HOLBY CITY celebrated it’s 15th anniversary last week and the show continues to grow from strength to strength. Series Producer Simon Harper talks to holby.tv about what’s coming up in 2014…
There have been a number of cast changes lately, it definitely feels like a new era for the show?
Yes very much. I’ve been on the show for seven years before I became Series Producer last May. The expression ‘out with the old, in with the new’ seems to be the perception of the audience when a lot of characters leaving coincide with a new person at the helm, there’s this assumption that I’ve come in and thrown out a lot of characters out but the reality is you do get a wave of some cast going all at once, as if you think Jimmy, Lauren and Guy all joined at the same time. Three years is about the average time to stay so it is quite normal and has happened in the past.
It is always scary as part of you thinks has the show taken a hit? Will it affect the audience? But at the same time it is important for the survival of the show, by keeping the core values but also by constant renewal and refreshment. And while it is sad to see the old faces go, it is incredibly exciting to have to devise new characters, who bring in a new energy. It’s brilliant to get to come in at a time when that needs doing.
How do you keep the show fresh?
I was very fortunate when I got the job that it coincided with a time when Danny Cohen, who was then the Controller of BBC1, had authorised some audience research specifically about Casualty and Holby; so I had that at my finger tips. I regard my job as a BBC producer to give the audience, who pay the license fee, what they want. What was very clear was the audience remains loyal; they love those perennial Holby values ,the smartness of the dialogue, the complex nature of the characters, the smart professional medical stories but also the word ‘spice’ kept coming up in this audience research.
Holby used to be very relationship based; scandalous with juicy storylines – it was not about a return to that because the show has evolved so much since then but there was this hunger to get a bit of spice back, perhaps a bit more focus on relationships which is something we’ve possibly avoided over the last few years. I don’t think there is anything wrong with relationship stories as long as they’re intelligent and well told.
You’ve brought back the character of Dominic Copeland, was this in keeping with bringing some ‘spice’ to the show?
David Ames has been absolutely brilliant in the role of Dominic. Dominic is naughty, he stirs things up. He comes back wanting to show he’s a reformed character and can be a brilliant doctor, but he can’t resist causing trouble.
Also Petra Letang’s character, Adele, is just a delight. She’s mischevious and gets into scrapes. It’s about shaking things up a little!
Can we expect a big villain in Holby?
I think that’s a really good question because I was a bit over all of them being terrible well behaved. Heroes can be flawed to start with; they don’t always behave very well.
I don’t think we have an outright villain as such, I don’t think it would be fair to call Dominic a villain, as he’s more complex than that.
Guy Self is not a villain but he doesn’t quite have that moral compass. He’s not Hanssen. Guy is more human; he’s got a temper on him and a short attention span. He’s a good man but is flawed, still grieving for the wife he adored and a devoted father to Zosia, who he is estranged from. He isn’t awfully nice to Serena a lot of the time because she’s kind of arrival for power.
Are there any crossovers plans with Casualty?
Definitely , it’s great having Oliver Kent as Executive Producer; he has this clear and equal passion for both shows. There is a real sense of us being sister shows and one family. I’ve attended meetings in Cardiff about potential crossovers that I can’t really talk about yet but there will be some in future.
Anything involving Connie’s return to Casualty?
Connie has to! It’s something you really have to watch because I feel it would be very bad if anything big happened in the Casualty world and it never be referenced on Holby, which is something I’ve seen in the past. So apart from anything else, the episode after Connie debuts, it is definitely referenced on Holby. We are looking into getting Amanda to do a crossover, I happened to bump into her recently and she’s very up for that.
Jac is very caught up with baby stuff at the moment, but when Jac is Jac again, she will not like Connie sniffing around. When Connie left, Jac was the alpha-female cardio thoracic surgeon. Jac and everybody who remembers her in Holby world, their rationale would be what is she doing in the building and why is she doing emergency medicine? So I think we’ve got to cross Connie and Jac at some point!