Countryside frightens the hell out of me
Following Dr Joanna
Graham’s shocking departure at the end of the last series, Peak Practice had to
find itself another easy-on-the-eye lady doctor to keep pulses racing in
Actress Maggie O’Neill will start seeing patients this week as The Beeches’ Alex
Redman, an ex-army doctor with a bad past in Bosnia and a marriage on the rocks.
No wonder her bedside manner’s in need of a brush up. ‘She doesn’t come in as a
totally charming character,’ admits Maggie, 36. ‘She’s prickly because of things
going on in her personal life, but then she softens up a bit.’
Alex takes Joanna’s place in more ways then one - a romance with Dr Tom Deneley
is promised for next season.
Joining a year-round drama is new to Maggie, who’s usually chosen shorter stints
in high profile projects such as Births, Deaths and Marriages with Ray Winstone,
and Hero of the Hour with Ross Kemp.
A year out of work between these roles changed her mind. ‘It got longer and
longer between jobs and the longer you’re out of work, the harder it is to get
it,’ says Maggie.
Having never played a doctor before, Maggie was soon up to her elbows in blood
and gore. On her first day on set, Alex had to deliver a baby. ‘I was there
between this woman's legs wondering ‘what the hell am I supposed to be miming
down here?’ That was quite nerve-racking but the scene went on for pages and was
frenetic, so I didn’t have too much time to dwell on what I was doing and
started thinking, ‘No one’s going to believe this’.
But pretending to be a doctor is the easy bit. In fact, it’s quite a miracle
that Maggie took this role at all. Not only does she have to leave her artist
boyfriend behind in London while filming up north, but she’s an ardent townie.
‘Countryside frightens the hell out of me!’ says Maggie who rents a cottage in
Crich, where Peak Practice was filmed before much of it was moved to a studio.
‘You can hear the animals, and it’s too dark. Remember that series, Tales of the
Unexpected, when a psychopath would suddenly turn up at this country house and
slash everyone up? That’s how I think of the country.’
TV Times, September 2000