Holby City: An oral history by the show's stars and creators

·29-min read
Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

With the news that Holby General's surgical wards are closing for on-screen business, we revisit the epic tale of Holby City's birth, growth and, ultimately, its end. (Note: this article was first published before the announcement of Holby City's cancellation.)

It's the mid-'90s. BBC One's drama bosses have a problem. While flagship soap EastEnders regularly pulls in over 17 million viewers and Saturday night staple Casualty is watched by an average of 18 million, a midweek hit for the channel remains elusive.

ITV regularly retains its massive Coronation Street audience by following it in the schedule with twice-weekly top cop drama The Bill, but its public service rival has no big-hitting equivalent.

That is, until the launch of Holby City in 1999. Set in the same hospital as Casualty but focused on its cardiothoracic ward, the sexier sibling proved an instant hit, and still draws a loyal audience of millions every Tuesday night. As the show celebrates its 22nd year, we talked to the cast and creatives who made it happen.

We spoke to:

  • John Yorke (former Head of Independent and Continuing Drama, BBC)

  • Tony McHale (co-creator and writer)

  • Nicola Stephenson (Julie Fitzjohn)

  • Angela Griffin (Jasmine Hopkins)

  • Rachel Leskovac (Kelly 'Keller Killer' Yorke)

  • Joe Ainsworth (writer)

  • Paul Bradley (Elliot Hope)

  • Rebecca Wojciechowski (writer)

  • Rosie Marcel (Jac Naylor)

  • Patsy Kensit (Faye Byrne)

  • Jimmy Akingbola (Antoine Malick)

  • Deborah Sathe (Senior Head of Content Production – Continuing Drama, BBC)

Spin-off doctors

The BBC hadn't attempted midweek hospital drama since Angels – a twice-weekly soap about student nurses – came to an end in 1983, and while that show had been successful in its time, its cosy bedside manner was stale by '90s standards. Across the Atlantic, TV medical drama was having something of a renaissance with Chicago Hope and ER breaking new ground. But without a big US budget, could the BBC dare to be so ambitious?

John Yorke (Script Executive, BBC Drama Series 1996; Head of Independent and Continuing Drama 2005-2012): In 1996 there were ongoing discussions about whether the channel should make more of Casualty by putting it on midweek as a twice-weekly soap, but that would've left a big hole in the Saturday-night schedule. So I did an exploration into the feasibility of a spin-off, and came up with the idea of a drama set around a different ward – or multiple wards – in the same hospital, with the working title Holby General.

But there was already a top-secret project to launch a new hospital soap going on, and as Holby General clashed with that it was shelved. The other drama didn't happen though, and when Mal Young came to the BBC in 1997 as the new Controller of Continuing Drama Series, he took one look at the document for Holby General and said: 'Why aren't we making this?'

Photo credit: Shutterstock
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Tony McHale (co-creator and writer 1999-2004, Executive Producer and writer 2006-2010): I'd written EastEnders and Casualty previously, and Mal rang me and said he wanted to make a Casualty spin-off. At that stage there were various other people involved, but very quickly they all seemed to disappear! So I was left by myself, thinking: 'What the hell is this gonna be about? I thought 'centre of the body, centre of emotions – hearts'. So I started researching cardiothoracics and it developed from there.

John Yorke: Casualty was filmed in Bristol, and there wasn't room in the warehouse there to expend the set. Plus it was very expensive to make – crazy as it sounds, back then every Friday the whole cast would come to London on the train to read through the next week's episode. EastEnders was running from Elstree Studios [just outside London], and Mal looked around a barely-used office building there and said, 'This is our set. We can film here at half the cost.' It was kind of revolutionary at the time.

Tony McHale: I'd read an article years earlier about how cardiothoracic surgeons all had 'firms' – their own teams that you really have to fight to get on. I shadowed these guys for a while for research and they were like gods, working all day, then spending all night on a heart transplant. But none of them complained, they all loved the job and the ego on them was astounding. I was bowled over by their commitment.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

A mix of them became the first surgical lead, Anton Meyer. We got George Irving in to play him, a big stage actor, but nobody had wanted him. Mal was heavily into his soaps, so he recruited actors like Angela Griffin, Nicola Stephenson and Michael French, and all the pre-publicity was about them.

Angela Griffin (Jasmine Hopkins, 1999-2001): I finished filming as Fiona on Coronation Street a month before I started on Holby. For a long time, if you came out of a soap, it was quite difficult to get a job after. But Mal, having worked on Brookside, realised the worth in actors who, at that time, had had about 20 million people tuning in to watch their weddings, births or deaths.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Nicola Stephenson (Julie Fitzjohn, 1999-2001): Mal cast me in Brookside when I was 18 and he told them not to bother auditioning me, just sound me out. I was obsessed with ER back then, I'd watched every episode, and the Holby producer at the time, Mervyn Gill-Dougherty, said that's the feel they wanted, with loads of young doctors and nurses.

