Guy Henry joined HOLBY CITY in October 2010 as Henrik Hanssen and next week his character becomes involved in a dramatic hostage situation which will have a lasting impact on him. holby.tv talked to Guy Henry about what’s in store…
What’s the background to the upcoming hostage situation?
Previously a character called Ritchie Mooney entered the hospital, played by the wonderful David Troughton, who I did plays with up at Stratford. Ritchie was unfortunately at the receiving end of a re-arrangement of the way things worked at the hospital. A new business plan, a new non referral scheme – where you don’t refer patients onto other wards was pitched by business manager George Binns. Hanssen decided to implement this scheme and unfortunately Ritchie doesn’t receive quite the best care to the extent that he expires! Hanssen and Mr Binns seem to be getting some strange threatening phone calls and emails which Hanssen ofcourse doesn’t take much notice of, being above death. (The dark lord they sometimes call me on the Set which is quite flattering!) and then out of the blue comes the son of Ritchie Mooney.
I probably won’t say much more than that other than he’s played by David Troughton’s real son, a fine actor called Sam Troughton who I’ve known since he was young. So we spent this Summer, in the middle of a heatwave, filming this really intense hostage sequence in the back of a van and he does unspeakable things to Hanssen with a very large spike gun! All I can tell you is Hanssen is extremely brave and courageous.
How does Hanssen deal with the situation?
One of the problems of playing Hanssen is there is only so much looming in a corridor and of being sarcastic that you can do without boring someone, including myself, so its great that they are doing this storyline.
He is not just a moustache twirling villain, he’s not just black and white. There are strange vulnerable things about the character which make it more interesting and that’s what coming up for him, which begins with the death of Ritchie Mooney and escalate to the point where Hanssen questions the way things are done and the way that decisions are made to do with money or lack of it within the health service, how in touch he or Mr Binns, who is not a medic but a business man, are with the needs of the hospital so again it’s Holby engaging with what real hospitals have to contend with all the time.
Did you enjoy this storyline?
I am very pleased with it. What amazes me with Holby is that it’s a hell of a lot of writing – an episode a week, 52 episodes a year and I think the standard still remains incredibly high when you think about it in those terms. It couldn’t be hard hitting political drama all the time, it can be personal, it can be really funny too – I think George Binns is a very funny character. I think Hanssen can also be very dry and funny but it’s great to enagage with something that is so gritty.
Everyone at Holby gets a turn, each character gets the high and low periods and that keeps it fresh for the audience, us and the writers – everybody! But this is the beginning of quite a good journey for Hanssen and I think he is rattled, he has been a man of firm views, I think the strength of him is that he begins to see another point of view, someone else’s. Hanssen begins to question the whole ethos of the place and what he believes in.
Have you had any other favourite moments on Holby?
My favourite storyline was the departure of Sahira Shah. Hanssen had always had somewhat of soft spot for her – if soft spot is the word! But people are still confused about their relationship – was he in love with her? but I think it was more of a case of she was his protégée. The great thing about Hanssen is he doesn’t give a damn who anyone is. If they have a spark, if they are good at their job or have a potential then he’s very interested in them. He’s not a snob, he doesn’t care who they are or where they come from, he sometimes makes surprising choices in who he’s interested in and who he likes which is fun to play. You never know who is going to be in with him.
Would you like to see Hanssen take a romantic route?
Yes I think that would be good – not with George Binns though! I’m not sure which way he would go. Jac? Certainly not. We’d be far too boney together. True she’s always trying to prove herself and he does like her as well but I don’t think that would happen!
How long you can keep a character, not knowing something about them is intriguing but not knowing anything about them for years seems to me a bit of a law of diminishing return but I think you do get to know more about him and what he believes in through these episodes but as far as something more personal is concerned I think that could be interesting to pursue.
How was auditioning for the role of Hanssen like?
You go through quite a long and arduous process of auditions – well I did – where you have to say long sentences, with medical terms and then they take the leap. Particularly for a major character like Hanssen – they put you through hoops and thankfully I was fortunate enough to get the part and then they introduce you quite swiftly – work out what you’re good at as an actor or perhaps what you’re not quite good at!
