Shelagh McLeod couldn’t have been happier to return to her role as Kate Preston in Peak Practice. But she reveals that the tragic storyline which explained her comeback has recalled heartbreaking memories.
This week, Kate is dealt a cruel blow when, still hoping to save her marriage to Will, she is served with divorce papers by him. But the fact that Shelagh’s back in the show for two series suggests the story is far from over for the Preston’s.
Fans of ITV his top rated medical drama caught a glimpse of Kate when she made a dramatic return to Cardale in the final episode of the last series in December. But they had to wait till the start of this year, to learn why Kate is back. She’s followed Will, who fled America, following the death of the couple’s three year old daughter Emily.
It was storyline that reminded Sheila of the tragic real life deaths of two children she knew well. The youngsters, sons of good friends of the actress and her husband both died of leukaemia. ‘It’s still heartbreaking talk about. One was seven and the other was five, and from diagnosis to death was only five weeks. As a mum, I can’t even bear to think about it,’ says Canadian born Shelagh, 39, whose own daughter Katherine is five. The star and her property developer husband Marek dote on Katherine and one of the hardest parts of Shelagh’s job is leaving home in Surrey to spend four days a week in Derbyshire where Peak Practice is filmed.
One bonus is that she is best friends with Simon Shepherd who plays Will and when he agreed to make a comeback it was almost inevitable she’d do the same. She says, ‘Simon is one of the nicest, funniest men in the world and it’s a joy to work with him again. We’re always saying how lucky we are because the whole cast and crew are lovely. We’re like one happy family.’
Shelagh, who moved to Surrey as a six year old, gave up the chance of starring opposite Hollywood heartthrob Andy Garcia, to sign a two series Peak Practice deal. ‘I was in Canada when I got a call, asking me if I’d be interested in coming back for two episodes of Peak Practice,’ she recalls. ‘I’d just done two screen tests to play Andy Garcia his wife in a movie and was about to do a third, but the dates clashed with when I had to be in Britain. Then Peak Practice said they wanted me for two series and I knew I had to do it. I’ll never know if I would have got that movie part but I’m happy to be back in the show I love.’