Hari Dhillon joined the cast of HOLBY CITY in Novemer 2007 as Surgical Consultant Michael Spence. He talks to holby.tv about his time on the show so far and what’s in store for his character…
You’ve been on HOLBY CITY for nearly a year, are you enjoying your time on the show?
I’m loving it. I am very fond of the entire cast and production team on Holby. Everyone here is very cool, talented, and relaxed. I also feel gratitude towards our executive producers, Tony McHale and Diana Kyle, for casting me.
The role, as originally written, was conceived for an English actor, a real public school boy. My complete opposite. I was in Los Angeles when my London agent rang, asking me to audition. I turned it down a couple of times, only because I felt there would be no way in hell they would ever consider casting me. My agent came back to me one last time and I agreed to audition, but figured I should just do it in my own accent and put my twist on what I thought Michael Spence could be like. Perhaps it was not what they had originally envisioned, but Tony and Diana went for it, and here we are. Most producers would have just thrown my tape in the trash, considering that I wasn’t able to give them their original vision of the character, but I really admire the way they were willing to build on what I was able to bring to Michael.
You played a different guest role in the show for a few years before your regular role, did this contribute in any way to you getting the role of Michael?
I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. I was worried that it would actually work against me, but since it was quite some time since my last appearance, they seemed to be okay with it.
Michael must be a great character to play, what feedback do you get from viewers about him?
Haha. I get every reaction imaginable. It’s what makes playing Michael a riot. Michael is one of those fun characters where what you think about him says more about you than him. He is a very idiocyncratic character, especially at Holby. He’s not overly sincere in that ‘I’m just trying to save a life’ way. He’s very objective about himself – as though he is slightly outside of himself in situations – a slight ironic disposition. Half the time I think he says things just to watch the reaction. He’s direct, honest, morally ambiguous, unapologetic. He certainly thinks and behaves outside the normal parameters of behaviour, which is challenging to many characters. I find that people tend to have very strong opinions about him, and I also find that people have very detailed opinions regarding Michael, from his behaviour, attitude, even his dress sense.
What has been your most memorable scene/ storyline to play so far?
‘Hope, Faith, and Charity’ by Justin Young. The episode where Michael brings the Reverend Steve Randall to Holby to pay for the surgery of the Tan twins. I thought it was brilliantly written. Justin really captured Michael’s particular expression and style. I loved the way several storylines came together for Michael that encapsulated his first year at Holby – the Director of Surgery interview connected to his entrance at Holby and the fight in the parking lot which connected to his personal sexual habits. Politics, medicine, and personality. Brilliant storylining and sublime writing.
How are you similar/ different to Michael personality wise?
Our backgrounds are somewhat similar. He grew up in India and then the States and now lives in England. I grew up in the States, a little bit in India, and now am in England. And I think that type of background has a certain effect on people – I think we both share a slight ironic detachment from the world we are in. Sometimes it feels like you are an objective observer in your own life, like you are on the outside looking in. I don’t feel overly identified with a particular country, I feel pretty comfortable in a number of different environments, and I think he does as well.
Michael has a way with the ladies and has had flirtations with both Donna and Connie despite being married. How would you imagine his wife to be and do you think she could make an appearance onscreen at some point?
Well, she is definitely coming to Holby. Annalese, Michael’s wife, is being played by Anna-Louise Plowman – a beautiful, elegant woman and a great actress. We have just started filming some scenes together. I think Michael and Annalese are complements to each other. They are certainly very different to each other, but they understand one another, and have a deep, loving relationship. I’m starting to realize that Annalese is the one person in the world – along with his children – that Michael truly loves. It may seem strange to a lot of fans, but Michael is a real family man – nothing is more important to him than his family – they make him feel secure, safe, and most importantly, successful. For Michael, there is nothing beyond family and medicine. It would be unimaginable to Michael to envision a world without his wife. He certainly would never try to hurt Annalese deliberately, but he just loves attention from women.
The recent Holby advert has made an impact on fans, what was it like to film and what did you think of the end result?
I thought the idea, execution, and look of the whole advert was excellent. It was smart, sexy, and I especially loved how it delved into the subtext of the characters minds and emotions. I think they need to run the ad more and I personally would like to see the show move more in the direction of the ad.
What are the rest of the cast like to work with? Who are your closest friends on Set?
I can honestly say that this is one of the best casts I’ve had the
opportunity to work with – talented and cool. As to my closest friends – well, I’m friends with all of them – I always enjoy when I get to sit down and have a drink and a chat with any one of them. But I probably get to see Hugh, Amanda, Duncan, Luke, Rebecca, Nadine, and Phoebe the most outside of work. And it’s always fun winding Luke up!
Before Holby you appeared in a number of other TV and film roles. What do you consider some of the highlights of your acting career so far?
I enjoyed working on ‘The Loop’ for Fox television, before it was cancelled. The most satisfying work experiences I have had have usually been in theatre – ‘Mother Theresa is Dead’ at the Royal Court, ‘Drifting Elegant’ at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco come to mind. I’m Indian, so when you get the chance to do a bit of TV or film – the opportunities are pretty narrow and cliched – accents and typical parts written for brown guys. To be perfectly honest, right now I’m feeling like this is my career highlight so far – not only is playing Michael a lot of fun, but the character doesn’t fall into any of the cliches that I have found as an actor of Indian extraction.
How did you get into acting? Which actors/ actresses do you admire?
I got into it pretty late I suppose. I went to university at Berkeley and as a senior, I had to fill an art credit – so chose to do an acting class. One thing led to another, and a year later, I – along with 5 colleagues – started a theatre company in San Francisco, and then a couple years after that, decided to apply to drama school in England. I’ve always liked Jeff Bridges and George Clooney – I think it’s incredible the way he has managed to bend and manoeuvre his career.
Away from the busy filming schedule, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
My partner and I have a young daughter – so it seems like that takes all my spare time! So most of my spare time is filled with making silly sounds at her, chasing her, and telling her stories. But other than that, I’ve always loved to travel. I try to get somewhere new any chance I can get. And certainly films and reading. And I’m starting to get a little bit into writing.
What was the last
a) cd you bought
I just bought the new Kings of Leon album and the latest Raconteurs album.
b) film you watched
I couldn’t tell you the last film I’ve watched, only because lately I feel like some of the best writing, performing, and ideas are in tv. So, ‘The Wire’, ‘Californication’, and ‘Mad Men’ are the series I have most recently watched. I don’t know what it is about films lately, but I’m finding them uninspiring.
c) book you read
The last book I read was ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’ by Mohsin Hamid.