Actor James Anderson sadly left this week after four years on the medical drama. He talks to holby.tv about his time on HOLBY CITY…
You’ve been on the show for four years, why have you decided to leave?
I have had a fantastic four years and my decision to go was far from being an easy one. I am excited about the prospect of pastures new, and as a young(ish!) actor there are some things I’d still love to do, but it is with much sadness and some trepidation that I leave my happy Holby stable.
Once Tara’s demise had been played out, did you feel it a natural progression that it was time for Oliver to move on from Holby?
I was adamant that Oliver’s decision to leave would be his own, i.e. a positive, somehow redemptive one. Playing a role for any length of time you invest heavily in the character and I wanted to make sure he wouldn’t be fired or simply implode, regress or give up, and thankfully the producers agreed with me. I absolutely see his departure from Holby as an authentic, and most importantly, a positive one.
Are you pleased at how your character progressed during your time on the show?
Hugely. I loved the challenge of playing a flawed character with so much to learn both personally and professionally. Sometimes Oliver’s negative traits overshadowed the good, and it was always interesting as an actor to plot my way through that. I very much see Oliver as a young pretender to the throne – a fallible human being who one day will achieve greatness. He’s just not quite there yet!
You’ve had so many great storylines on the show, what have been your most memorable?
Playing a junior doctor, I’ve had the luxury of working all over the hospital with every member of the cast. The writers had Oliver snog most of Wyvern, which as an actor surrounded by beautiful women I’ll be ever grateful for. But of course it is the recent bereavement story, from first meeting Tara, to marrying, burying and finally honouring her was carefully and sensitively plotted out, and while often miserable for Oliver it has been a gift for me to play.
Poor Oliver, having had two close bereavements, he hasn’t had an easy ride at Holby, it must have been quite challenging as an actor playing him during these times? Is it ever hard to switch off?
I always felt protected by a wonderful cast and crew, but yes, it does affect you. There was a lot of crying, then a lot of anger. When his mood threatened to modulate my own, I had to make the conscious decision at the end of every day to leave Oliver behind with the hanging up of his scrubs and stethoscope.
What feedback do you get from viewers about your character?
People seem to root for Oliver, which is lovely because I do to. When he makes the wrong decision, or falls back on bad habits I want to shake him, slap him, push him in the right direction. And from the hubbub on Twitter I see I’m not alone!
What will you miss most (and least) from working on Holby?
I shan’t miss the 6am starts, the white ‘chef shoes’ they made me wear in the operating theatre, the tuna pasta bake in the BBC canteen. But I had the opportunity to go to work every day, have my work seen weekly by millions of people, and be paid for it. That’s every actor’s dream, and I’m not complaining. Oh, and I’ll miss my friends, of whom I made so many on both sides of the camera.
Have there ever been any funny/ pranks or embarrassing moments on Set that you can share?
Paul Bradley has an electric box with flashing lights and a siren that he calls an Overactingometer. He will bring it out in rehearsal and set it off judiciously as we’re trying to get through the scene. Also in the theatres we have a (naughty) habit of slapping/thumping the prosthetic bodies we’re supposed to be operating on. They’re surprisingly realistic and newcomers on set often jump when Paul, Rosie or I thump a poor heart transplant patient on the nose. The story goes that one time they switched the prosthetic for the real actor but I’m not saying who hit who…
What was your last day on Set like? Did you have a leaving party?
My leaving party was the night before my last day on set, so I was feeling a little delicate. I was lucky that my final scene to shoot was also Oliver’s final scene in the episode. So in a funny way we both get to say goodbye for real. The whole cast and crew came down to watch and I broke down in tears. It was a very humbling and special moment for me.
And good leaving presents? I was spoilt rotten.
Who do you hope to keep in touch with from the cast now that you’ve left?
Holby operates differently to any other show I know: it really is like a family, I am close with so many cast past and present, and I have no doubt we’ll remain friends in time.
What are your future plans now that you’ve left?
I’m currently working on the last ever Poirot which will screen later this year on ITV1. I play a rakish, Bohemian architect called Michael Weyman which has been such fun to play. I’d love to do some theatre again soon, too.
What would be your dream acting role? Which actors do you personally admire?
I really admire some of the writing on US TV at the moment. I’m a huge fan of The West Wing and The Wire, and I’m about to launch into Breaking Bad. Working on a good American show has been a dream since I was lucky enough to study over there at the Actors Studio. It probably explains why I’m also a fan of method actors, from Brando and Clift through to Pacino, De Niro and now Day Lewis. Their work inspires me still.
Finally do you have a message for fans of holby.tv that have supported you through your time in Holby?
It’s you at home that we do it for. So- thank you – for your kind words, letters, cards and tweets over the years: it has been wonderful to earn your support and go on this crazy ride with you all. Love to you, and see you soon 🙂 x