Leaving his role in Casualty as Caleb Knight earlier this year, Richard Winsor splits his time between London and America. Having trained in a variety of dance techniques, Richard starred in the popular film StreetDance as well as Matthew Bourne’s production of Swan Lake. We caught up with Richard in London to find out about how he felt filming Cal’s death scene, funny stories about his time on Casualty and sharing a house with George Rainsford who played his on-screen brother, Ethan.
Going by the response on social media after Cal’s death on Casualty, had you realised how popular the character was?
I didn’t actually, it surprised me how popular the character was. We knew the brothers relationship was very popular with the audience, and also because the writers wrote so many great storylines for us, but actually for Cal the shockwave kind of surprised me a little bit. It’s good to shock people, certainly in drama that’s the reason people watch, they want to be shocked. As an actor, you want to surprise people and you want to shock people, I love going out in a blaze of fire and glory and blood, haha. I was happy with that, and social media is obviously your front line nowadays, there used to be fan mail, people outside a stage door, it’s nice to feel that people enjoyed what you were doing so much to have a shockwave like that.
What was it like filming the death scene?
Cold, really really cold! We filmed it, I think, in mid-January and we film in Cardiff Bay, which is open to the elements. It’s on the estuary of Bristol and Cardiff and it’s blustery and it was freezing, we had a rain machine, and obviously the rain machine was cold, ice-cold. We had to put dry suits underneath our clothes, so that’s why I probably looked a bit more hench than usual, walking around like, ‘ah don’t kill me!’ but it was really fun, it was probably one of the most exhilarating things I’ve done in TV. Theatre’s slightly different, because you’re so there and in the moment with the audience, and they give you feedback instantly. As far as it goes with the fights and the build up to the fight, it was very exhilarating and we spent a good two or three hours with a fight coordinator before we did it. We got so comfortable with each other doing it, we just let ourselves loose with it and it felt like we were actually fighting, I think that showed on screen, that we were really having a slugging match. It was really heavy and really hard in the rain, and I think that added to the the drama of it, and the suspense of it. It was one of the best and one of the nicest things I feel like I’ve done on TV for sure.
How long had you known that Cal was going to be killed off?
So I decided to leave last year. I would say I kind of made the decision around July/August time, they said, ‘okay right but we would love you to stay a little bit longer’ because my contract was up in mid September, they said, ‘how’s a four-month extension sound to you? So to the mid end of January?’ and I was like okay cool, over Christmas, let’s tie up some great storylines and give it a bit more build up of him leaving. They said, ‘we’ll have a little chat and come back to you with how the storyline’s going to go,’ so I was like, okay cool great, I wonder how he’s going to fall in love again and run off or go and try find Matilda. Then they came back and said, ‘okay, we’re really excited because we feel like Cal’s the kind of character who deserves to have a big send off’. I was like, well that’s fantastic, and they said, ‘we’re going to kill him, and he’s going to have a big fight saving his brother’. I was like, ‘hang on, rewind a minute, what hahaha, a fight saving his brother sounds fantastic and a big explosive ending sounds fantastic. You want to kill him? Okay cool’, and then it took me two or three weeks to get used to the idea. Obviously putting three and a half years of solid heavy heartfelt energy into a character and loving doing it so much, as I did, it’s hard to hear that suddenly you’re just going to get wiped out the face of the earth and never be played again, so it took me two or three weeks to get used to the idea. So I’d say from about the end of August 2016 was when I found out, then we filmed it January 2017, so that length of time trying to keep a secret is quite hard. People started getting wind of it online that a big character was going to leave and Casualty and the BBC started publicising that quite heavily. People were suspecting that I was leaving because I was off in LA for a bit and I was tweeting that I was in LA, and it’s hard not to say, ‘I’m coming back though and don’t worry, it’s fine’, you don’t want to lie to people. But yeah, it was a long time to keep a secret but I got used to the idea of him dying and I knew it was good for the show and I knew it was good for the character in the long-run because people would remember what he was about, and what he meant and what he stood for with Ethan, and I think it was good for Ethan as well.
Was it a difficult decision to leave the show?
