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Simon Shepherd    Pebble Mill    February 1996

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 wasnít working. So we had to start all over again.

SG:    What youíd 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 didnít want? You were in them presumably?

SS:    I was in them. Basically they shot, totally finished two episodes, they looked at it and as Iíve said in the press itís like cooking, itís 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 itís a case of they were trying to mend something that wasnít necessarily broken - two characters were going?

SS:    Yes

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 Iíve been told, you donít know because I didn't want to go in to it - but they decided that character wasnít really working within the context of The Beeches

SG:    So who was that character? Have we seen that person?

SS:    No you wonít see him at all. Heís 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. Itís been a very bumpy ride

SG:    It mustíve been

SS:    Itís been a horrid time!

SG:    How do you recover from that, pick it up and carry it? Not just in terms of the character youíre 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 didnít know was there

SG:    Weíve 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 sheís got married to Nick, who Will doesnít like very much, who we saw very fleetingly in the last series. They're moving to Florida and sheís taking the children with. It means that heís only going to see then in the holidays. So I think it sets up that really, romantically, heís free!

SG:    Heís free, and theyíll be a little bit of romance creeping in?

SS:    I think thereís a lot of romance!

SG:    I also understand that in the first episode weíre going to see a side of you that weíve 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 Ďwell thereís so much trouble going on, I donít think I really want to be another fly in their ointmentí, so I just said Ďheights are absolutely fineí, as you do, then woke up the next morning and thought, ĎOh my god. Iíve 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 donít get vertigo. But I wasnít quite sure.

SG:    Have you ever had to do stunts before?

SS:    Yes Iíve 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:    Iíve not heard of that

SS:    No Iím very glad that youíve not heard of that

SG:    Have many people heard of it? When was it shown?

SS:    It was never shown here. I think itís on video here. I shouldn't have said that though. Iíve just signed my own death warrant! Itís a sports based bond spoof, thereís a lot of fun in it. I play a very camp hairdresser whoís Roger Mooreís 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 youíd had him on. Has he sat here?

SG:    Not yet

SS:    He is the nicest leading man Iíve ever worked with without a doubt. Heís the kindest and wisest actually sanest man, but when Iím nervous, apparently the cameraman tell me that my left eyebrow does go up

SG:    Oh it just did. Iím going to find that bit!

SS:    If you freeze frame Peak Practice, youíll 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 weíve got some more Bliss coming up as well

SS:    Yes

SG:    Ladies and Gentleman Ė Simon Shepherd!