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Casualty star George Rainsford explains exit from Ethan Hardy role

"It was really emotional."

Casualty spoilers follow.

Casualty fans waved goodbye to a fan favourite on Saturday evening (February 4) as Ethan Hardy made an exit from the show.

Ethan decided to leave the ED behind, after having a reality check about his relationship with his baby son Bodhi. Wanting to play a more active role in Bodhi's life, Ethan realised that something had to give and ultimately sacrificed his job – and the Jac Naylor award – in the process.

Viewers had been aware that George Rainsford was bowing out of the role after nine years. Digital Spy recently caught up with him to hear all about Ethan's exit and his future plans.

How are you feeling now your time at Casualty is over?

"Do you know what? It's quite strange. It's coming in sort of two ways because, like you've just said, I did leave five months ago and that was the first sort of way of leaving I suppose, with all my friends and cast and crew and all that. It was really emotional and it lasted about a fortnight.

"I was saying goodbye and Ethan was saying goodbye to people in the scenes because it was the last thing I'd ever do with him and obviously people like Will [Beck] have been there since the start.

"Then there were leaving parties and all that. But now, it's kind of coming in again this week because the press is all starting to come out about my last episode. It has been strange."

ethan hardy, casualty

Fans had guessed you'd finished filming before it had been officially announced – is it a relief to finally be able to talk about it now?

"Yes, I think so. I was also promoting my new play and I think probably people had twigged. It is nice to be able to just talk about it now though and talk about it favourably. I've enjoyed talking about the memories of it as well."

What made you feel like it was the right time to leave now?

"I'd been there a while and it had been amazing. Obviously I've had loads of interesting and emotional storylines to play out. I think it was a case of a few things happening around the same time.

"I was having long chats with my family about the long commute that I've been doing obviously for years now, as my family don't actually live in Cardiff. We talked about a sort of extended break so I could be around family more.

"But then on on the other side of it, I'm an actor and I'm interested in new projects and new challenges. I felt that maybe while Ethan was a bit quieter on storylines, it would be nice to have a break and sort of see what else is out there."

ethan hardy, casualty

In terms of the story, why do you think Ethan decided it was the right time to move on from the ED tonight?

"The audience obviously knew he was going for this award – the Jac Naylor award. If he'd got the award, he would have had to come out of Casualty anyway. He really wanted that opportunity because it's a good career move, but the events of the episode made him reassess his priorities – his son calling his grandfather 'daddy' instead of Ethan on the Facetime call, and then the boy who was brought in with acid burns who reminded him of Bodhi.

"I think he felt that the father was similar to him – absent from the child, a bit like Ethan is. And then to finish, Bodhi's grandmother was brought in after having a heart attack. She opened up about doing too much of the childcare and not being young enough to do that.

"He realised gradually that it is not really about the job, it's about being around for Bodhi, especially as we know that Ethan has got Huntington's disease and his time is limited. He was at a crossroads in terms of deciding what to do next."

Were you happy with Ethan's exit, or would you have preferred a more dramatic ending?

"I think being less dramatic is good for a possible return at some point, so that's no bad thing. Having been involved in lots of death stories over the years, you do tend to get one more episode after you die, which is some kind of flashback or apparition scene. So yes, I was quite happy with it.

"I maybe would have liked to have a scene in the pub with all the cast, just selfishly because it would've been fun just to have everybody in a scene together. But instead, he decides to have the Irish exit and left very quietly."

Are you glad the door has been left open for a future return?

"Yes, although returning isn't in my mind at the moment. At the end of the day, this industry doesn't really owe you anything – there could be different people in charge by the time I want to come back or whatever. But I think the fact that the door is open is always good. I am very fond of playing Ethan, so who knows."

Do you feel there is still more to explore with Ethan?

"Definitely. I often get quizzed about Ethan's 'happy ending', because I think people have seen all the tragedies he has gone through and they want him to have something enjoyable happen.

