Daily Mirror Sept 1999 interview with Clare Raymond
If it had been any other teenager it would have been just another minor accident, but when Joseph Millson gashed his knee a major trauma followed that almost cost him his life.
He suffered a heart attack, then paralysis, and he was convinced he was going to die. That near-fatal day ten years ago still haunts the rising star of Peak Practice, because Joseph has an allergy to local anaesthetic that is so severe it could kill him.
Ironically, the heartthrob television doctor certainly looks healthy enough. At 25, he is outstandingly handsome with moody, brown eyes, olive skin, a scratching of designer stubble and swept-back glossy brown hair.
But he winces as he rubs his jaw. He has suffered toothache for two years and now the pain is such that he has to overcome his understandable fear and go to the dentist's.
"I can feel something major needs doing - probably a root canal job," Joseph groans. "But I haven't been to the dentist for eight years and I'm dreading it.
"I have a genuine, very rare allergy to local anaesthetic. So whenever I have to have serious work done on my teeth, I have to go under general anaesthetic, which is a different drug. I have to go into hospital and be knocked out."
Wearing a Medic Alert necklace to warn of his life-threatening complaint, Joseph, who recently got married, carefully takes a sip of tea through the side of his mouth as he remembers his drama as a 15-year-old.
"I was playing football when I fell on some glass and cut my knee," he explains. "Stupidly, I rode my bike home and made it worse, so my mum took me to hospital. I loved gore and I was looking forward to having my first stitches.
"I watched as the anaesthetic was injected into my leg and that's the last thing I remember. Apparently I turned blue and went stiff like a rock. Then I started having fits and my eyes began to roll. I was told later that I'd been having a heart attack."
Joseph lost consciousness, but when he came to his entire body was paralysed. And when he tried to tell the hospital staff, no sound would come from his lips.
"My hearing returned first and I could hear my mum talking to the nurses," he says. "Then my eyes opened and I could see the doctors and nurses staring down at me. I tried to move my body but nothing happened no matter how hard I tried. I started to panic. But I was completely paralysed and it was the scariest experience of my life.
"I was paralysed for about 15 minutes but it felt like a year. Terrible thoughts went through my mind that I would be stuck like this forever and I was terrified.
"When the doctors moved away I could see a Postman Pat mobile hanging from the ceiling and I tried to change my line of vision, but I couldn't. I was so annoyed that they'd put me on a children's ward and I hated looking at that stupid mobile.
"I was trying to talk but I couldn't make a noise so I concentrated really hard on making myself heard. It was so frustrating and extremely frightening. Eventually, one of the nurses said, 'Would you like a cup of tea, Mr Millson?' and I blurted out, 'Weaargghhh'. That was such a relief.
"About two years later I was taken into hospital with a broken wrist and I was put in the same bed with the Postman Pat mobile. I couldn't believe it. I had a number of accidents as a youngster and got to know the casualty unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading quite well."
Since then he's had an assortment of sporting injuries, but has had to endure treatment without painkillers.
"I've had about 16 stitches in my nose and lip and several fillings with no anaesthetic," he says."I'm not big and brave - I invent new swear words every time.
"I've been so busy for the last six or seven years that I haven't had time to go to an allergy clinic and have it investigated."
You would imagine that the experience would serve Joseph well for his role as Dr Sam Morgan in Peak Practice, which returns for a new series this week. But far from it - and there were some embarrassing moments when he spent several days learning the ropes with a real GP in Derbyshire.
"He made a minor incision on someone and I passed clean out on the surgery floor, giving myself a bump on the head," Joseph says. "Because of my allergy, I'm actually very squeamish."
Fine credentials for a man whose name has just gone above the door at The Beeches alongside Britain's favourite GPs, Andrew Attwood, played by Gary Mavers, and Joanna Graham (Haydn Gwynne). But it is probably Joseph's obvious sex appeal that the show's bosses are keen to exploit rather than his bedside manner.
As we talk, he's clearly self-assured and friendly. He's dressed in trendy combat trousers, a stone-coloured collarless shirt and Adidas trainers, with shades propped casually on his head. He enticingly promises steamy sex - as his role develops in the show. "When I started last year, the scriptwriters didn't have much of an idea what my character would be like. All I knew was that he was young, travelled abroad and this was his first job."
There's a love interest too, when Dr Sam has a one-night stand, and Joseph strips on TV for the first time.
"I get my kit off in the last episode," he says. "There is nothing as unsexy as doing love scenes in front of a film crew. It's the biggest turn-off in the world. You're supposed to block them out, but I can't.
"I don't see how any actor can enjoy a love scene - they're so technical. I was too busy choreographing my body to make sure my arm was hiding our little bits. I've been nude on stage a few times, in Romeo And Juliet when I was about 19, for example."
Joseph expects to stay in Peak Practice for at least another year and he's pleased that there's more action in the show.
"There's a big life-saving episode in the middle of the series where Attwood gets stuck in a river," he says. "We were filming in a wide river for a week. We had to hold our breath and go down 16 feet with weights to the bottom. That was scary."
