Simon Shepherd The Weekly News Interview – February 1996

Fans told Simon what screen wife was up to behind his back.

Peak Practice is back but what a change! Doctors Jack and Beth have gone to Africa, leaving Will Preston to take over the helm, and keep the understaffed and overstretched NHS practice afloat.

Patients have started to desert The Beeches in favour of the nearby Health Centre. ‘Clearly it’s going to be a tough fight,’ Simon told The Weekly News. ‘But solving the problems will hopefully make cracking good TV.’

The opening production problems of the new series are certainly dramatic. One actor left the cast and some early instalments were reshot because the original scenes had the wrong ‘chemistry’. ‘The decision to reshoot was a total shock,’ said Simon. ‘That, and suddenly working with different actors did make life a nightmare. But the result has been exhilarating, although it was very hard work. What I need now, after what seems a lifetime of working six days a week, is some sound sleep.’

All this put pressure on Simon’s home life. He and his wife Alexandra Byrne an award winning theatre TV and film costume designer, saw so little of each other, they were almost resorting into ‘meeting under the clock’ so they could have a chat. ‘But now the series is being shown we’re both looking forward to the break, when we can relax and recharge our batteries,’ said Simon.

In the fictitional village of Cardale Dr Will’s problems increase when his ex wife drops a bombshell saying that she’s going to Florida with her new partner – and taking the boys with them. Viewers will see that Will tackles all these problems in a far stronger way than the character they saw in the previous series. ‘The Will of old would be trembling at the knees and blubbering all over the place’ said Simon. ‘Now he’s far tougher.’

And there is some light on the horizon for him. During the series he becomes involved with Dr. Kate Webster played by Shelagh McLeod. ‘Dr Webster has been divorced and has a young son, the same age as Will’s, so it’s a case of two damaged people meeting,’ said Simon. ‘It’s a much fuller relationship than the one Will had with the drug sales rep.’

In the previous series, Simon had a shoal of letters from viewers telling him what his screen wife Sarah had been up to behind his back. ‘I found the letters amusing in one way,’ said Simon. ‘As though fictional life had been replaced by real life. I also had several letters congratulating me on my bedside manner which I found flattering. And there’s one advantage of portraying a doctor for this length of time – I’m getting a bit more competent at some of the medic; procedures.’

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