"I think there's a potential for a really solid relationship and there's also some miles in the Stevie renaissance. They obviously started off as enemies, certainty from her point of view anyway. They kind of levelled as colleagues by the end, but I think there's something quite interesting there still in terms of their personalities.

"I would have liked to have worked with Eli (Elinor Lawless) a bit more towards the end. She's really nice and I actually lived with her in Cardiff as well which was fun. I've lived with a lot of the cast over the years – I lived with Rich, who played Cal, and then briefly with my own family until we moved back to England.

"I then lived with Maddy, who played Ruby, Olivia, who played Fenisha, and then finally Eli."


What has been your favourite storyline over the years?

"The ones that always stand out are the big ensemble pieces. They're always really enjoyable because everybody has to play and often you get out of the studio as well, which was quite fun. I remember Max and Zoe's wedding – that was fun.

"We did lots of night shoots and there was also a big disaster involving Charlie's son, and Dylan on a houseboat. The big anniversary helicopter crash episode was also really fun for the 30th anniversary and I got to work with Steve Hughes, who is probably the director I've worked the most with.

"He did my first ever episode, he did the 30th anniversary, the COVID special, and more recently, he did the paramedic improv episode. I think the COVID special was really impactful, not just because of the subject matter and the way it was done, but I think it was because it was our first episode back after the five month break.

"It was quite charged, it was great to do. I think probably the episode that I was most pleased with when it came out was Fenisha's death episode, though. I thought it was really well shot, really well edited and it just really worked. It was a really exciting, dramatic ending – not just because of Fenisha but with Lev as well. I obviously knew that was coming but the way they did it was so good."

What was your final day on set like?

"I was very tired as we'd been out the night before! I remember I was doing a scene with Shalisha [James-Davis] who plays Paige and Ellie, who plays Stevie, where Paige updates Ethan on Fenisha's mother and then Stevie takes the baby.

"I remember that being one of my last scenes, and then I had to do all those interviews Ethan does upstairs because he's going for the job. That was quite strange, it was in a bit of the set I probably used the least and I didn't feel particularly sad or anything as I was just kind of remember the lines as I had quite a lot to say.

"But then suddenly it all just hit me when Jon [Sen] the executive producer came on set when I wrapped and did a little speech. I had planned to say something a bit lighthearted afterwards but then I just started crying.

"I went out for drinks afterwards with Amanda [Henderson] who plays Robyn – she's one of my best friends – and Arin [Smethurst], who plays Sah, and we went and drank some wine in the sun which was nice. It was really, really hot and we were having to pretend it was February!"

ethan hardy, casualty

Jason Durr is also leaving the show over the next few months. What do you think the future holds for Casualty and do you think fans have got anything to worry about?

"Well it's survived bigger losses than me [laughs]. It's a real institution and it's got a big fan base. I think the current production team have got some really interesting ideas about how to play the storylines.

"Having spoken to Jon, obviously they are putting things into these episodic quarters to make the show feel more authentic and tell more real hospital stories. And I think it's become a staple Saturday night and I'd like to think it's got many years left in it."

You are going to be starring in the stage adaptation of Peter James’ Wish You Were Dead. How have the the rehearsals been going?

"They are going quickly! I haven't been in a play for 10 years, so it's not so much a baptism of fire as it feels very familiar, but it's just quite intense quite quickly. Everybody's lovely and we all feel like we know each other really well.

"We've only been rehearsing it for 10 days, but we've got another two weeks to go. We are in that kind of middle rehearsal stage now. It's really, really good fun. It's a fabulous play and I'm looking forward to sort of taking it to all these different places."

Looking further ahead, what else is next for you?

"I don't know really. This takes me right through until the end of July, so it's a bit early to have had meetings about anything else. I think after this it'll be a family holiday for sure, because my wife is having to pick. up the bulk of the childcare again.

"I had a lovely four or five months at home helping with the school run and stuff, but now we're back to being ships in the night a little bit. But yes, I don't know for now but hopefully something new come the autumn."

Casualty airs on Saturday nights on BBC One. The show also streams on BBC iPlayer.

Read more Casualty spoilers on our dedicated homepage.

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