HEARTS OF GOLD, BBC 1,
Saturday, 8.15pm and Sunday, 8.00pm
IT'S the stuff of a comedy
sketch show - a male dancer being whisked off to hospital in full
make- up, tights and a jockstrap.
But that's just what
happened to Holby City star Jeremy Sheffield when his appendix burst
during a performance by the Royal Ballet - only it was no laughing
Jeremy, who spent nine
years with the company before becoming an actor, was halfway through a
show in London when he suddenly collapsed in pain.
"I'd had a long history of
what turned out to be a grumbling appendix," explains Jeremy, in an
interview that took place before the recent tragic death of his Holby
City co- star Laura Sadler.
"Every couple of months I'd
get pains, but then I'd puke my brains out and it would be over. I
just ignored it."
But this time Jeremy
couldn't ignore it: "I was in so much pain I remember being curled up
in a ball, swearing and screaming and crying."
An ambulance was called
but, in true showbiz fashion, the show must go on. An understudy took
Jeremy's place on stage, but there was another problem - no spare
"They had to take mine off
and put it on him," says Jeremy. "But ballet is intense physical work
and dancers sweat a lot, so it can't have been very nice. I was then
put in an ambulance and taken to hospital - wearing tights, a
jockstrap and full make- up.
"I must have looked a like
a right idiot. I asked a nurse if she had anything I could take the
make-up off with, but it was a really busy night and she didn't have
time to look."
Jeremy, who lives in
London, still had the make-up on when he went into surgery: "When I
came round afterwards, I had tubes coming out of everywhere, a
temperature of 100- and-something and this smudged make-up and greasy
"I saw my father sitting at
the end of the bed. He's not the most emotional man, but my appearance
had him almost in tears. I must have looked terrifying."
Jeremy was released from
hospital after five days and went home to recuperate - and have a
"I still had the make-up
on," he says, laughing. "I hadn't washed in five days so the first
thing I did when I got home was have a long hot bath, which I
shouldn't have done.
"The result was a nasty
infection, and a lot more pain. The wound swelled to the size of an
orange and I had to go back to hospital.
"They said, `We're going to
have to slit the middle stitch.' And when they did that, it exploded
with the most smelly green pus you've ever seen. It was disgusting,
"I couldn't believe my own
body had produced that. And it's all because I had a bath."
That wasn't the only time
Jeremy needed medical treatment during a show. It was a fall during a
performance of Cinderella that finished his ballet career, which he'd
dreamed about since the age of five.
He broke his toe and a
tendon in his foot. Three operations failed to fix his ankle problem.
With restricted movement, he had no option other than to leave the
"I'd already been doing
some acting in the ballet," he says. "I was playing a lot of what we
call character roles, which are more about the acting and storytelling
"I'd started to enjoy this
aspect of the job more and more, so when I found out about my ankle it
seemed the natural thing to do. But I had no idea of where to start.
"Because I'd spent eight
years training at the Royal Ballet School before joining the Royal
Ballet, I assumed I'd have to spend years training to be an actor. But
everyone I spoke to told me not to do that.
"Instead, they said I
should have a few classes and then just go for it, which is what I
For the first few years
Jeremy clocked up over 40 television commercials, appeared in the
video for Natalie Imbruglia's single Torn and won various films and TV
parts - both here and in America - that included the lavish adaptation
of Merlin, with Sam Neill, Helena Bonham Carter, Isabella Rossellini
and comedian Martin Short.
"Martin told me off,"
reveals Jeremy, who played Sir Lancelot du Lac in the TV series. "I've
got a few tattoos and when he saw them he lectured me about how an
actor should never have a tattoo because you're no longer able to
morph yourself into a character.
"But Johnny Depp has
tattoos all the way down his arm and that hasn't harmed his career. He
easily gets his covered up for the camera.
"But Martin kept going on
about it and said it showed a lack of respect for our art. He was
really annoying - so over the top. I just thought, `Yeah, right -
"I politely listened to him
going on and said, `Well, that's obviously your opinion, but it's not
mine. You have a right to your opinion, but please don't force it on
Jeremy, who is hoping to
get some more tattoos ("only tiny ones from now on") found fame
playing heart surgeon Alex Adams in Holby City.
This week BBC1 viewers will
see him playing a doctor again, in the two- part love story Hearts Of
The charming drama, based
on a novel by Welsh author Catrin Collier, is set in South Wales in
the `30s. It's a time when social classes didn't mix and women's
rights didn't exist - they were ruled by men and if any single woman
became pregnant, the baby was swiftly adopted.
Jeremy plays Doctor Andrew
John, the pillar of middle class respectability who shocks his family
by falling in love with working class nurse Bethan Powell, played by
newcomer Kate Jarman.
"This is actually the third
doctor I've played," he says. "I played one in The Governor, too. I'm
not worried about being typecast - I've played a lot of other things
"But I've accepted that I
will probably always be cast as middle-class characters, which doesn't
"But it's important the
characters are interesting."