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Getting On: Joanna Scanlan ponders playing Nurse

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David Thair | 18:43 UK time, Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Jo Scanlan as Sister Den FlixterJoanna Scanlan - who you may recognise as The Thick of It's long-suffering Terri, stars as Sister Den Flixter in BBC Four's new comic drama Getting On, which she co-wrote. Den is a nurse, a role that Joanna has some familiarity with, as she explains:

"My first appearance as a professional actress at the late age of 34 was as a nurse on Peak Practice. Since then I have played eight other 'healthcare professionals' at the lower end of the payscale. My agent regularly sends me into the casting suite carrying a bed pan for good luck.  Not many of these nurses have been given names in the original scripts. Okay, NURSE SUZANNE patiently tended the AIDS sufferers of the 1980's, but it was mere MIDWIFE that wiped the clammy brows of Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman at the births of the fruit of Henry VIII's loins in The Other Boleyn Girl.

I have had to ask myself why is it I am always playing Nurse?- Is it because I is fat? I am forced to conclude that fleshly proportions are often misconstrued as signs of selfless altruistic beneficence, kindness and care. This is ironic, because in real life I am not that nice. I am the bad Samaritan who didn't answer the phone. Whilst I still cling on to my BMI of 39 I remain stonily unmoved by the plight of the unfortunate. As my few friends and many enemies will tell you, I am as grasping as the next woman, primarily motivated by sex, money and power.

Other than fat, what are the qualities of Nurseness I possess? Is it something to do with having small feet? A mellifluous voice? An ample bosom? Of course my bra size dovetails with that further cliché, Nurse as a naughty fantasy figure; her bust measurement outstripping her intelligence quotient, her practiced probing digits bringing a nervous smile to the sickly face.

By sitting round the kitchen table with Jo Brand and Vicki Pepperdine, laptop to hand, I was able to unpack the Nurse's box and rummage around. Sister Den Flixter happens to be fat, thick, have small feet and a big bust, but there's a lot more to her than that.  She's vain, venal, expedient and slothful. But somehow not all bad. As she would be the first to tell you - nurses are people too, you know."

Watch Joanna as Sister Den Flixter

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