Angela Griffin: The pitch was this is the British version of ER, and it was commissioned for nine 50-minute episodes – it wasn't a soap, it was a drama, with a through story arc for the series. That was a massive appeal to me.

Scrubs and showbiz

After briefly introducing some of its characters, such as Julie Fitzjohn and Nick Jordan, in a crossover episode of Casualty, Holby City premiered on January 12, 1999, to 10.72 million viewers, and the BBC had a massive hit on its hands. Centred on the lives and loves of the staff on Holby's Darwin ward, it was unashamedly shiny and populist, with a cast of beautiful people, and scripts that were witty and sharp but anchored in the reality of working for the NHS. While the older actors lent the show weight, the younger ones kept the showbiz mags happy.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Nicola Stephenson: The director of the first episode said he remembered us all walking on set that first day – me, Angela, Lisa Faulkner, Jeremy Edwards, Michael French – and we looked so shiny and pretty he thought, what am I gonna do with this lot?

Tony McHale: We did a press showing on set. I think they were expecting the Michael French or Angela Griffin show, and actually it was George Irving's show. One of the reasons we were quite successful and had good reviews was because we caught the press left of field. George gave us kudos.

Nicola Stephenson: I arranged to do some research on a cardiac ward in Nottingham, and I rang up Angela and asked if she wanted to come with me. We'd never met, but she said yes, and we had this train journey back where she asked me what I was doing that night. We ended up at this awards ceremony together and Lisa Faulkner was there, and that was it – us three, friends for life!

Angela Griffin: We realised we were all going to be working together. So we went into a toilet cubicle to have a conversation, and by the time we came out the ceremony had finished – we'd talked the whole time! I literally fell in love on that job, because I met my two best friends. Celebrity was becoming such a big thing at that point, we got invited to every premier, every party, every awards ceremony – and we went to all of them!

Nicola Stephenson: Our dressing rooms in Elstree were on the same corridor as the Top of the Pops studios, so we would go to shoot a scene in our nurses' outfits and Robbie Williams would walk down the corridor and be like, "Alright girls, wanna take me temperature?" Or we'd be on set and a floor-runner from Top of the Pops would come up and say, "Madonna's downstairs". So we'd beg to go and watch her and they'd let us run down for five minutes.

From series to serial

The show's initial run of nine episodes was soon increased to 16 for its second series, then 30. By the end of 2001, with 50, hour-long episodes commissioned for series four, it had transitioned into a bona fide continuing drama. Now with the addition of a general surgery ward, Keller, and later a paediatrics ward, Otter (led by heavyweight actress Siobhan Redmond), the focus increasingly moved away from the operating theatre and into characters' homes.

Angela Griffin: Halfway through filming the first series, Mal came on set and told us the BBC absolutely loved everything they'd seen so far, and they wanted to increase the episodes and become more like a serial with a story of the week.

Tony McHale: I never wanted it to go that way. I would have been one hundred percent happier if it had stayed as a shorter series once a year. I think we had something quite different and special and we could've maintained that if we had even done 12, 13 episodes a year. But once you go over that, it becomes a different show. I should've guessed with Mal that it would get bigger – he wanted to create that monster.

Angela Griffin: Me, Nicola and Lisa had all signed options for three series, and once we'd fulfilled them, we decided to leave. I was 16 when I went into Corrie and I left there at 21 because I wanted to go and play loads of different characters. It was the same with Holby.

Nicola Stephenson: We were all really young and ambitious and the show had been so successful that we had these raised profiles. We were so excited about going to the next job, it wouldn't have crossed our minds to stay.

Tony McHale: I had this total obsession about Meyer never going home, because it didn't matter what his home life was like – work was what he cared about, and his colleagues were his family. Suddenly, there was all this talk about Meyer having an affair and I thought, this is not for me anymore. George thought the same, which is why he left and categorically refused to ever come back.

Medical melodrama

In 2003, with Tony McHale gone and Kathleen Hutchison at the helm as executive producer along with Richard Stokes as series producer, a heavy dose of melodrama was what the new guard ordered, even introducing a serial killer nurse to Keller ward, which sent ratings through the roof.