Very difficult decision, very very difficult decision, one that I did not take lightly at all. I love the people on the show, I love the show, I think it’s a quality BBC show for the amount of time they have to film each episode, and for the amount of episodes they shoot in a year, I think what they produce is utterly astounding. Having said that, I felt for what my character had been through, I felt like he had been through so much, and from an actor’s point of view you think, he’s gone through all this, he’s done what he’s done, and grown where he’s grown. It’s hard to think, right, well where do we take him, there’s only certain directions you can take him, and I saw that as maybe another two, maybe three years, and I was ready after three years to say, just do something else. I’ve had a varied career in the past and I wanted to continue that, I think after three years I was satisfied with where we’ve taken the character and that informed my decision. I miss it dearly and I miss the people I worked with dearly, and I always look back with massive fond memories of it. I wouldn’t say it’s bittersweet because I feel like I worked and am satisfied with what I did, but I do miss that work as well.
What was it like filming the 30th Anniversary episode?
It was good. When we were told the helicopter was going to smash into a building we were like, how the hell are they going to do that, how are they going to achieve something like that. But with a show like Casualty, they pull it out the bag and they have it all planned out and they’re ambitious, which I love about that show, they don’t hold back. I think we all got onboard with it and we were ready for the challenge. Some people had more to do in the episode than others, we all wanted as much to do as we possibly could, and I think I was one of them who was like, I want to be doing that, I want to be doing that, but you have to sit back, it’s an ensemble show and you have to accept that everyone has to have a chance, and I was happy enough to be involved with what I did do. I feel like it was fantastic, it was a great show and it was great that it was geared around Charlie again and around Connie and that’s drama. It was great, it was a fantastic episode and we all watched it on a big screen in the Millennium Centre in Cardiff, with an orchestra playing the music and that for a lot of us was a pinnacle of our time on the show. Anything filmed with the National Orchestra of Wales is an event, we all loved it, it was great.
What will you miss the most about being on the set?
When you’re not too tired, if you’re busy on a storyline, you’re working solidly for three, four, five weeks and you’re getting up at six in the morning, getting on set for sometimes 7:30/7:45, it’s early. I’m a nighttime person, coming from theatre I used to go to bed about two in the morning and get up at 10:30 and start again. It’s just a different routine body clock so I won’t miss that, but what I do miss is the camaraderie on set, getting to know the people so well, crew and cast and just having the kind of buzz and the laughs of being around those people that you trust and care for and have laughs with. Me and George just being mischievous and naughty, he’s a funny chap as well, and we really did get mischievous on set, and it gives you that kind of buzz you live on. The good part of acting is when you can be on the edge, almost on the verge of cracking up or laughing, that can create some really dynamic work, but obviously it’s a fine line, but I miss pushing that fine line I would say!
Did you have a leaving party with your fellow cast members?
I had a couple actually. We did a big leaving party at a place called The Dead Canary, which is a place I chose in Cardiff. It’s kind of a secret speakeasy cocktail bar, and I love that it’s a fantastic place. We had a screen and we did a couple of speeches, so George did a send-off speech which was very funny, very good. We all got very drunk and there was a best bits screening of all of my best bits, just kind of highlights and stuff, and there were some very funny bits but also very emotional. I don’t know whether it was the drink or not but I was really sad and it made me very emotional, seeing everything you go through because it’s not just a character, it’s almost like your alter-ego. You’re kind of living two separate lives whilst you’re filming, because you’re living your actual life and then you’re constantly concentrating on an ulterior alter-ego character that’s almost three months behind you, everyone sees it on screen three or four months later. It was interesting seeing it all mashed up together and quite sad. It was lovely spending that time with people you really care about and them giving you a farewell, and lots of tequila shots!
You shared a house with George, did you know him before acting on Casualty?
