Belfast born Derek Thompson, better known as Head Nurse, ‘Charlie Fairhead’, in BBC-TV’s long running drama series, ‘Casualty’, is taking a well earned rest from the show, following an unexpected turn-of-events, in episode 17, on December 22.
‘This will be a very emotional moment for ‘Casualty’ fans, as we watch ‘Charlie’ walking away from the Emergency Dept’, explained a BBC insider.
Derek lives in Bristol with his wife actress Dee Sadler and their son, Charlie, and is indeed Irish. ‘My parents moved the family across here when we were very young.’
The Thompsons felt there was tension building. This was in the 1960s and they were right. They didn’t want their children to grow up in the middle of what was to become known as ‘the troubles’, so they uprooted the family and moved to England.
‘On reflection’ admits Derek ’how wise they were!’
But the great thing about it, he says ‘ was that we had an inbuilt excuse for the rest of family, who remained in Ireland, to come over to visit us.’ He has fond memories of those times when once a month they would all get together. ‘It was a bit of a riot’. he laughs.
Although he still has family in Ireland, he doesn’t get to return as much as he would like. ‘I may not go back that often but I still feel very Irish.’
In 1982, Derek starred as Provo assassin ‘Billy’ in the controversial television 3- part drama ‘Harry’s Game’, about the Provisional IRA and the British Army.
‘It was a book by Gerald Seymour that Yorkshire Television turned into a very successful and very well made drama. At the time’ he recalls ‘it felt like it had a bit of a kick to it. The producers had asked for advice from the Army who read the script which was actually written by Gerald Seymour, a greatly respected journalist who had spent a lot of time in Belfast covering ‘the troubles’, so he knew what he was talking about. His script was consequently very hard hitting and wide ranging.’ Derek remembers the Army’s reaction, when they read it, as extremely unfavourable. ‘They felt it was very unkind to the Army and I seem to remember the expression ‘deeply unpatriotic’ was actually used. ‘
As an actor Derek enjoyed playing ‘Billy Downs’ but he didn’t enjoy the abuse he received from the public. ‘I actually got spat at on the tube one time. This woman – from Belfast I think – obviously thought she was addressing the character and not the actor Derek Thompson. As she got off the tube, she spat at me saying ‘I don’t know how a creature like you can walk down the street’. At that time, his hair was long and curly and he was frequently mistaken for tennis player, John McEnroe, gathering a fair amount of abuse intended for McEnroe, but when this irate woman attacked him, he was flabbergasted. ‘I just didn’t know what to do’.
A few years later, he joined ‘Casualty’. The public these days greet him more kindly. In fact, they love Charlie, which is why his dramatic exit from the show, after twenty one years, may increase the sales of Kleenex.
But Derek Thompson has also enjoyed a musical career.
complete interview appeared in Irish Post, Dec 18, 2007.
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