She may appear one of the loveliest, most upbeat people on television, but actress Amanda Redman says her husband has a slightly less affectionate nickname for her.
‘Damian [Schnabel] calls me “Nightmare”,’ laughs the 62-year-old. ‘He will speak to me like it’s a term of endearment. He’ll say, “Nightmare, can you get me a cup of tea?” He’s done that for years!’
Explaining the reason why, while referencing her part in The Good Karma Hospital, she laughs, ‘It’s because I can be dramatic. I’m a bit all or nothing. Lydia [her character] and I have that in common.’
But that’s not the only thing Amanda and Dr Lydia Fonseca have in common this year.
While Lydia runs the hospital on a shoestring, Amanda joined the series this year as an associate producer and she made one demand about her character’s story.
She insisted Lydia and her boyfriend, Greg McConnell (played by Neil Morrissey), enjoy a stable, loving relationship rather than one in which they’re always breaking up and making up, as she and Neil agreed that their on-screen relationship should mirror those in their personal lives.
‘What’s wrong with portraying a relationship that’s very similar to the one I have with Damian and Neil has with Emma [Killick]?’ says Amanda.
‘One where you bicker and take the mick out of each other, but there’s such deep love and enjoyment of each other, and companionship and the feeling of being a real team.
‘That’s what we both have in real life. Funnily enough, Greg is a bit like Damian because he’s the cook and homemaker, and a bit goofy, silly and kind.
‘That’s what it’s like with Damian and me. When I’m in a state, he calms me down, and I am strong for him when he needs it.’
Amanda also suggested a storyline revolving around burn scars, which is something close to her heart.
She has one on her left arm due to an accident when she was 18 months old. She’s never hidden her scars, and still requires regular skin grafts.
‘I proposed an acid-attack storyline,’ explains Amanda. ‘It happens a lot in India and has done for many years. The writer, Dan Sefton, said, “How would you feel if we connected it to Lydia?” Using the fact that I have a burn.
‘So we connected my burn to the character’s, so that makes it more emotional as Lydia relates to the victim.
‘Filming the scenes when we treat the victim was really difficult for all of us.’
Amanda and Damian struck up a relationship in 1998, after being introduced by a friend, and despite a 15-year age gap and a three-year split, they married in 2010 and remain besotted.
‘He’s come out to Sri Lanka twice while I was there filming. He always comes for our wedding anniversary and we go away together for a few days. This year we went to Oman,’ says Amanda, who has a daughter, Emily, 32, from her marriage to Hustle’s Robert Glenister.
While her love life has brought Amanda contentment, her career less so. Although she’s been a fixture on our screens for decades – starring in New Tricks, At Home with the Braithwaites and Dangerfield – in recent years Amanda has found few roles that entice her. In fact, in over three years, The Good Karma Hospital is the only acting work she’s done, apart from a comedy pilot and a short film.
‘There’s nothing I want to do,’ she shrugs. ‘There just aren’t great roles for women of my age. I’ve not been interested in the guest-starring roles I’ve been offered in other dramas. They’re just boring characters with nothing to say.
‘Britain is peculiarly ageist against women,’ she continues. ‘It’s sad that the Europeans and Americans are streaks ahead of us. There are so many wonderful roles for women of my age in the States. My actress girlfriends and I are always talking about it because it’s frustrating.’
And it seems Amanda is eager to take a leaf out of the States’ book and portray Dr Lydia as a midlifer enjoying sex and fun.
‘I love the US TV series Madam Secretary, which also stars a middle-aged woman,’ says Amanda, referring to 54-year-old actor Téa Leoni. ‘The characters are still vibrant and sexy and the rest of it. They’re hot for it.
‘It’s important to show that, because women are in real life,’ Amanda says with a smile.