I think they’ve got me operating less because I look a right idiot in those, what I call raspberry ripple scrubs! Once they filmed an artistic shot with an actress and in the foreground was my elbow below the srubs and I couldn’t take my eyes off it! On those shots it seemed to be intruding appalingly in my view and the enjoyment of the scene and I decreed that there was to be no shots of my naked elbow again! Imagine if it got to the knees, that would be a hideous sight! Paul Bradley’s character has a smock on so I asked if I could I have one of those. They didn’t really do a fitting for that so I’ve got a strange voluminous tent like outfit – I think the bear elbow might have been better! But I am a stupid shape, I am very tall and skinny so am difficult to fit.
In the operating theatre scenes, one thing of many I can’t do is suturing – I look like I’m cutting up roast lamb! They told me it was supposed to look like intricate work and apparently I was raising my sutures up into the air like I was doing some huge restoration! It’s good to have tough directors like that as they make you look better!
What were the prosthetics like to wear in the upcoming hostage scenes?
The prosthetics are brilliant. I hadn’t worn one before but they can get quite uncomfortable because they are so heavy. I was given a prosthetic to wear which I was told was previously Sean Maguire’s prosthetic stomach. Nowhere near as nice as my real one but I had to put up with it!
You know all the stories about people lying on the table? Well Paul Bradley quite likes to smack the prosthetics – Eric Morecambe style – round the chops of the rubber prosthetic dummys between takes and he did that one day without anyone telling him that they’d substituted the dummy for the real actor, so he smacked the actor in the head! He was obviously mortified! Bob Barrett who plays big bumbly Sacha, in real life he’s always hugging and he was talking at the operating theatre, telling that story as a joke, he was fiddling about and then thought ‘what’s that?’, he suddenly realised he was stroking this man’s penis on the table! So it’s quite a risky job, you never know who you’re going to be smacking or stroking next!
You’ve been in Holby for two years now, did you imagine you’d be in the show that long?
I’ve never done anything like this before. I’ve done long running shows in the theatre, lots of years at Stratford so I m no stranger to being in a company of people and we are blessed with the people at Holby who are all such a delight. The cast and crew, I know we always say it but it’s true. The hours are so long, the work when you have a busy storyline is, not meaning to moan, but the alarm goes at 5.25am, I don’t necessarily get up then but that’s when it goes off! then I stagger here, on set at 8am, finish at 7pm, go home, get home at 9pm, learn lines, get up again at 5.25am – it’s not Afghanistan but it is bloody tiring! And if the cast and crew weren’t so lovely and the part wasn’t such a nice one I would have left after the first six weeks. It’s a crazy schedule!
As an actor, having a regular job it’s a double edged sword because I really appreciate the regular wage, I’ve been able to pay off lots of debts from my theatre days. So it’s been practically lovely. I love playing Hanssen and I really like the people here so I’m not moaning across the board, I’ve been very fortunate. As you get a bit older and have commitments it can be a frightening hairy life. I certainly don’t think I’ll be here for what you might call the duration. I long to get back to the theatre I must say.
Did you get recognised on a regular basis prior to Holby?
Not to the extent that I am now, the other two things people tend to notice me from is that I played the head of comedy in Extras with Ricky Gervais and also I played Cassius in Rome which was quite a popular BBC2 show so I do get recognised for that but not for Harry Potter because I had the longest wig in the world and a goatee beard so look completely different! And I was also blurred as the focus was on Ralph Fiennes for most of it, I can’t imagine why!
The Holby audience can be quite wide ranging, I’ve just bought a new flat in North West London and this guy came up to me and said ‘Hey your da bitch man!’, I said ‘Oh you are kind’. I think he meant it nicely! But I’ve also been recognised by some posh women when I saw a play at the West End. It’s fantastic that Holby appeals to such a huge range of people.
Do you ever watch yourself back on TV?
Yes I do, I don’t like it but I do. Partly I like to watch Holby because I actually quite enjoy the show. But also I think if you’re in a long running show it’s a very good idea to keep an eye on yourself because it’s so easy to develop complacency and mannerism that can get too irritating quite frankly. I have one look, which my friend calls ‘the miss prism look’, so I’ve been trying to cut down on some of those looks! It’s not always a pleasure to watch yourself, not always the things you think you’ve done well are the ones that you have. Likewise sometimes you think you’ve done something well and you look back on it and think that you didn’t!
Do you get a say in any of Hanssen’s character?
I was obsessesed with the fact that because he seems more English than the English. (He came from Sweden when he was younger) I thought when we discussed what car he would have he should definitely have something like a Jaguar which is quintessentiallyBritish but they said no he’ll have a Volvo!