No, we’d never met. The first time we met was I think, my second audition and his second or third audition, we were in Elstree in Borehamwood where the BBC Studios are, it’s where they film Holby actually. We went there for one of our auditions and we ended up coming out roughly around the same time, we ended up getting the train back into London together. While chatting about it, we didn’t know anything about it at all, but we were like, ‘oh okay, it sounds really good, two brothers, this is interesting’, we didn’t have any idea that we were both going to get it. Then we had a screen-test in Cardiff and we ended up with just three people, only me for my character and then two people for Ethan’s, so I was like, ‘I think I’ve got this’ hahaha. Then we did the scenes that they had given us together, and did a screen-test on set. We ended up getting the train back again from there, it’s a two or three hour train journey and we ended up having two bottles of wine, not big ones, half bottles of wine, so a bottle of wine, we’re not alcoholics don’t worry! We were having a really nice time on the way back, just chatting and really bonding, realising that we were both from around the same area. We were both born in Yorkshire, he grew up in Yorkshire, I grew up in North Nottinghamshire, we went to a very similar school, we were interested in the same things, we both supported Tottenham Hotspur and we just hit it off really, and it just felt right, it clicked. We hadn’t met before but we felt very close quite soon and instantly, which obviously helps for being brothers. After the first couple of months we were in the same hotel, and we just thought, ‘let’s just get a flat together’. We ended up living together for about a year and a half, until he had a kid. Then they came up and kicked me out haha! They’re still in the same flat, it’s really big, two split level, in Cardiff Bay, with a big balcony and you can see the BBC building in the distance, so you never get away from it, but it was nice. It was really good living together, really got to know each other and it really helped I think.
Are you still able to meet up with him?
Well it’s difficult because they’re in Cardiff. I went to LA for a couple of months when I left, came back here, and we met up for my last episode. I watched my last episode with them all, so there was about seven or eight of us in their flat watching it. I’ve seen him a couple more times in London since, but because he’s there and I’m here, it’s like Amanda Henderson, we met up a couple of times, we catch up when we’re in town. We’re in contact a lot so it’s nice.
Have you had any other jobs apart from acting?
Well I was a dancer for many years. I’ve had one normal job and that was in a bar in Clapham with one of my best friends, we were about twenty-three. I was working with Matthew Bourne a lot who does lots of big shows, we had about six months break in between two shows, we were like, ‘you know what, we should probably get a job’, because we were living together at this time, me and Sam, and our money was dwindling away. So we got a job, he’d done a lot of bar work before in his late teens, early twenties. We got a job together in a place called Babel, I think it’s still there on Northcote Road in Clapham, I lasted three weeks quite literally! I was behind the bar making cocktails, I learnt the cocktails in a couple of days and I was doing it as kind of like a show for the audience, and it was like, ‘they’re customers Richard, they’re customers, they’re not an audience!’ Both of us had actually dressed up a couple of years before for a fancy dress party as Tom Cruise and, I can’t remember the character’s name, but the Australian guy, we had the shirts and we had the sunglasses and we were doing cocktails, and kind of thought we were in Cocktail the film and it was hilarious. He lasted a little bit longer, he stayed for two or three months, I was like, ‘nah after three weeks I’m done, I don’t want to do an hour and a half cleaning at the end of a vast shift’.
Are you working on anything at the moment which you can tell us about?
That I can tell you about? I can’t really. I’m doing a couple of workshops on new script ideas, which is exciting. I’m producing a VR, so VR is virtual reality, a live film of Macbeth, that’s in the early stages and potentially taking it on tour, and taking it also on to a platform like Inception or oculus platform, so that’s something I’m working on production wise. I’m actually doing that with my brother and a couple of other people, we’re setting up a production company. There’s a couple of other script ideas and also doing a couple of other theatre workshop-y things as well, it’s exciting. I am auditioning quite a lot for good dramas on TV, but I’m quite selective over what I audition for or what my agent send me, we’re going for some quite decent, nice drama stuff.
Are award shows as fun as what they look on TV?
I’d say the National Television Awards are because they’re at the O2, any time you go to the O2 is an experience, it’s fun, it’s an event. You turn up, and it’s the red carpet which is always very similar, you get ushered down quite quickly, you want to say hi to more people than you can, and you want more pictures than you usually get! It’s one of those things where you’re like, ‘oh you’re done with us? Okay, we’ll just go inside then, see you later!’ The actual awards event is really fun. I’ve been to a couple where you are just slowly looking at your watch sometimes, and kind of going when can we go and have some champagne. The NTAs is fantastic really, they put on a show as well, the entertainment is good, and they allow you to get up and out of your seats when you can, they have seat fillers so people just usher in then sit in the seats so it doesn’t look empty. The afterparty is really fun as well.
How did you find filming StreetDance?