Now unashamedly soapy, the show remained a firm favourite with viewers and listings magazines, yet still attracted big hitters from the acting world like Art Malik, Denis Lawson, Robert Powell and Hugh Quarshie, and Mal Young's ongoing presence ensured the writers kept sight of its political edge.

It maintained its warmth with loveable new characters like bumbling surgeon Elliot Hope, and put more emphasis on 'guest stories' of transient patients, played by the likes of Sheridan Smith, Eric Sykes and Ron Moody.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Rachel Leskovac (Kelly 'Keller Killer' Yorke): I came in on a nine-month contract, and before I got any scripts, I was sent along to familiarise myself with the set. When I was introduced to Tina Hobley [nurse Chrissie Williams], and she heard I was going to be playing nurse Kelly, she went, "Ooh, the murderer!" I was like "What?!" I had no idea.

Joe Ainsworth (scriptwriter 2004-present, story consultant 2015-16): I got asked to do a rewrite on a script that wasn't working for Holby, and it went down well. I joined the team. I've hung around ever since. A long-running show forces you to get out there and write about anything, and I think those are useful skills to have. I've written for all sexualities, all races, all creeds – you write the lot.

John Yorke: What's very significant and often underappreciated is Holby's commitment to diversity and strong female leads, which was years ahead of almost the entire industry. One of Mal's great gifts was understanding that diversity done well always enhances drama.

Paul Bradley (Elliot Hope, 2005–2015, 2019): I'd done a long stint in EastEnders playing Nigel Bates, who had a reputation for being stupid. The nice thing about playing Elliot was that he was intelligent but he still got laughs, and he had the least ego out of all the surgeons. I think the idea was that he was going to be a bit more like Columbo, someone brilliant who dithered. The writers quite liked writing for him because he was dedicated to his work but flawed and very unlucky in love.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Joe Ainsworth: My thing is, if I haven't made you laugh your leg off and cry your head off in any particular episode, I've failed. I really pushed to find ways to bring humour into any story, and I was fairly obsessed with ER, so I wanted the pace of that.

Rebecca Wojciechowski (writer 2010-2016): I loved that we were able to bring our own guest stories to the table. They would ask for them to reflect and work with the serial stories, but otherwise you had free rein to come up with what you wanted.

Joe Ainsworth: The guest stories were useful, because you could use them for humour, or completely go the other way with a big ethical issue. I had one about a fella who had had a stroke and could only communicate by singing, and he sang all the dialogue all the way through – it was a proper medical condition! And Kevin Kennedy, who played Curly Watts in Coronation Street, played a David Bowie impersonator in one of mine.

Women on top

If ER had been the driving influence when Holby began, in 2005 new US medical smash Grey's Anatomy would very much set the tone of its next era, with 'Grey's-style' thematic musical montages starting most episodes, and increasingly emotional journeys for the staff. While egotistical male surgeons like Meyer, Jordan, and Nic Griffin had dominated the early years, now the likes of ball-breaking head of cardiothoracics Connie Beauchamp (Amanda Mealing) and fiercely ambitious F1 Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel) took centre stage, and the glamour stakes rose when Jane Asher and Patsy Kensit joined the cast in 2007.

Meanwhile, Otter ward was replaced by an Acute Admissions Unit (AAU), which acted as a gateway between the emergency department and the longer-stay wards, keeping the pace fast. Most importantly, Tony McHale returned as Executive Producer, making Holby the first big series in the UK with a writer in the role of showrunner, and it would enjoy one its most critically successful periods, scooping its only BAFTA to date in 2008.

Tony McHale: John [Yorke] originally brought me back as a story consultant, and more and more things were getting referred to me, so it was becoming a full-time job. One day he just asked me to take over as showrunner, and I said yes straight away. I didn't know anything about being in the role, but off we went.

My main intention was to take Holby away from that soapy element, but I'll hold my hands up and admit that after six months I realised it wasn't going to work with that size of format. So then it became about telling stories nobody else was telling, that were going to be engaging in a new way.

Paul Bradley: We did a really brave storyline about Elliot's wife Gina and assisted suicide, where the actress playing her, Gillian Bevan, and I went to Switzerland for a week. It was complicated and emotionally challenging, and that's all you want as an actor. I remember getting a lot of positive mail about it from people who had been through it.

Tony McHale: We did a story about Korean conjoined twins that I had to fight for, despite being the boss. But I thought it was great because we could put a political element on it, and I suggested that they shouldn't speak English and we give them subtitles, which the BBC were aghast at! I really liked doing the Christmas episodes too. We became very daring. We did It's a Wonderful Life with Elliot and got away with it.

