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Phelps and MacIntosh

Doug Spencer (Phelps) is not fazed when Charlotte Beaumont (MacIntosh) confesses.

Doctor in love

Peter Phelps is quietly looking forward to the next few weeks.

Starting on Tuesday, the former star of crime drama Stingers is back in Australian prime-time television and he’s set to shake things up in a big way.

And not just on screen.

When Phelps’s character Dr Doug “Spence” Spencer lands in the corridors of Seven’s All Saints hospital, he’s the nurse accreditation officer who will hold the future of at least a couple of characters in his hands.

But more importantly, he’s also the guy who starts a romance with Tammy MacIntosh’s Dr Charlotte Beaumont, one of the few openly lesbian characters in local drama.

To say there’s likely to be some backlash in the story-line is an understatement. That this might well flow into real life is also a distinct possibility.

Either way, you get the impression that making waves appeals to Phelps’s larrikin streak.

“The whole Charlotte/Spence romance was handled very well I thought, with some very smart writing that addressed issues before they are even raised,” Phelps said.

“When they meet all he sees is an interesting person who is very professional at what she does and just happens to be a damn fine looking woman.

“He just wanted to chat and they became closer and eventually have a relationship but all the time he has no idea she was a lesbian—and doesn’t particularly care, he just likes her for who she is.

“When she tells him, his attitude is that gay is just one label and straight is another… he just likes her for who she is so what’s the big deal?”

And if that makes for controversy, Phelps shrugs, then so be it.

“Well someone had to take the role and, as I said to Tammy, I was the man for the job!” he said with a laugh.

The two actors are old friends, Phelps explained, who had even shared a house at one stage when MacIntosh had dated a friend of his.

It was easy for them to play a couple totally at ease with each other and oblivious to the fact their relationship might not be what others expected.

“It was actually kind of funny when we were doing the nude scenes, we were in fits of laughter,” Phelps said.

“We were more worried about scalding ourselves under the water than anything else.”

Any trouble Phelps’s new character may cause is more than compensated for him by the fact that after six years as Stingers’s hard-nosed detective Peter Church he’s finally getting to play someone a little softer.

“(Spence) is vastly different in that he’s very cavalier but incredibly professional,” Phelps said, “he’s a pediatrician but really a big kid himself… and he was fun to play because of that.

“Also I had to turn the charm up a bit with Spence just to keep him acceptable to viewers and the other characters.

“He comes into the show and throws a lot of spanners in the works and I had to respect the fact that viewers have been following these people for some time and, instead of being seen as a villain or lover, I had to be a bit of both.

“Spence is interesting in that he’s likeable when he doesn’t judge Charlotte at all—he just sees a beautiful woman he wants to spend more time with—but he can put his foot down and get in someone’s face when he has to.”

It was a fine line to walk, Phelps said, made even more difficult by the fact that Spence may yet turn into an All Saints regular.

“He’s gone after six weeks, but his story-line sends him off to Somalia and he will eventually come back… possibly to All Saints,” Phelps said, “We’ll just have to wait and see.”

By Scott Ellis
October 03, 2005
The Sun-Herald