In fact, that scene was filmed in May, the week before Joseph wed actress Caroline Fitzgerald, 30. They were married by Caroline's stepfather, the local vicar.
So what's it like being a married man?
"Great," he gushes, enthusiastically. Then he breaks the spell. "I never see her."
He goes on to explain that Caroline is very busy, currently touring in the musical Blood Brothers and that the couple's work keeps them apart a lot. They met three years ago, touring in Ned Sherrin's musical production of Salad Days.
"We played opposite each other and we got on brilliantly on stage," says Joseph. "We made each other laugh a lot. Then we broke a taboo by dating each other. I had never had an entanglement on a job and nor had she. Both of us had vowed not to go out with anyone on a tour because we'd seen it be disastrous for other people. But we couldn't stop ourselves.
"It was friendship at first sight - love at second or third sight. Caroline possesses qualities I don't have - like wisdom. I'm impulsive and she has more of a head on her shoulders. And she's beautiful."
He proposed on the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in February 1998 when Caroline was working there in an opera.
"It wasn't very romantic, it was freezing," he says. "We hadn't talked about it - it just happened. It had crossed my mind and had come to my lips in the past, but I swallowed it. That day, it just popped out. I'm usually such a loudmouth but that was the quietest I'd ever spoken.
"Caroline had to say, 'What?' And I had to ask three times.
"I don't think I'm that young to be married. My parents got married at 17 and by the time they were my age, they had my brother and me. We want children, definitely, maybe in a year or two.
" So how does Caroline feel about watching him make love to another woman on TV?
"It's not very nice to watch," he admits. "I doubt she'll be running that episode on the video. But she realises it's part of the job.
" They've just bought a pounds 134,000 two bedroom garden flat in North London's Kentish Town. And last week, the couple had a week's break. But rather than go away, they did a play together for Joseph's theatre company, Pursued By A Bear, which is based in Greenwich, South London.
"We love working together," he says. "It's the only way we get to see each other and I hope we'll do it a lot more often.
"There's something rather lovely about going out in the evening and having an argument on stage as your job. When you go home the last thing you want to do is row, you just want to have a nice hug.
" He talks of an idyllic childhood. For the first ten years of his life his parents, Arthur and Joyce, ran a country pub, The Bullion in Stanford Dingley, Berkshire, and after that they moved to Sadgrove Farm at nearby Bucklebury. Now his mum and dad run another pub, the Hare And Hounds in Old Warden, Bedfordshire. He also has a brother Pete, 29, who is a photographer. But there is now another health drama blighting family life as his 47-year old father is fighting leukaemia.
"He's doing amazingly well with chemotherapy at the moment," says Joseph."It was discovered four years ago and he had treatment straight away which was successful. He had a couple of years' remission and it came back about three months ago. He still works four days a week.
"I don't see enough of him because of my job but now whenever I'm driving home from Derbyshire to London, I take a detour and visit mum and dad.
" His parents are proud of his success, he says, but adds, "They would have been happy if I'd chosen the Mafia as a career - anything I wanted. They were a couple of hippies.
"My parents had very different spells of income. For two or three years, they were extremely wealthy and from eight to ten I went to Brockhurst public school.
"But then my dad went bankrupt and I was sent to the roughest secondary school in Berkshire. It was such a culture shock.
"I was speaking very poshly and called all the teachers 'Sir' until one of them said, 'No, my name's Phil'. I said, 'Sorry, Sir'.
"I had a terrible haircut and I did get beaten up. But it was a very good education because I saw both sides of the track. I was a very naughty boy and I skived off school a lot. The only lessons I bothered turning up for were English, drama and history.
" His time at school ended abruptly at 16 when he was suspended shortly before he took GCSEs - for punching the headmaster.
"When he arrived he changed the colour of the school shirts," says Joseph. "My mother said, 'Don't be ridiculous, you're leaving soon, so just wear the old blue shirt'.
"This headteacher, called Mr Dick, used to grab me in the corridor because I waswearing the wrong shirt. One time he nearly knocked me down a flight of stairs so I clouted him, giving him a bloody lip.
"My parents had taught me to stand up for myself. If there was a dispute with a teacher, my father took my side. He'd threaten to clout the teachers.
" Joseph went back to school only to take three GCSEs in the subjects he'd bothered turning up for - and passed. Rather than get a job at 16, he went on a performing arts course because he didn't want to work.
He later earned a First Class BA (Hons) degree at his London drama school.
"I wasn't stage-struck as a kid," he says. "I was 18 before it crossed my mind that I would be an actor for a living. Before that I thought I was going to be a professional footballer - I had trials for Reading. But I wasn't good enough. Then I was going to be a professional surfer or skateboarder.
" But now that he has settled on acting, he's sure he's made the right career choice. He was on TV for just six weeks during his first series of Peak Practice, but the fan mail is still coming in. "I've never been recognised in the street," he says. "Maybe that will start to happen after this series. I'm getting quite a good gay following, which is fine by me, very flattering. And lots of polite letters from teenage girls.
" He glances at his watch and frown lines appear on face. "The dentist," he says, ominously. "I'd better go."
And he disappears, nervously putting his life in somebody else's hands.