Actress Amanda Redman chats to Yours about her exciting new role
Filming locations don’t come much more lushly beautiful than the island of Sri Lanka, set in the Indian Ocean. We’re talking an intoxicating combination of palm-fringed white sandy beaches, ancient culture and traditions, and a hilly, jungle interior. So when the equally beautiful Amanda Redman learned that this paradise was the setting for new drama series The Good Karma Hospital, it gave the project extra pulling power.
“Although set in the southern coastal Indian state of Kerala, The Good Karma Hospital is filmed in Sri Lanka,” she tells us. “It’s a simply magical place – I can’t think of another word to describe it. Waking up to wonderful views and sunshine every day was fantastic. Plus the people are lovely, the culture is fascinating and as for the food… Yes, there were mosquitoes but you get those everywhere.”
The biggest pull of all, though, was the drama itself. Set in a hospital, is it a bit like Casualty or Holby goes to India? Amanda’s laughter delays her reply slightly.
“No it’s not! It’s a hospital drama, but it’s so much more because it’s showing us a world that not many people back home in the UK know about. A colourful, rich and magical world with problems that are very different to the ones we face here and it’s fascinating. It’ll teach people about this beautiful part of the world but also I hope they will like the characters. The Good Karma Hospital is an under-resourced, over-worked cottage hospital, held together by a hand-picked team of Indian and British medics. No one is turned away – locals, expats and tourists are all welcome.”
Amanda plays Dr Lydia Fonseca, an eccentric English woman who holds the hospital together. “She’s a tour de force,” Amanda reveals. “She’s passionate about her work and a wonderful, compassionate doctor but she’s also quite bullish, opinionated and bossy… so not a lot of acting required! Lydia’s a true individual who doesn’t play by the rules. She went to India 30 years ago as a baby doctor, having fallen in love with an Indian doctor. He then left her but she decided to stay because she’d fallen in love with India. The Good Karma Hospital isn’t hers but she acts like it is and everyone treats her like the boss. Lydia actually has a boss but even he cow-tows to her.”
But Lydia still has time for a love life. As the series opens she’s in a relationship with an ex-pat called Greg, played by Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey.
“Greg runs the local beach bar,” says Amanda. “He’s naughty and a bit of rough but that gives you an insight into Lydia because, actually, so is she. She pretends she’s not, but she is really and that’s why they have this great relationship. They’ve been together for about five years but with no commitment on her part – Greg would like to have more of one but she doesn’t see any reason for it. Neil was such good fun to work with; we get on incredibly well and laughed a lot during filming, which is part of Lydia and Greg’s relationship. There’s a lot of humour there.”
Is Amanda (59) hoping for a second series? “Yes of course, but who knows what’s going to happen?” she replies. “It’s up to how it’s received by the viewers. What I love about this series is that one minute you see people in full-on saris and the next you’ve got young guys in jeans and shades, girls in tight jeans and crop-tops driving Mini Coopers and playing up-to-date music. That’s why I think people will love it – you can very easily relate to these characters. Dramas about India either tend to be set in the days of the Raj, or something slightly more eccentric.
The Good Karma Hospital feels very real – and it goes without saying that the writing is fantastic, too.” Amanda was filming in Sri Lanka for three months without a break – did she ever get homesick? “Not exactly, but it was a challenge being away from my husband, Damian, my daughter and my friends – and being so far away. I couldn’t come back for even the odd weekend. Luckily Damian was able to visit on three occasions and some friends came out, too.”
We can’t let Amanda go without asking her if she could ever be a doctor in real life. She laughs her throaty laugh again. “Oh my goodness, no! I’m nowhere near clever enough, plus it’s such a dedicated vocation. If I wasn’t an actress I’d probably be a full-time drama teacher. I love teaching at the theatre school I run in West London, but performing myself is still such a joy.”
Amanda shares a secret…
She’s passionate about travel.
“Damian and I are lucky enough to have been to many countries, including India and Sri Lanka on several occasions, but we want to do more. Our bucket list is endless – South America, China, Japan. . . There’s so much in this world to see and do.”