Taken from “Woman’s Own” 11th August 2003, page 18.
“There are worse things I could do”
As he turns his back on Holby, Jeremy Sheffield talks about fans, food and playing dishy doctors.
You appeared as Dr Andrew John in BBC1’s historical drama Hearts of Gold, having already made your name as surgeon Alex Adams in Holby City. Are you worried about being typecast in your career?
I do seem to get cast as a doctor a lot. Before Holby City, I was a doc in the ITV1 drama the governor. But I reckon 99 per cent of actors are typecast by their age and looks. I am an educated, middle-class man with a certain look, so I guess a doctor is just the kind of part I’m going to get offered – that and lawyers and architects. I can certainly think of worse things to be typecast as – such as a serial killer or sewage worker.
Do people ever believe you’re a doctor in real life?
Not the general public, but, oddly enough, a friend did. He is an air steward and somebody fell ill on a flight he was working on. His immediate thought was, ‘I must call Jeremy – he’ll know what to do’
And would you have done?
I’ve learned some medical things from playing Alex Adams, but not from playing Dr Andrew in Hearts of Gold. You didn’t see him on the job very much.
In Holby City your character has been fighting Parkinson’s disease. Was it tough to film?
It was tiring and challenging, but very interesting. I knew the storyline coming up quite a long way in advance, so I watched documentaries and read books about the disease. It’s a brave idea for a storyline, and I got quite a lot of feedback from viewers – some of it very harrowing.
On a lighter note, I imagine you’re still perceived as a dishy doc by a lot of the Holby viewers.
Yes, I get my fair share of eyebrow raising fan mail. I have a weird obsessive fan who recently declared his deep and undying love for me in a letter – repeating it over and over again for two pages. He also sent me four white plastic eggcups, three boxes of chocolate liqueurs, two bundles of the kind of labels you find in children’s clothes – with my name on them – and copies of the letter he had sent to the local council asking for permission for a 60ft bronze statue of me to be sited at a roundabout in my home village in Essex! For some reason, his request had been declined
Deep and undying love…do you feel that way about anyone?
I’m currently unattached, if that’s what you mean.
But has there been anybody special in the past?
Yes, there has – and it was wonderful at times, not so wonderful at other times. I’m 37, so if I hadn’t had that kind of love by now, I’d be rather disappointed.
Last year, you were brave enough to come out as gay. Do you think people are less prejudiced these days?
We live in a male-dominated society, so kids who don’t fit in with the traditional gender stereotypes tend to get stick. I think that people have definitely become less racist, but they are still very homophobic. You hear kids of eight or nine using the word ‘faggot’ and not knowing what it means. Things are getting better, but sexual prejudice has still not gone away.
How do you stay so slim?
It’s not though always eating healthily. I have fish and chips once a week, and I love Heinz tomato soup with huge bits of grated cheddar on top, accompanied by white bread with loads of butter on it. And my favourite pudding is syrup sponge and custard. I’ve stayed slim because I go to the gym and I used to do ballet, so I honed my physique doing that. As both a dancer and an actor, you educate yourself to stay slim.
What are we going to see you doing next?
I’d really like to do movies. I had an opportunity to do a film recently, but, unfortunately, the BBC wouldn’t release me from Holby to do four days on it. It was a shame because the rest of the shoot would have been after my contract with the BBC ran our. It was an amazing opportunity, which I was disappointed to miss.