He was a man on a mission when he waved farewell to his colleagues three years ago. Now, Dr Will Preston is back in Cardale on a mission of a different kind. Fans of Peak Practice will recall how Will, played by Simon Shepherd and his wife, Kate (Shelagh Mcleod) left in search of the best treatment for their baby Emily who had Cystic Fibrosis. Now with his friend Dr Andrew Attwood facing personal and professional ruin after being accused of sexually assaulting a patient, Will makes an 11th hour appearance at the disciplinary hearing. But will he be in time to clear Andrews name?
A lot of things have changed about Will says Simon, 44, who was one of the show’s original stars when it began in 1993. ‘He’s more worldly and on the surface his life seems to be a real success story, but notably his wife and daughter aren’t with him. He’s harbouring a secret, although you will have to wait to find out what it is.’
After leaving Peak Practice, Simon had major parts in Rogue Trader, Warriors, Bliss and a four part adaptation of Catherine Cookson’s Tilly Trotter which starred Carli Norris as Tilly. Next he’ll be seen in a Ruth Rendell mystery and a short film. ‘Oddly in both I play a wife abuser. Perhaps casting director see something in me that I don’t see in myself,’ laughs Simon, who in real life is happily married to Oscar nominated costume designer Alex Byrne, with whom he has four children, Joe 12, Twins Arthur and Billy, nine, and Beatrice five.
Having signed a three year contract to appear in Peak Practice the actor bought a house in Derbyshire where it is filmed. ‘I wanted to have a place where we could be together as a family,’ says Simon who also owns a home in Bath.
His strong sense of family is inherited, he says, from his own hugely loving parents. They ran a pub in Stratford upon Avon that was constantly filled with actors from the RSC. He’d fall asleep listening to the artistic chatter wafting up the staircase. ‘It’s no wonder I became an actor,’ he says.
Simon admits he missed Dr Will terribly. He says ‘I absolutely love the guy. I love the fact he’s not frightened to say what he believes, even if he’s wrong.’
Viewers obviously feel the same way too, as he has already had letters welcoming him back. ‘It’s been extremely touching,’ says Simon. Not that he allows the price to go to his head. ‘I’m a very ordinary bloke,’ he says. ‘Every now and then I take a step back and think how lucky I’ve been to do a job I love.’