Back in May 2015 the cast and crew of Doctors went out on location in Birmingham city centre to record scenes for a special hour long episode to celebrate the milestone of reaching 3,000 episodes of the popular BBC daytime soap. With the special hour long episode due on screen on 10th September it won’t be long now before we all get to see what happened
The official press release is cloaked in secret but does give a hint of what to expect in what promises to be an exciting climax to an ongoing story of police corruption in Letherbridge.
A shooting in a city centre, A dance with a whiff of romance, A damaged child saved…and corruption exposed.
I was fortunate enough to catch up with a few of the cast in between scenes. First I spoke to Chris Walker, who plays police Sgt Rob Hollins.
Chris has played a number of police roles, The Bill (1985-87), Stay Lucky (1991), Our Friends in the North (1996) and Mersey Beat (2002), in a TV career spanning 30 years, so I started by asking him what it was about him as an actor that he felt made such a good police character.
Chris was at a loss at to why that might be, but suggested that he “must look a bit like an every man…”, before stating that “playing a police man is great fun.” He explained further by saying “The reason why police shows are so popular, and medical shows are so popular, it’s the revolving door and the nature of what they do, where different characters come through the door on a daily basis, which makes it easier to write shows around that.”
I suggested that the story lines could also be so varied for a police role, dealing with a minor crime to something of a far more serious nature. Chris agreed, “absolutely that, you can play every emotion, with that profession. In this show, I’ve almost got my own little cop show, and it’s an outlet from the surgery to go off and do, possibly, stories that they would find difficult to do. What also happens is you get Rob, not police man for the day, and when our screen kids were on the show we had our own little sit-com almost, with plenty of comedy also in the show.”
With so many hours in police uniform, I asked Chris if there were any occasions when he’d been mistaken for a real police officer during his career. Chris explained, “You sort of have to be be really careful of that and you need a cover coat, else you can get into trouble. When I first joined The Bill a very long time ago, 30 years ago to be exact. I was in East London filming and I was waiting, hundreds of yards away, for a visual cue to do something. So I was stood there and this old lady came up to me and asked me for directions, and I kept shushing her and she got more and more angry and said ‘What kind of police man are you, you are absolutely terrible, I’m going to report you’, and that’s why you have to cover up as quick as possible.”
With the results of this year’s TV Soap Awards fresh in the mind I took Chris back to the 2010 awards where he jointly won the Best On-Screen Partnership with his screen partner Jan Pearson (Karen Hollins) and I asked him what he thought made that partnership so special.
Chis offered, “I think we are equally at home with comedy as well as a tragedy, we both like to play comedy, and we are both generous to each other as actors and you have to be, to get a good partnership, everyhing’s give and take, a bit like a proper marriage really. We gelled straight away, for me, day one. Almost the very first scene we did we were in bed together, so that cracks the ice, and almost from that moment it’s worked. I respect Jan so much, I think she’s a brilliant actress and that helps, working with someone who’s brilliant.”
Chris has appeared in over 600 episodes in the six years he’s been on the show, so I asked if there was any one episode that stood out as a personal favourite.
Chris recalled, “My favourite one that we did, where we got more letters of complaints from our audience, was the spoof we did on Bond.. James Bond and that was so funny. With this show, more than any other show, we change genres and we’ll go off and do it in Black and White or we’ll go back in time. In the Bond episode I played the evil villain and we had such a ball, that’s my favourite one. Our very loyal audience like to see us doing what we normally do, they don’t like change, but as actors we like change and it was like a wonderful pantomime, it really was.”
Picking up on the subject of change, I asked Chris if he’d enjoyed being out in the city centre filming instead of back at the drama village in Selly Oak.
Chris said, “It is very nice to be in the centre today, we don’t very often come into the centre because of costs, we don’t have the money to spend on clearing streets, we are not in that league, so it’s nice to be here today.”
I finished the interview with a reference to Chris’s appearance on Celebrity Masterchef back in 2010 and asked if he was still doing a bit of cooking.
An enthusiastic Chris answered, “Yes, I do. Cooking is my passion, or one of them. Funnily enough I’m doing a gourmet night at a friend’s restaurant next month (June). I used to do gourmet night’s at my friend’s hotel, you know nine courses of tasting food, every cuisine there is, so I can do it, I really can do it and I’m doing one soon.”
As Chris poured himself a ‘non-gourmet’ catering cup of coffee, I wished him good luck with his forthcoming gourmet night and with his big story line in the 3,000th episode. Tune in on Thursday 10th September to see if Sgt Hollins has to deal with comedy or tragedy in this special episode celebrating 3,000 shows for the soap.
You can see and hear more of what Chris Walker had to say during the filming in a video on the What’s On TV website.
I’ll publish more of the interviews from the day in the lead up to the special hour long episode in September and the Doctors filming location now features in the Birmingham TV & Film locations walking tour that operates in conjunction with Film Birmingham.