April 2016 | by Carl Marsh
You were the first one to die in A Game of Thrones, so did working on that TV series prepare you for all the blood and guts that are ever-present in Holby City?
We did the very first opening section of A Game of Thrones, and I remember there was a prosectic head that was thrown around but we missed most of the blood and guts as we were quite separate to all of the other stuff that was being filmed. We had our own little section where we were mainly dealing with trying to stay on our horses and things like that, but with Holby City, we've got such a brilliant prosectics department that they create all the set-ups for the operations so realistically. As we are actors playing Dr's or nurses in the show, we have to spend a lot of time studying up on medical terminology, or learning to stitch, so we concentrate a lot on what we have learnt but quite often we get caught out by surprise when during a scene, some blood bursts from a 'patient'; the reaction you see on our faces is often real! I have done scenes where people have been covered in blood and some of the crew have actually been looking a bit sick or squeamish and turning away!
You trained at RADA, and it shows that hard work and studying does pay off but why did you decide to follow this career path?
Well I did not have the epiphany moment where you hear some actors say that they saw someone on the stage and say "Ah, I want to do that". I think I originally thought that I wanted to do something that was fun for all of my life. I wanted to go to drama school as I did a lot of Youth Theatre, and I enjoyed meeting lots of different people through doing it, and I loved being up in London. So if I wanted that experience again, I would need to go to drama school, also my drama teacher encouraged me to go to apply also. One thing about being an actor is that you don't really know what you could be acting in next, so it was this excitement that I also wanted from a career. With Holby City, originally I auditioned for a smaller role and I did not get it, it was one of those one episode parts. Then a few weeks later I got asked to come in again to audition for a regular part, and it was whilst reading this script, I just realised that this character really made sense to me and that I could perform it well. With some parts you go for and get, you just cannot find a way of connecting with them but with the role I play in Holby City, it just felt so natural.
How have you coped with any ‘knock backs’ during your career?
Auditioning for drama school! This prepares you to becoming a good actor as it's very rare that you get into every drama school that you audition for! I auditioned over 3 years, and sometimes I got offers early on but decided for some reason not to take them. After having these knock backs for the first couple of years of auditioning for drama school, it makes you really know that you want to do this as a career.
Do you miss the theatre?
I am really, really, really happy at Holby and it's something I love but like any actor that loves being in a rehearsal room, being on a stage is their first love, as it is was for most of them the first way to experience acting. I go to see as many plays as I can, and I sometimes get a bit of jealousy seeing them up on the stage but I have been really lucky to have done what I have so far. If I ever leave Holby, I will do the best that I can to get back up on the stage again.
By being the well-known actor that you are from a very popular TV show, do you like all the attention you receive, or do you prefer keeping yourself hidden from the limelight?
I would not say I get that much attention compared to some of my friends that act in Holby or other shows, as they cannot even go onto public transport, but any attention I do receive from fans is lovely, and this happens wherever I am in the UK. We also get sent lots of incredible stuff in the mail, and we really appreciate all the items we get sent. One thing I am not very good or comfortable with is all this social media stuff like Twitter or Instagram; I can retweet or repost things, but actually creating anything good to tweet or sending a good picture, that is where I need to learn.
You are on the steady path to becoming known as a great actor, yet what are the attributes you possess or still hope to gain?
I would not describe myself as a great actor but I am always trying to improve! The people I really admire and really like watching are those that bring natural charisma to any part that they are playing. I also love actors that are a little bit dark and have a good sense of humour. Those are the type of attributes that I would like to have.
You must read a lot? What type of books do you like to escape into?
Obviously I read a lot of stuff for the show as we need to keep up to date with our medical knowledge but I read a lot of non-fiction. I recently read The Score Takes Care of Itself by Bill Walsh, the NFL coaches book about leadership - ironically it was the book that inspired Stuart Lancaster, ex-England coach! Fiction wise, I always go back to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. I also like to read books by Ian Banks. Ridiculous as it sounds, I "do" judge a book by it's cover! So The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus, which I loved as much as I loved the cover!
So what do you personally get out of reading?
Personally I read because I find it as one of the best ways of finding some escapism, and I mean that in a literal way, its solitary and very personal, yet very rewarding especially if we lead fast paced lives.
With Holby City, you have a great cast and it appears that you have all got a great bond with each other ‘off-set’ too, this must make working together effortless at times?
I think it does massively help as it helps in a lot of ways such as it makes it fun. It makes you more relaxed and as Holby takes a lot of time to film, it means you get to discuss the scenes with each other and get to spend lots of time getting to know each other. We are really comfortable around each other, it also means you get to see your friends acting on the show first hand too.
If anyone reading this interview that have not seen the show, what words can you offer as to why they maybe should give it a go?
They should watch it as there is something for everyone in the show. Plenty of different storylines and different characters, and as the show is set over 3 different medical wards, the stories are not normally connected. It's really addictive. Even my family watch it even if I am not in it. So if my Dad watches it, and talks about how good a show it is, then it must be good!
Is there anything that you would change about your character, or would perhaps like to happen, just in case the writers of the show are reading this?
Yeah, I would love for them to start to do the episodes abroad once again, and that I get to go on it! Let's say a medical conference in Hawaii or someplace similar!
Away from Holby City, have you any acting ambitions that one day you would like to do?
Your ambitions change as you change, as you go through your life. With acting, you need to be careful thought where your ambitions come from. This can change from year to year but one thing I would like to do is write a show or a play with friends. I regret not trying it already, so that is something I want to do at some point.
If you were an animal, what would it be, and why?
I knew you were going to ask me this question as I read your interview you did with Niamh McGrady and I had a sense she was going to say a Unicorn, due to her love of them! For me, it would have to be something that you can't do such as fly, and also something that is not under threat and has no predators, so an eagle, yeah, I would love to be an eagle. Who wouldn't want to fly!