He's pounded pavements as a bobby, stalked school corridors as a teacher. Now Alex Walkinshaw is walking the wards of Casualty – and things are scrubbing up well, as Susan Griffin discovers
THERE will soon be unexpected chuckles emanating from the wards of Casualty when newest recruit, nurse Adrian ‘Fletch' Fletcher, arrives at the emergency department of Holby City Hospital.
“He’s the ultimate cheeky chappy, the kind of entertaining bloke you’d really want to go down the pub and have a laugh with, whether you’re male or female,” says Alex Walkinshaw, the boyish looking 37-year-old who plays Fletch.
“He’s into football, rugby, beer and beautiful women. Only to flirt with and admire though – he’s a devoted family man, which makes him all the more attractive.”
His recruitment is met favourably by everyone bar one person – fellow nurse Lloyd Asike, who's assigned as Fletch’s mentor.
Expecting a naive, timid and impressionable graduate, Lloyd’s stethoscope's put out of joint on discovering that Fletch is a mature, self-assured nurse with winning charm and a great sense of humour.
“Lloyd's expecting someone younger, a little greener, and may be a little bit more dependent as a mentee," explains Barking-born Walkinshaw.
In the coming weeks, Fletch is set to embark on a massive learning curve and the reality of dealing with life and death situations day-in, day-out.
"He gets a little too emotionally involved when bad things happen to nice people," says Walkinshaw, who made a name for himself as Sergeant Dale 'Smithy' Smith in The Bill.
"I quite like the fact he gets emotional with people. I think that's part of his charm with the patients, the fact he's interested."
It's not the first time Walkinshaw's walked the corridors of Casualty.
Way back in 1992, when Duffy was Sister and the set was in Bristol, not Cardiff, an even more fresh-faced Walkinshaw appeared in an episode.
"It was proper old-school," he says, chuckling at the memory.
"I think I worked for a power company and the older guy I was working with may have had a heart attack. I know I was very upset and it was all very traumatic."
Walkinshaw says he still found walking onto the set on the first day a nerve-wracking experience.
Fortunately he already knew some of the cast members.
"It did take the pressure off because it meant that if I did have a panic I knew I could shoot off, find someone and say, 'I don't know what I'm doing'.
As a boy, Walkinshaw attended Sylvia Young Theatre School where alumni includes Tamsin Outhwaite, Keeley Hawes and the late Amy Winehouse.
It was Sylvia herself who urged Walkinshaw to be an extra in Grange Hill when he was 12.
"I think it was the kind of job that Sylvia would get as many people as possible to do, because it would give you an indication of what it [an acting career] was going to be like," says Walkinshaw.
During the Nineties he appeared on Harry Enfield And Chums and A Touch Of Frost and, when he needed to top-up his bank balance, worked as a labourer in the City of London.
"Acting's a difficult profession to survive in but up until now I've been a very lucky chap “.
He was appearing in a production at the Royal Court Theatre when he was approached by one of the producers of The Bill and asked to audition for the role of Smithy.
He went on to pound the beat from 1999 until the demise of the Sun Hill based show in 2010.
He recently took on unruly children as teacher Jez Diamond on Waterloo Road.
"Look it at this way, I'm just doing my bit for private service," he jokes at the amount of professions he's portrayed.
"Acting's the best and worst job in the world but if you love it, you've just got to stick with it."
Alex Walkinshaw makes his Casualty debut on BBC One on Saturday, June 30