Casualty legend Amanda Mealing secretly returned to BBC set to clear out dressing room

Casualty: Connie Beauchamp visits the local chemist

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Amanda Mealing, 53, has taken a break from her long-running role on Casualty as Connie Beauchamp, a regular part she’s played since 2014. But Mealing admitted she wanted no part of the usual leaving-do fuss over her departure, and revealed she crept back onto the set to clear out her dressing room without telling a single member of the cast or crew she was doing so.

I just went back one weekend and packed up my dressing room without anyone knowing

Amanda Mealing

In a recent interview, she described the situation as “really sad”.

“I just went back one weekend and packed up my dressing room without anyone knowing,” the actress recalled.

“I didn’t want anyone to know and I didn’t warn them.

“Usually the execs come down on set and they do this big speech. I can’t bear those things, I can’t bear them, and having to say goodbye to everyone, so I left as quietly as Connie does.”

She added: “Life imitating art or art imitating life? I don’t know which. I just left.

“I didn’t tell anyone so I had a lot of frantic calls.”

Her departure from the popular BBC show comes after a “quite gruelling” five years, in which she used her time off to take on other projects, including focusing on her production company and attempted to finish a feature film.

Mealing told the PA news agency: “It has been a tough year, a tough year for everyone, and I think being on the show for a long time and a character that is inevitably in every scene, the work schedule is quite gruelling.”

And while she was using her time away from the show to channel other efforts, the 53-year-old admitted the workload “eventually catches up with you”.

“I direct as well and obviously with the schedule the way it is with Casualty I don’t have any time to do other things, so I can only do those when I have annual leave or anything like that,” Mealing continued.

“I would use that time to go off and direct things and then of course over the course of five years I haven’t had a day off at all. It eventually catches up with you.

“I just thought with the way the stories were going it was a good time to take a break.”

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Her character has been a fixture of the Holby City and Casualty universe since 2004, when she debuted in the former series as a cardiothoracic consultant.

Over the years, she has risen through the ranks and become a firm fan-favourite.

Despite her somewhat sneaky departure, the reaction left her feeling emotional.

“What really shocked me was that when I made the announcement people were genuinely upset,” she exclaimed.

“Reading some of the tweets made me cry!”

“This character has had such an influence on people’s lives. People saying, ‘I went into nursing because of you’. Just really fundamentally having an effect on people’s lives.

“I was genuinely humbled by it really. I don’t think I would have played a character for so long if she wasn’t so much fun.”

Mealing’s final episode before she takes a break airs on Saturday 3 April.

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