Playing Irish doctor Will Munro in BBC’s Casualty for almost a year now, Jack Nolan has been making quite an impression in BBC’s enduringly popular Saturday night medical drama. David Hennessy made an appointment to see him.
“The character’s so much fun to play it gave me a lot of leeway to play with it because the character is such a joker and not what you would expect a doctor to be,” Jack Nolan tells The Irish World.
Jack has been playing registrar Will Munro in Casualty since last March and his cheeky chap personality has made him popular with viewers. Jack told us he loves playing the character for the exact same reasons that people like him, that he likes to jokes and likes the ladies but can be serious when the time comes.
“Although he is a very good doctor, there is a lot of room for having the craic which is kind of how I am myself anyway.
“It’s the first time where I’ve been able to bring so much of my personality to a character. The character has made such an impact because he’s different to the other characters. He does have a laugh and a joke and he’s able to get away with things that maybe other people wouldn’t be able to or wouldn’t even attempt. He’s able to rely on the fact that he is just a really good doctor to be able to switch from having a laugh and a joke to being rushed into resus where by its very nature there’s someone’s life on the line. It’s in your hands and you have to take command of it and maybe make very quick decisions that we need to get right because there’s real consequences. I suppose in that sense the characters are kind of relying on their instincts and to be able to switch between those two modes. He’s a bit of a joker, a bit of a Lothario and then ultra professional, ‘Okay, it’s go time now’.”
Jack’s character Will rubbed fellow doctor Archie Hudson, played by Genesis Lynea, up the wrong way from the moment he arrived. Although they have very different characters and backgrounds, the characters are more alike than either will admit and have now reached a place of mutual respect. However, this came at a price with Archie getting stabbed trying to wrestle a knife away from a crazed drug addict in her mission to expose senior doctor Connie Beecham’s own spiralling drug addiction.
“They’re kind of like chalk and cheese. Her character just didn’t like Will on sight. You come across those people in life, every now and then, who just know how to push your buttons.
“I feel like she’s had to fight for everything she has whereas it does come quite easy to Will and that’s the image that he likes to portray to the world as well, ‘This is easy, this is nothing to me’.
“Perhaps when you’re struggling, that can be like a red rag to a bull. I definitely think when Archie was going after Connie and Will’s just like, ‘Keep the head down, don’t do anything rash, don’t do anything stupid, don’t step too far over the line and you’re going to be okay’ and that’s kind of how he’s gotten this far.
“He’ll have a laugh and a joke or whatever but he’s also happy to just not stick his head too far above the parapet and Archie is the opposite of that. She sees injustice and she goes after it. Ultimately that resulted in her being stabbed and I think that was definitely a turning point in their relationship.
“I think that Will realised the consequences of not backing her up, there was a real possibility that she may not make it and he would have to live with that. I think from that moment on there’s a mutual respect and they still rub each other up the wrong way but they have also got each other’s backs.”
Jack may play the doctor but he knows it is something he could never do for real: “I could definitely never do it. Some of the stuff we film where there’s a lot of blood or you’re resetting a bone…
“I used to know a good few doctors just after college. They were definitely a bit mad and definitely big partiers but I think that’s because they know there’s a cut off. They have a window where they have to get their messing out of the way and done with because obviously you can’t be going into work hungover as a doctor. I think the work they do is phenomenal and kind of underappreciated in many ways. Obviously the stakes are so high every day, you’re making choices that you and the patient are going to live and die by.”
Nurses went on strike both sides of the Irish border last year. Jack doesn’t see why they even need to fight for what they want: “Just give the nurses whatever they want. Just give it to them because it’s such a thankless job. It really is a vocation because if it wasn’t a vocation, you wouldn’t do it. You wouldn’t do it for love nor money. The hours they work, the conditions they have to work under, the things they have to do: Between changing bed pans to getting abused by some drunken eejit on a Saturday night. It’s incredible the work that they do. Give the nurses whatever they want, we need them.”
Prior to Casualty, Jack had appeared in the smash hit Vikings and was a main character in the now defunct Irish soap Red Rock for three years.
“I think I was lucky with Red Rock to be trusted so much right from the start. The first episode kicked off with my character being accused of murder. As an actor you just kind of rub your hands together, ‘What a gift of a part’.
“I’m sad to see that it’s no more.”
As soon as Jack made his entrance into the BBC medical show, viewers were taking to online forums with comments about the new ‘dishy Irish doctor’. Did Jack see the comments? “I didn’t really see it. I didn’t go looking for it because any good comments you’re getting, you know there’s going to be just as many bad comments as well. This is the world we’re living in. I was looking to get a couple of photographs recently and I did a little Google search. All that kind of stuff, you just kind of take it with a pinch of salt. It was definitely nice the reaction was nice but that’s about it really.”
Casualty is on BBC1 on Saturday nights.