Paul Bradley: That was a really off-the-wall, extraordinary episode, I loved it. We had Richard Briers, CGI, dancing elves. At the time, the sort of stories Holby told went into realms other shows didn't.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Tony McHale: Amanda Mealing's Connie was also one of the reasons I took the job. I thought she was a great character. Then we brought in Sam Strachan, Joseph Byrne and Jac Naylor. It gave a new feel and look to the show.

Joe Ainsworth: Rosie Marcel was great, but Jac wasn't getting a foothold in the show as a character. I think we were probably just in a story conference and I said something like, "Why don't we make her JR?"

Rosie Marcel (Jac Naylor, 2005–2021): Jac was a lot nicer at the beginning. About six months in we all had this dinner and Tony McHale sat down with me and said, "We're really lost with your character, we don't know what to do." And I thought, "Oh god, this isn't good!" But then he said, "So we're gonna make her an utter bitch." I'm really glad it went that way, because I've had a lot of fun.

Joe Ainsworth: One of my favourite stories early on was Jac copping off with Joseph Byrne's dad, who was about 65. I had absolute murder getting that story through. It was drawn along gender lines – all the female writers going, "Why would she cop off with that dirty old man?" and I said, "Cos the dirty old man is massively successful and very wealthy!" It showed you Jac's ambition.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Rosie Marcel: Jac was a Dirty Den-type character – you loved to hate her and see what she was going to get up to next, who she was going to piss off. Everybody was her enemy at some point, and she'd just step over them to get where she needed to. She got worse and worse every year. I remember several times looking at scripts and thinking, "I can't say that, it's outrageous!" I'd be saying these lines to guest artists, then apologising afterwards.

John Yorke: Around that time, ITV had broken the unwritten rule that you don't schedule soaps against each other, by putting hour-long episodes of Emmerdale up against EastEnders, which was eating into our audiences. So my attitude was, let's get Emmerdale! One of their biggest names was Patsy Kensit, so I made it my mission to poach her for Holby. She brought a lot of press and was a huge hit.

Patsy Kensit (Faye Byrne nee Morton, 2007-2010, 2019): When I'd started on Emmerdale everyone thought I was going to fail, but it had been a real success. Then John took me to lunch and said they wanted me on Holby. He had so many ideas and it sounded great, so I agreed. At Emmerdale I was playing a matriarch who says everything she thinks to people's faces, and I lived vicariously through her.

Then I was straight into Holby where Faye was way more complicated, a really dark character. I think people took to her quite well, which is amazing since she started off by murdering her husband! I'm not sure the writers knew who she was at first, but after about six months it really worked.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Rosie Marcel: I think Holby started out as a very male-led show, and it became more female-led with the introduction of Connie. I'm very impressed with the female characters we have. I'm always fighting against Jac having a boyfriend or being reliant on a man – some women are just career driven and that's a really important thing to show.

Tony McHale: By the time we got the continuing-drama BAFTA in 2008, I thought we were streets ahead of EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill – the whole lot – but it was still a total surprise. I'd go to award ceremonies and those shows would keep winning, so I was thrilled when we got that one.

Joe Ainsworth: The episode they submitted was one of mine – a big Connie episode – and the ceremony was at the London Palladium. As a kid growing up, the Palladium was the most iconic place in the world. Then you suddenly find yourself there, being presented with an award by Bobby Ewing off Dallas! I was proud beyond words.

Changing the guard

The show may have been riding high, but McHale's departure in 2010 coincided with the exit of Amanda Mealing, prompting Holby's biggest overhaul in years. Incoming executive producer Belinda Campbell and new story consultant Justin Young decided to embrace the change with a new shooting style and darker look, and by bringing in Guy Henry to play other-worldly CEO Henrik Hanssen and Jimmy Akingbola as cocky new surgeon Antoine Malick.

Jac stepped into Connie's scrubs as Holby's most fearsome female surgeon, facing off with professional rivals like Ric Griffin and Sahira Shah, while the love-triangle between Jac, Joseph and Faye came to a head when Patsy Kensit and Luke Roberts left in 2011.

Rosie Marcel: When Amanda left there were a lot of changes. They'd been playing out a storyline about Jac trying to become head of Darwin following Connie's exit and I was glad when she finally did. It was a natural progression for Jac, and I'd just signed a long contract, so it seemed like I was being rewarded for giving my time to the show.

Joe Ainsworth: Jac is the one character I feel really proprietorial about. The audience loves her, and she gets away with so much because they're so attached to her. The history she's had – coming through the care system, issues with her mother and sister – we just layered up over the years. Rosie's brilliant and gets every nuance, and I'm like the police for her sometimes, because if people have her crying or smiling or being too gentle, I'm like, "No!"

