Casualty star confirms 'gut-wrenching' final storyline for Charlie Fairhead

It’s hard to imagine a world without Charlie Fairhead in Casualty but it’s sadly one we are going to have to live in soon, as Derek Thompson will leave his role after 37 years.

Appearing in nearly 900 episodes, Derek is Casualty’s longest-serving cast member and has played a central part in the show since it launched in 1986.

Discussing his departure after so long, Derek said when the news broke: ‘The time has come for me to hang up Charlie’s scrubs after the most wonderful 37 years. Charlie Fairhead was inspired by a real nurse – Pete Salt.

‘Together with the writers and producers, I have tried to bring to Charlie the compassion, kindness, heroism and sound judgement that we all see and love in Pete and I want to say thanks to Pete and everyone else over that time who has inspired me in bringing this character to life.’

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Derek’s final scenes as Charlie will air next year after a gripping storyline – one that we have new details of.

Elinor Lawless, who has played Stevie Nash since 2021, recently spoke to us about what’s ahead for her character as Faith’s (Kirsty Mitchell) drug addiction spirals out of control again, and also dropped a few very exciting teasers about Charlie’s departure from the ED.

‘We know that Derek Thompson is leaving, so we’re prepping for this exit right now’, she said.

‘I remember joining the show, he sets the tone really, for the cast. Derek is an every man, he talks to everybody, he has time for everybody so basically, over the next few weeks as you see Stevie and Faith’s friendship tested, we enter into the temperature of the ED really starting to shift, we start to take a look at the reality of what staff are up against in a real sense of their mental and physical safety.

‘That’s where you see Stevie at the beginning of this trajectory, it’s this huge story that will culminate in the exit of a legend’, she added.

‘I think that he really is a cornerstone, he’s an anchor for the whole ethos of the ED. It definitely promises to be a real shocking, exciting, gut-wrenching and hopefully edge of your seat stuff.’

As we wait for these scenes to air in a few months time, the present day version of Casualty is currently airing a complicated storyline involving Faith.

The beloved character has had an addiction to painkillers for months but in recent weeks, has chosen to lie and tell her best friend Stevie that she has cancer to cover up the truth.

With Faith on edge and Stevie determined to help her friend, it won’t be long until the lie is exposed and according to Elinor, this will change the dynamic of Stevie and Faith’s friendship completely.

‘I think it takes Stevie and Faith into this place in their friendship that is completely unchartered waters for both of them. Faith has told this really unexpected lie and I think ultimately this is going to test their friendship as it would you know, any friendship where you have somebody who’s struggling with addiction.

‘I think it’s rocky and complicated and it’s not tied up with a bow and I think that’s what the story kind of does well is that these things are never straightforward. I think we’re going to see this relationship really tested.’

Elinor said: ‘I think for Stevie it all comes to the fore because she is like a dog with a bone! She thinks, “I’m going to step up and be the best possible mate I can be. I’m going to kind of go against Faith’s wishes and make sure that she’s getting the right treatment”. She basically finds out because she loves her friend. She wants to find out who her consultant is, what kind of care she’s getting and all of a sudden, all the strands unravel and the lies I think build and then everything falls apart.’

Stevie is then left with a choice – does she continue supporting Faith and attempt to get her the help she needs, or leave her to deal with this addiction all alone?

‘I think she probably surprises herself at how torn she is over what to do’, Elinor said.

‘On one hand, she has a, and this is something that eventually tips the balance…she has professional responsibility, but on the other hand, she knows what it’s like to go to the edge and to feel like you might not come back and she knows what it’s like to go to that desperate place.

‘I think what you’re really going to get from the episode is that real pull and I think it’s something that a lot of people with families who are suffering from any kind of addictive or bingeing behaviour, you are constantly torn between a sense of loyalty and love and a memory of who that person actually is? And a sense of anger, also righteous indignation, but I think Stevie kind of surprises herself.’

‘I think what the show does really well is show the real betrayal of that and the real brink that people are living on when they live with someone who has an addiction – there’s an edge that people live on, not just the person who has the addiction, but the whole infrastructure around them and how fragile that all is.

‘I think Stevie goes through all the stages of grief because essentially, you’re losing somebody to a battle but eventually, I think the thing that wins out is that she sees somebody who really needs her help.’

Pondering over what’s ahead for the two character, Elinor revealed: ‘I think with any friendship that survives; the tests are inevitable. I think both parties have a lot of growing up to do. I think Stevie did a lot of growing up during it and I think that the dynamic ultimately has to shift because I think that for Stevie, this whole time Faith has been the grown up in this friendship, and Stevie’s definitely been kind of like a lackadaisical child.

‘I think it’s a hard lesson to learn that sometimes, those roles switch, and you have to be the one to step in and protect and to adult. I think this is one that the audience will wonder where it’ll go, they’ll question whether the friendship will survive this but ultimately, it’s about watching two women evolve and grow.’

‘They’ve had huge periods of being alone in their own personal lives and I think the audience will be rooting for that loyalty to win, but it’s going to take a lot of tears and it will alter the chemistry of their friendship but that could be definitely for the better.’

Suffice to say that Elinor is loving her time in Casualty so far. As well as highlighting how much she enjoys portraying Stevie, Elinor also reflected on the importance of playing a character who is ‘incredibly human’ and someone the audience can resonate with.

‘What I’ve really enjoyed is creating a character who is just at all times, incredibly human. Someone who can make mistakes and shout their mouth off and love hard, and get things really wrong, and sometimes get things brilliantly right. It’s been really fun and also a surprise at times with where the character goes.

‘I think at the end of the day, it’s the joy of acting. We get to play out a character over time and see how they react in different situations. It’s so much fun. It’s like you’ve taken the best bit of childhood. I think we can be incredibly artistic and stoic, but we get to play for a living, and you do it because at the end of the day, you want people who are invested in the show and the community of the characters to hopefully be identifiable, and for the audience to resonate with them.’

She added: ‘What’s lovely is hearing from people on Twitter or the people who go to the studio – I’ve got huge respect and affection for these people who have travelled three or four hours on a train to the studio all because they feel less alone because the world of the Holby ED exists – that’s cool and that’s a real privilege.

‘It’s a lovely bit of the job. When I watch any TV shows or films, it’s just about feeling less alone. You tune in because these people feel like neighbours or family, and I love that. To get to play a character in this universe that’s existed for 38 years I feel very lucky.

‘To have characters exist in the stickiness of darkness and get through it offers tremendous hope and hopefully, the thing about any art form is that it should start conversation.

‘It’s about starting conversation and stories like this, with addiction, you’re going to have so many people with varying degrees of experience talking about what it’s like and that’s a good thing.’

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