INTERVIEW BY: Sarah Green
SG: Tonight sees the starts of a new series of the hugely popular Peak Practice, with my next guest now in charge of The Beeches surgery.
(clip from Series 4, Episode 1, Will being told The Beeches is bring reduced to a two partner practice)
SG: Welcome to you Simon
SS: Thank you for having me
SG: What a fraught start to the brand new series
SS: Yes. I mean we lost Jack and Beth and then management decided to totally reformat the show and after two episodes, unfortunately they felt that the new format wasn’t working. So we had to start all over again.
SG: What you’d already recorded two other shows since the departure of Amanda Burton and Kevin Whately? So tell us a bit of the goss, what happened with the two they decided they didn’t want? You were in them presumably?
SS: I was in them. Basically they shot, totally finished two episodes, they looked at it and as I’ve said in the press it’s like cooking, it’s like a recipe. You hope that all the ingredients are going to make something fantastic and memorable. They looked at it, decided the recipe wasn’t working, so they totally reshot the first episode except for about 10%, then they reshot several bits of two other episodes. They removed two characters, they brought back the old producer, they got the old script team on board
SG: So it’s a case of they were trying to mend something that wasn’t necessarily broken – two characters were going?
SG: Now how does this affect Will.? How does it affect your character?
SS: It affects him in that originally, in the new format, Will is the senior partner. Jack and Beth are in Johannesburg and they want him to buy them out of the practice. So he’s under pressure, he then finds a partner and it was an older partner and they decided that that character was not – this is what I’ve been told, you don’t know because I didn’t want to go in to it – but they decided that character wasn’t really working within the context of The Beeches
SG: So who was that character? Have we seen that person?
SS: No you won’t see him at all. He’s a wonderful actor Larry Lamb, who was doing a terrific job with the character. But they felt that the four doctors involved, there were two hot headed locums which are played by Gary Mavers and Saskia Wickham and then this older partner that came in, and they felt that the older partner was the wrong dynamic. So it totally changed the dynamic for Will because he was then just stuck with these two hot headed locums. It’s been a very bumpy ride
SG: It must’ve been
SS: It’s been a horrid time!
SG: How do you recover from that, pick it up and carry it? Not just in terms of the character you’re playing, but yourself as an actor
SS: What you do is you throw yourself into your work, without being too pretentious, you throw yourself into the resources that you have inside your personality that you didn’t know was there
SG: We’ve seen Will dealing with some very emotional situations in his life, his private life, his personal has fallen apart
SS: All that happens in this one as well
SG: Does it?
SS: The wife, wonderfully played by Jacqueline Leonard, in the first episode announces that between series she’s got married to Nick, who Will doesn’t like very much, who we saw very fleetingly in the last series. They’re moving to Florida and she’s taking the children with. It means that he’s only going to see then in the holidays. So I think it sets up that really, romantically, he’s free!
SG: He’s free, and they’ll be a little bit of romance creeping in?
SS: I think there’s a lot of romance!
SG: I also understand that in the first episode we’re going to see a side of you that we’ve not seen before – as a stuntman
SS: Yes. That was in the middle of all the managerial changes that happened. I was asked, no I was indeed told, that Dr Will was going to be rather heroic and he would be going 60ft up scaffolding. I thought ‘well there’s so much trouble going on, I don’t think I really want to be another fly in their ointment’, so I just said ‘heights are absolutely fine’, as you do, then woke up the next morning and thought, ‘Oh my god. I’ve just said that heights are absolutely fine – I haven’t got a clue’. In fact they built a scaffolding tower for this stunt and we went 60ft up and when I got to the top I discovered that, thank god I don’t get vertigo. But I wasn’t quite sure.
SG: Have you ever had to do stunts before?
SS: Yes I’ve done stunts before but not actually involving heights. I did a very funny film with Roger Moore in Switzerland; Fire, Ice and Dynamite in 1990
SG: I’ve not heard of that
SS: No I’m very glad that you’ve not heard of that
SG: Have many people heard of it? When was it shown?
SS: It was never shown here. I think it’s on video here. I shouldn’t have said that though. I’ve just signed my own death warrant! It’s a sports based bond spoof, there’s a lot of fun in it. I play a very camp hairdresser who’s Roger Moore’s son.
SG: Can you do Roger Moore for us?
SS: No, but apparently…do you know Roger?
SG: mmm, no not personally
SS: Well I just wondered if you’d had him on. Has he sat here?
SG: Not yet
SS: He is the nicest leading man I’ve ever worked with without a doubt. He’s the kindest and wisest actually sanest man, but when I’m nervous, apparently the cameraman tell me that my left eyebrow does go up
SG: Oh it just did. I’m going to find that bit!
SS: If you freeze frame Peak Practice, you’ll probably see the eyebrow go up
SG: We’ll try that as well. Watch this space for that next week. Thanks so much for coming on Simon
SS: Thank you for having me
SG: Best of luck with the rest of the series and also I know we’ve got some more Bliss coming up as well
SG: Ladies and Gentleman – Simon Shepherd!