Wow, that was quite tough, but I have to say a really enjoyable experience, I loved it. It was my first filming experience, we filmed this back in 2009, I was really nervous apart from the dance stuff, I was very used to doing dance and filming dance things, and doing stage shows. When it came to the scenes and close-ups, and when they said, ‘we’re coming in for a close-up of you now’ and because it’s a film, it is a big set-up, so it’s not quite as fast turn-over as TV. There’s a big build-up of an hour or two of, ‘right, we’re going to do the close-up’, this close-up might last for twenty seconds and we do it twice, maybe three times, so all this preparation you need to get it right, the nerves build and obviously at that time I was relatively less-experienced and didn’t know how to contain those nerves and use them to my advantage. All those things you learn from experience, so I remember it being nerve-wracking. I remember it being quite a tight schedule as well, and the cinematography was fantastic and beautiful and there was a lot put into that, the sets were breathtaking as well, they made London phenomenal, so overall I think it was a fantastic experience. I think from rehearsals to on set was quite stressful. What we rehearsed, very often when we got on set, we couldn’t exactly do it how we thought we were going to. We had to be very quick on our feet and adapt and change, the floor might have been really slippery at some point or the floor might have been really hard, sometimes you get on set and you’re dancing on concrete, so in that respect it was challenging I would say.
What dance are you trained in and are you trained in musical theatre?
I have not trained in musical theatre in the sense of going to musical theatre college and doing a three year solid thing, but I have done singing lessons, I have trained my voice, do I keep it up? Not so much hahaha! I’ve trained in dance, I’ve trained in classical ballet, contemporary, pretty much all forms of contemporary there is, so Limón, Graham, Cunningham, I did do tap but that again is more musical theatre. Street dance, obviously I done, I’ve never done ballroom dancing, but we have done things like Tango for shows like Swan Lake that I did with Matthew Bourne and a couple of other things. I went to the Central School of Ballet from the age of sixteen to nineteen and that’s got quite a broad dance spectrum of training. When I went to do Matthew’s work, he likes to bring lots of different disciplines and bring them into shows to make them kind of a full interesting concoction of styles. Swan Lake is more classical and contemporary based, there’s a lot in there that is still Jive and Tango and little things like that, so you do have to bring elements and learn the elements of things but I’ve never trained in Ballroom. If I was ever to do Strictly, they can’t have a go at me too much, but they’re never going to let me do Strictly!
How different was it filming Hollyoaks to Casualty?
I think in its makeup, Casualty is more dynamic and I think it’s more ambitious in its heightened drama. The way it’s shot, you’ve got to come on set with a certain level of openness and willingness, to take it somewhere where you don’t necessarily think it is going to go from reading a page. Obviously with Casualty there’s a lot of accidents that happen, not actually real accidents, I mean staged accidents, so you are constantly working on a sense of heightened emotion and heightened feeling towards what’s actually in front of you. Whereas Hollyoaks, it’s very social, it’s very socially relationship interaction, which there is in Casualty as well, I love doing both the action and the relationship style stuff, Hollyoaks was very much more about that. I think Hollyoaks was a lot quicker to film, I think they get scenes done in a day a lot more, because of the nature of what it is, the set’s already there, you’re pretty much always on that university campus or the town set, so it’s quick and you have to be on your toes. Casualty is quick as well, but not as quick I would say, and scripts tend to change quickly. You get a new scene that you didn’t know you were going to get the night before, and you have to be on your toes.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I like travelling, if I get the opportunity to work in travel that’s fantastic, but if not, I like going off to LA, I don’t just stay in LA I see the whole of California. I go to the wine country or go to Yosemite, I’ve never been to Grand Canyon, but I’d like to do that. I love watching films, so I’ll try to see whatever is out and seems to be good, and I’ll go to the BFI and watch stuff there as well. I spend time with my family, I’m a very family orientated person, I’m there to support and help out, but also there to just be with them as well when I can, because I think that’s very important. I love driving actually, if I could, but I’m a bit late for it now, I’d love to be a rally driver haha. I’ve done buggies before, off road buggies and I love that, but I’d love to be a track driver. I’ve never done a professional track day, but I’ve done track days and I love that, I’d love to do Top Gear and do their track. I like to write as well, like helping produce this VR film, but other projects I write myself, but whether it’s just for me or if it’s actually for public consumption I don’t know.
