week the series about life in a country practice is back. Now in its third series, it picks up where it left off with Dr Will Preston and his faithless wife Sarah signing divorce papers. In the meantime, Dr Jack and Beth are still enjoying the novelty of becoming Mr and Mrs Kerruish.
‘It’s as if there’s been a complete role reversal,’ say Simon Shepard who plays Dr Will. ‘At one time it was Will with the the wife and family and security while Jack and Beth were free, single and looking for love. But now the boot is on the other foot and Will is the one who’s out in the cold whilst Jack and Beth have their life sorted out. Still, it’s just what they all need in order to grow and change, and by the end of the series, theY will be better for what’s happened. That’s a promise.’
For now Will is forced to move into a bachelor flat. ‘It’s symbolic of moving on,’ says Simon. ‘In the first two series he was a bit of a Peter Pan figure. He hid emotionally behind Sarah refusing to admit she was having an affair and refusing to deal in an adult way with what was going on. He was living a lie and ended up having a nervous breakdown because of it. But in this series, he’s really rebuilding his life and he’s a lot better than he was. I respect that he still has a sense of humour and a great sense of loyalty to his friends and kids, and I respect that he’s finally growing up, because in his case it wasn’t easy. He isn’t perfect, but I like the idea that he’s a flawed hero.’
It’s the last aspect that makes well attractive and lovable, the type many woman want to mother. ‘But I play Will for honesty, not sympathy. I’d hate for people to feel sorry for him. All the main characters are complex. That’s what makes them real. And I think that’s one of the things that made the show such a success.’
There are other factors too of course. There’s the stunning Peak District landscapes and the fact that the series give viewers a chance to peek behind the curtain of doctors consulting rooms. ‘It’s the same kind of fascination that makes people stop a road accident,’ says Simon. There’s also the professional chemistry between 38 year old Simon and his two co stars Amanda Burton who plays Beth and Kevin Whately who plays Jack. ‘It was there as soon as we started working together,’ says Simon. ‘We trust each other completely as actors and we relax when we work together. So, if Kevin and Amanda tell me that something I’m doing with Will’s character isn’t quite right they’re not normally wrong. We all listen carefully to each other. We’re friends on screen and off and that’s probably obvious to anyone who watches the series.’
Simon is married to costume designer, Alex. He describes Alex as a strong and extraordinary woman. ‘We married young at 24, there’s never been a moment when I questioned if it was the right decision. All relationships change and grow of course but Alex is the reason for my happiness. I enjoy my work, but I love to come home to my wife and kids because that’s where my reality is. Maybe I’m old fashioned but as far as I’m concerned, you make a decision about who you want to be with, and how you want to spend your life and then you stick to it. I passionately believe infidelity and commitment.’ Simon suspects that Will feels the same way. ‘He may have been a lot of things but he’s never been unfaithful to Sarah, which makes her infidelity all the more devastating.’ It’s not until the divorce is inevitable that Will begins unconsciously to cast around for someone else. Then in episode five he’s seduced by Janey, a drugs company rep. ‘It’s the first time since his marriage that he’s been involved with anyone other than Sarah and he finds it pretty scary,’ says Simon. ‘In the end, Janey literally drags him into bed, but he doesn’t exactly complain. He can’t believe that this gorgeous girl with brains and humour should make a play for him, but through Janey we see Will truly happy for the very first time.’
Naturally, this is bad news for female fans. But it’s very good news for Will himself, Janey goes on to become his long term girlfriend. Just what the doctor ordered!