Saturday, September 23, 2006

Media frenzy over Casualty

The newspapers and magazines in Britain have been overflowing with Cambodia in every eye-catching headline this week, in the lead up to this weekend's double-episode of the hospital drama, Casualty, on BBC tv. The tv series is celebrating its 20th anniversary and will be showing the first two programme's of its newest run, with the main characters doing their bit for the needy in Cambodia. Its big news here in the UK, with Cathy Shipton - who plays popular nurse Duffy - appearing on breakfast television and with copious magazine and newspaper pages devoted to her story and that of her tv co-stars. The bulk of the shooting took place in rural countryside as the actors open up a new clinic, though filming also took place in Phnom Penh's Central Market and elsewhere in the city. In the photo below, Duffy welcomes her colleagues (courtesy of BBC).


Anonymous author said...

Reposted comments:

Andy said...

If I give you my baby, will you take him?
22 September 2006
EXCLUSIVE: When I was playing Duffy in Cambodia, five mums begged me to adopt their babies (UK)

By Clare Raymond

WHEN former Casualty actress Cathy Shipton agreed to return to the show to film in povertystricken Cambodia, she knew there would be some tear-jerking scenes.

But nothing prepared the emotional mum-of-one for the real-life heartache of being begged to adopt five baby boys by their desperate mothers. "When we were out filming in remote villages, we saw young mothers with about seven children each who were exhausted," says Cathy, who plays Nurse Duffy in the BBC1 hospital drama, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this week.

"They came to me with an interpreter and handed me their little babies, saying: 'If I give you my baby, will you take him?'I was offered five babies at different times - always boys aged three to six months."

The dilemma was especially poignant for the 49-year-old because she has been considering adopting a sibling in Britain for her five-year-old daughter Tallulah. She and her partner, actor Chris Guard, 53, tried to conceive for five years and endured a failed IVF attempt before Tallulah was born, when Cathy was 44.

So it's easy to see why the couple thought seriously about taking on one of the Cambodian babies. "When I was out there, long emails were going backwards and forwards between me and Chris. He is so broody," admits Cathy, who left Casualty three years ago to be a full-time mum. "But I said: 'We can't. Let's sponsor a child instead. I can't take one out of his culture'."

Cathy had to be persuaded to film the Casualty two-part special, but one factor clinched the deal. "The great pull was that I wasn't going back into the blue uniform, playing Duffy as everybody knows her. Her life has changed.

"My first question was: 'Who's going from the cast?' I texted Derek Thompson, who plays Charlie Fairhead, and he said: 'I'll go if you will'."

But Cathy's main worry was for her little girl, who she would have to leave at home for four weeks. "The pressure was on because they needed to write the script around my character and I had to make a decision. I thought: 'Oh my baby!' I did consider taking her with me but it was too much of a risk. The whole week before I went away she was in my bed at 5am, sobbing: 'Mummy, I don't want you to go.' I sobbed with her and told her: 'I'm going to miss you.'

"She's a bonnie, secure, confident child and I spoke to her on the phone twice a day before and after school. She was fine."

Her partner Chris - who has two grown-up daughters, Daisy, 28, and Rosie, 25 - was still married to their mother, Where The Heart Is actress Lesley Dunlop, when he met Cathy on the set of Casualty.

"In the beginning it was difficult, but what else can we do but get along?" says Cathy, who last month celebrated with Lesley at Daisy's wedding.

"When I met Chris I was in my mid 30s. I saw him with his teenage daughters and I was drawn to him as a father," she admits.

"My ovaries started to twitch. I wanted to get pregnant so badly. We tried on and off for five years. I had temperature charts, persona kits and every fandangled gadget. I would tell Chris: 'We've got to do it now!' But at 42, Cathy was told her tubes were blocked and would have to have IVF treatment.

"I stopped drinking, went organic, took vitamins and gentle exercise," she says. "I was squeaky clean."

But sadly, the first attempt failed and Cathy booked for a second course of IVF a few months later. In the mean-time she took a week off work and decided to enjoy herself. "We had resigned ourselves to the fact that we weren't going to conceive - science was going to do it for us," says Cathy.

"We relaxed, had a drink and fell in love again. And then, out of the blue, I found myself pregnant."

Cathy credits having reflexology for helping her to conceive. "The minute I became pregnant I fell in love with the world because of my hormones," she says.

But her worries weren't over. Because of her age, and the fact her brother has a Down's Syndrome son, Cathy was told there was a one in 12 chance her unborn baby would have the same condition. "I decided not to have any tests," she says, with tears in her eyes. "I saw her on the screen at a scan and I fell in love. I still get emotional when I think about it. We had counselling and and we decided we wanted her whatever."

When Tallulah arrived by caesarean, she weighed 9lbs 8oz with jet black hair and violet eyes - and was perfectly healthy.
"I talked to my baby straight away. I said: 'You are my peace bomb. You are going to do something fantastic in your life and bring peace to this angry planet.' Being a mum has changed me massively. I wasn't prepared for the 24/7 responsibility.

"My doctor advised me to try for another baby straight away because women are very fertile when they are breastfeeding. I thought hard about it but a long time ago we made our peace that she would be an only child."

But recently, Cathy and Chris have turned their thoughts to adoption. "Tallulah asks a lot for a brother or sister," says Cathy. "We haven't pursued it because we can't approach an agency unless we are really serious."

But she admits her heartstrings were tugged so hard by the children she met in Cambodia, she has become a campaigner for the charity Schools For Children of Cambodia. "I saw a lot of poverty - open sewers and small children carrying babies begging on the street, sex workers and amputee victims of landmines," she says. And as Cathy nears her 50th birthday in March, it has made her think about future goals.

"I want to take Tallulah out of school for a few months and travel as a family, visiting Australia and South American and teaching at one of the schools in Cambodia," says Cathy. "I'm also thinking about going back to work. I've been bitten by the bug again.

"I'd like to play bad'uns. I've been up for Bad Girls and professional villainesses, but I'm seen as too nice. People always associate me with good old Duffy and being wholesome. I have to break the mould."

CASUALTY'S two-part 20th anniversary special is on BBC1, Saturdaty at 8.20pm and Sunday at 8pm. For information about Schools For Children Of Cambodia, visit

5:30 AM

Mark said...

Shame that a touching story is spoiled by the Mirror's (and the UK press, in general) continuing ignorance about adoption:

"the couple thought seriously about taking on one of the Cambodian babies"

- not without 2 years worth of home study in the UK, adoption courses and approval from the DfES they wouldn't.

Oh yes, and the UK cynically closed its doors to adoptions from Cambodia 2 years ago anyway - following pressure from the US authorities - thereby condemning these children to, at best, a life of poverty or living in an institution, at worst a life on the streets or rubbish dumps of Phnom Penh, the sex trade or (more likely) anonymous death in the countryside.

Keep up the good work of publicising the plight of Camboodians Andy

Mark (father to a beautiful Cambodian 5 year old), London

5:53 PM

Sue said...

Beautiful country - shame about the dire acting and self-promotion of the cast. Seem to remember some years ago another "celeb" going to Cambodia and banging the drum for better provison of healthcare and more aid generally, and can't even remember the name now !!

Still - hopefully good publicity for Cambodia..

6:16 PM

March 28, 2008 8:35 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home