Are there any funny stories from your time as an actor?
There’s lots from Casualty on set mainly with George, we used to get into trouble! There’s one time, we were in a conference scene about a trial, we were all sitting around, Connie Beauchamp, Amanda Mealing, was into her first like three or four months of being on shows, so we’d only been there about six months and we were just getting into that more relaxed state, where we’re having a bit of fun sometimes. We had our shots on us already, the conference table was rectangular, we were on one side, so me, George, and Crystal in the middle, so playing Lily. Connie had done her speech, which was quite long, at the end of the table. We’d done our shots from one side of the table, then they were turning around onto Amanda, I think Sunetra on one side, Amanda there, so halfway through the scene she’s talking to us all, halfway through Lily has to come in through the door and come and sit between us and say ‘sorry I’m late’, and when she did that, she always had a pad on the table and she’d come in, turn over the page, pick up a pen and start like she does, being all ready. We thought, ‘right haha let’s get Crystal’ because she’s hard to crack, she’s very in the moment, she doesn’t want to break it. She comes in the door and we knew what she was going to do, even though the camera wasn’t on her, she was going to turn the page and pick up a pen, so George had drawn something very obscene, like very very obscene, something quite genitalia-esque style thing on the page behind the page she was going to flip onto. So he’d drawn this, I’d drawn something and maybe added something, and left it. There was action and Connie was really in it, she’s doing her first paragraph of her speech, we were like, ‘okay cool’, we were ready because we were on the edge, so Crystal comes in, shuffles in, stops, obviously still in the scene and she goes, ‘sorry I’m late’ and then she sits down, opens the thing and Connie carries on, I go *sniggers* hahaha, I can’t control my chest when I know I’m going to laugh, and that restriction of knowing you can’t laugh as well, and Connie’s got another paragraph, and probably another paragraph to go, and I go *snigger* and then George goes *snigger* and Crystal just looks at it and goes ‘hmm’ and doesn’t break, it made us break, I can’t stop laughing and he’s the same, and we’re just sweating hoping that she doesn’t notice, she obviously does, and she was very good about it, she continued like a professional. Amanda, throughout the whole thing, until the end, she’s like, ‘that was very disrespectful boys’ and then we were kind of like ‘sorry’! We had to go outside to stop laughing, come back and say, ‘we’re really really sorry’. Crystal will hold this thing up and shows everyone, and we were mortified, we were told off. The director was fine about it, but we were told to see the producer later and we had to apologise, and it was very embarrassing, very very embarrassing, but worth it in hindsight because we got through it! We did, honestly, many of those things, we just had to bury our heads in the sand, it’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare!
What’s been your favourite part to play?
Cal for sure, just because of the nature of what he was, and how I could push him and play through him things that I would never be myself. I think as an actor, that’s what you really want, to be able to really challenge what you are or aren’t about and push it, and that’s really nice. In theatre, with I guess Matthew and other plays, I did a show called Dorian Gray that Matthew produced for his company. I was Dorian and I got to do the pre-production side of it with him and really delve into the character, really explore a different side of myself again, and research it heavily. It’s a Victorian story, we set it in modern day, in the fashionista world and based him on a kind of David Beckham at that time, he was doing all the underwear modelling and it was all about the downfall of being a celebrity and things like that. It was really interesting to explore and based him on Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Christian Bale’s character in that, and kind of melded them together. Playing the psychotic break down of a celebrity was really exciting, it was really fun and he gets to leave someone to die on stage at the end of act one, and just have this inner torment of what that means and how he deals with it. Going into act two, you see the downfall of him, and by the end he commits suicide. It sounds heavy but it was really fun to play, so I would say it’s between Cal and that.
Where do you spend most of your time?
This year LA, since January I’ve probably spent about six months out of the year there. London other than that, so between London and LA.
What are your plans for the future?
Find and get another role that I can get my teeth stuck into professional wise, something nice, a drama that has a series style with a beginning, middle and end of each series and a ten or twelve part series. I’d like to do some theatre work, do some plays at some point. Personal plans, I don’t know, I’m buying a house at the moment, just got a nice little puppy with my girlfriend, things like that, so yeah it’s nice.
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