Actress Crystal Yu joins CASUALTY this weekend as new doctor Lily Chao. She kindly talks to holby.tv about her new role…
What can you tell us about your character Lily?
Lily is a hard-working, motivated, high-achiever with a 5-year plan: she wants to become a dermatologist, get married and live in the countryside with her future husband.
She can come across as abrupt and stubborn at times, which she is often oblivious to – but that’s mainly because she spent too much of her life with her head in a book instead of socialising and playing with other kids.
Can you relate to her in any way?
I have been told I can be rather stubborn and I suppose that’s quite true. I came over to the U.K. at the age of 11 because I wanted to study dance and performing arts here. Not having my parents near me meant I have had to grow up very quickly and learn to deal with life’s ups and downs on my own. And worse of all, my only understanding of English was the lyrics to my favourite pre-teen album by the Backstreet Boys!!
How does she cope in her first shift?
She arrives completely prepared with all the theories she had learnt at medical school but what she doesn’t realise is that working in a hospital is more than just medical knowledge and theories. She desperately wants to impress her mentor Ash and show him what she is capable of, but it doesn’t quite end up the way she had hoped.
How does she interact with her colleagues?
Not very well to say the least…
Any plans for a love interest for Lily?
I am not sure whether there are plans for Lily to have a love interest. It has always been about work with her, and I don’t even think she has ever had or even thought of having a boyfriend! It would definitely be quite funny to see Lily with a love interest – she probably won’t know how to handle the situation.
How did you get the part?
I have a brilliant agent who set up my auditions for the role of Dr. Lily Chao with the BBC – I was given quite a few scenes to read with many medical terms I couldn’t even pronounce! I was later invited to a screen-test at the Casualty studio where I had to wear scrubs and use medical props. I was offered this wonderful part about a week after my screen-test.
How did you celebrate getting the role?
I didn’t celebrate until after I have completed my first week of filming because it all seemed very surreal to be joining such a well-established show. I just didn’t want to jinx it.
You had a previous guest role in Casualty a few years ago. What character did you play and do you think this had any influence on getting this part?
I played a 19 year old girl called Ming-Mei, who wanted to escape the life she had with her ever controlling mother. She was later disfigured and blinded by chemical in an accident. I suppose one small advantage was that I have worked on the Casualty set before – but I still had to go through the audition process like all actors.
Is Casualty your first regular TV role?
Yes!! And I’m so privilege to be part of such an iconic show.
Has it been daunting joining such a well established show? Have the rest of the cast helped you settle in?
It was definitely daunting – I felt a bit like the new kid who joined in the middle of the term! But the cast, supporting artistes, crew and productions teams have all been immensely supportive.
Sunetra who plays Zoe is my saviour – especially when it comes to all the resus/medical scenes. I am so honoured to be working with such a skilled and talented actress.
I also love hanging out the the cast in our spare time: lunch date with Amanda (Robyn) and Azuka (Louise) by the Bay, or playing arcade games with Tony (Noel)!
How have your family and friends reacted to you joining Casualty? Have they been supportive?
My friends and family have been so supportive. It is a little difficult for my family to completely comprehend the life of an actor mainly because they are so far away and I haven’t always had the chance to share with them my acting works.
A personal thank you to the beautiful and talented Jing Lusi (Tara Lo from Holby) – we call one another: ‘sister from another mister’. Jing has been amazing at sharing her experience on Holby and I’m so lucky to have such a brilliant friend.
How have you found learning all the medical terms?
So hard!!!!! I had to say ‘tachypnoeic’ the other day – and it took me a little while before I could get my tongue around it!
Yes – I spent an afternoon at Frenchay Hospital shadowing a doctor. I must have asked many stupid questions. I can’t wait to do that again. I learnt to suture for real for one of the episodes – I can’t wait to learn more!!
Are you at all squeamish around the blood and gory make-up on the show?
We have such a talented teams of make-up and prosthetic artists and I am constantly in awe with how real the injuries look. I am not too squeamish but then again, I keep telling myself it is not real.
How do you think you would cope in a real life emergency?
ABC!! Airway, Breathing, Circulation! Honestly speaking, I will most likely run and get one of the medical advisers if I’m on the Casualty set! We are very lucky to have a very knowledgable team of medical professionals on the show.
Have you ever had any real-life accidents or emergencies?
I used to be a dancer so I have had my fair share of real-life accidents. From witnessing a dislocated knee, to tearing my ligament whilst performing on stage, to fracturing my coccyges. I have seen my best friend who is now a ballerina dancing en pointe with a swollen ankle the size of a tennis ball. I suppose the show must always go on!!
How did you get into acting?
I trained as a dancer initially and then found my way into musical theatre and acting during my time at performing arts school. We were always taught to be able to sing, dance and act (they call this the ‘triple-threat’) all at the same time. It is a tough industry, for one victory we probably have had to go through many set backs.
Will you be watching your first episode?
I think so – I’m not great at watching myself. It’s a little bit like listening to your own voice. I am also very critical of myself – so I often end up thinking about whether I could have done anything differently.
Saying that, a couple of my closest friends might come over to mine on Sat evening so we can watch it together. It will be a girlie night with wine and pizza!