James Anderson made his first appearance in HOLBY CITY in June 2009 as Oliver Valentine. Oliver initially portrayed as ‘the golden boy’ compared to his sister Penny who he joined with but despite his charm and medical talent, he lacked confidence which endangered his patients and landed his colleagues in trouble. Things came to a head last year when he confessed to cheating on an exam and finally hit rock bottom when Penny was killed at the scene of a train crash. James talks to holby.tv about his time on the show so far…
You’ve been in Holby City for nearly 3 years, are you still enjoying your time on the show?
I absolutely love it. It really is like a family there, the people both on and off camera are brilliant. If I didn’t enjoy it I wouldn’t have stayed for so long, it’s a great show – it has integrity and has gotten even better in my time there. The team has got better and better. It’s lovely to be part of something that is really good.
Oliver is a complex character to play, can you relate to him in any way?
He looks the same as me! He probably looks a bit better actually as he has make up on, lol! No but seriously, yes he is complex, he definitely isn’t squeaky clean. Oliver has a dark, selfish side to him which gets in the way of him being a good guy always and I love that. Morally he is good but sometimes he lets his ambition get in the way of possibly doing the right thing.
What have been your most memorable storylines to play so far?
I’d probably have to say it’s the sad ones. In the last year Oliver has had an awful run of luck what with his sister dying and then going slightly mad in the aftermath of it. I got two or three amazing stories around Penny’s death which were a real stretch for me as an actor and it was a really good experience for me.
How do you build yourself up for emotional scenes? Do you find it hard switching off after filming?
Yes, very much so. Around this time last year my father passed away, so the emotional work wasn’t hard to plug into. It was very difficult shooting bereavement scenes in a fake hospital and then going to a real hospital and dealing with something that was very real to me. I found it very easy to do the emotional work but at the same time it was very difficult as it was occupying so much of my life a year ago.
How do you think Oliver is coping now since the death of his sister? Do you think he still holds a lot of guilt and torment?
I think he has got over the guilt as he did do the right thing by her in the end. Even though she died with this big cloud hanging over his head he has made peace with it by staying in the job she encouraged him to do. He has found a new lease of life this year which has been really nice for me to play and as a Doctor, he has found his confidence again.
Oliver was recently tempted with a job offer outside of medicine and also briefly transferred to Dan’s Orthopaedic team, do you think he is finally settled and decided on where he wants to be in his career?
No, this is why I like playing Oliver because he is a young guy. Whereas lots of the other Registrars and Consultants in the show know where they are and want to be, Oliver is still trying to work out what he wants in life. Also, he hasn’t matured completely into the Doctor that one day he will be, but he is definitely on that path. It’s really nice that he can falter sometimes and not every day is his best. Sometimes he will have a confidence knock but ultimately he is on a path where he is discovering who he is as well as what he wants to be – I really love that about him.
Do you think he feels more pressure now to do well in his medical career because of Penny’s death?
I don’t think he feels pressured but it is a motivation for him to do well. He comes from a fractured family. His relationship with his father is a difficult one. Last year Oliver’s father featured in the show and you saw for the first time that he (the father) is a rich guy. Oliver has grown up in that mould, he wants to prove himself as his own man – that is his motivation really, rather than his sister’s death.
Fans love the dynamic between Jac and Oliver, what is your take on their relationship?
Haha! Well I love working with Rosie Marcel who plays Jac and love all of our scenes together. The character of Jac is very manipulative and mean, so I love as an Actor trying to find those little weak points where I can stick the knife in back to her! Holby City is a programme about hierarchy and status and Oliver is relatively low status in the hospital, so that means it’s really fun to rock the boat with the higher ranking people in the place! The relationship between Oliver and Jac is a brilliant one because there has been sexual tension between them that always sits in the background. Although I’m sure Jac would rather forget this – as would Oliver for different reasons.
How do you think Jac feels about him?
I think she has reluctantly come to admire him. During his tenure as her mentee he has proven himself to her despite at times it being a fractured relationship. I think that whilst they aren’t on the level in terms of status, they might be in terms of respect. Every now and again, Jac knocks him down a few pegs but it’s been really nice to slowly crawl up in her estimations!
Oliver has always been a bit of a Lothario when it comes to women, would you like to see him settle down?
For Oliver’s own peace of mind I think maybe he deserves a break and someone to settle down with. I would say that despite his reputation as the ‘love Doctor’ he has had a pretty dry year of death and misery and there hasn’t really been any love interests apart from a cheeky kiss with Penny’s roommate and that has been it. I think Oliver’s reputation precedes him but is slightly undeserved.
Who do you think could be a good match for him?
There is very little on offer for him! I think he’d quite gladly go with Sahira, I think he’d go back to all sorts of other people too! There is an absence of women in his ward apart from Jac, and he’s already been there lol.
Who are your closest friends on set?
I really love working upstairs with Paul Bradley. I also loved working with Ed MacLiam and Laila Rouass. Hari Dhillon is great fun and I love working with Tina Hobley. One of the wonderful things about working on Holby is that it’s quite a large main cast so we get to work with different people on a regular basis. It’s really nice because they are all a great gang.
You’re a regular user of Twitter, what feedback do you get from viewers?
I get all sorts! It’s such a great way of hearing direct from people that enjoy the show. I think it’s the first time that people who work on things such as Holby City or any show like that have a way of hearing from the people that love it. I really enjoy it. I sometimes forget that I am Tweeting my followers my private dealings and you sometimes forget that the world is bigger than you give it credit for. I get all kinds of messages from people – from the ages of 8 to people in their 60’s and 70’s It’s just hilarious sometimes!
How long do you plan to stay on Holby?
I always said when I came into the show that I wanted to do as much as I could with the character. As long as the storylines are exciting I will definitely stay because I think it’s a fabulous job and the people are brilliant. This year’s storylines are really exciting and I am loving it here. As long as they keep writing for me, I’ll keep doing it!
Do you have any future work ambitions?
I’d love to work in America. I’d love to work on a US TV show as I’ve always admired the very best American TV. I think they get such good writers and actors out there and it would be a thrill for me. I trained in America so I’d see it as a sort of ‘home-coming.’