Patsy Kensit: My most successful wedding has been on that show, when Faye married Joseph, because I'm still in touch with Luke Roberts! I spent every day for about two and a half years working with him and Rosie, and we were really tight. We did crazy long days and hand on heart, we never, ever fell out.

Rosie Marcel: The three of us were constantly making each other howl with laughter. And there was something very solidifying about that storyline and how long it went on. Jac went through a big change – she grew a conscience and realised she'd lost the man she loved. Those years for me were super impactful.

Patsy Kensit: I wouldn't have stayed for four years had I not enjoyed it, but it's hard graft – you're on your feet from 7am to 7pm, and my children were going through middle school and GCSEs. I had to take some time out to be with them.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Jimmy Akingbola (Antoine Malick, 2011-2013): I remember the character breakdown for Malick being one of the best I'd ever read – he was this maverick superman of the ward, and the last line was, "and he happens to be gay". I thought, "Wow – this is really interesting". The way he called himself 'The Malick', the way he wore his scrubs all tight, sleeves rolled up, to show he'd been working out. I'd worn this fitted, designer shirt for the audition and I think a bit of that went into the show.

Joe Ainsworth: Inevitably we'll come up with a character, give them a load of attributes and then you cast someone and it changes. Hanssen was a great case in point, because he's such a unique-looking actor, with a unique performance style. So, whatever we'd written previously, you'd see Guy doing the part and think, "this is brilliant".

Jimmy Akingbola: I felt the energy of the show change, even in terms of people messaging me saying they were watching it again, or for the first time. I think that was because the characters – Hanssen, Sahira, Malick – were so strong, it felt like the new dream team and we bedded in quite quickly.

Rosie Marcel: Jac spent a year working on Keller and developed an unlikely friendship with Sacha, and working with Bob Barrett is so much fun. That pairing on screen is wonderful for Jac, because with Sacha she's extremely genuine and has a friend who completely understands her, faults and all. I don't know if I'd still be there if Bob wasn't. He's my work husband and I absolutely love him.

Joe Ainsworth: Elliot was a fantastic, warm character, and I very much see Sacha as having inherited that mantle. And Sacha and Jac are a great combination. We don't have as many male characters on the show who make an impact. Often if you put a man up against Jac, she'll just obliterate them.

Jimmy Akingbola: Malick got an injury that meant he'd lost the use of his hand, and when he left, he was still trying to save people with one arm! I remember shooting my first episode, where he bursts in through the doors, blood all over him. I wanted to make sure that energy was sustained the whole three years I was there and it was. He left in the same way he came into the show.

Back to basics

In 2013, Holby went through another change at the top when Oliver Kent took over as executive producer, followed by former series producer Simon Harper in 2017. Big storylines like Zosia's bipolar disorder, Dom's descent into domestic abuse and Arthur and Morven's ill-fated romance delighted viewers, but before long a more sensational approach that saw Hanssen's crazed son Fredrik go on a shooting spree in the hospital, and Paul McGann play murderous neurosurgeon John Gaskell, proved a turn-off.

By 2019, with Jane Wallbank installed as Series Producer, and BBC drama executives Kate Oates and Deborah Sathe overseeing the show, it returned to a more grounded, character-led approach. Patsy Kensit, Luke Roberts and Paul Bradley made guest appearances to celebrate its 20th year, and Holby's 1,000th episode tied-in with the climax of a long-running story about Jac's mental breakdown.

Paul Bradley: Going back as a guest is very different from being there the whole time. You get treated differently – because they know you're moving on, and there are new crew members, new ways of doing things. But the atmosphere there was still fantastic – everyone was really dedicated and into it.

Rosie Marcel: It fell back into place and was like they'd never left. Patsy and I had to be vile to each other – it was absolutely lovely! The breakdown stuff later was much harder.

Joe Ainsworth: That was tough to get right, because the character has been through so much, you don't want it to just come across as the latest thing we've thrown at her.

Rosie Marcel: Originally, I didn't want to do it, purely because it's a situation I've been in myself. But then Kate Oates got on board and said, "Talk to me, tell me what you're feeling." She had no idea that I'd had a nervous breakdown a couple of years beforehand and that it would be a very difficult thing for me to take on. They gave me a day off a week to get therapy during it, which was extremely useful. It was by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do, but I'm really proud of what came out of it.

Joe Ainsworth: Rosie's so invested in Jac and you want her to be happy, because she will deliver that truth for you if you get it right. The times we've gone wrong are when we've committed to a story that feels like it's just been ripped from the headlines and grafted on to a character. That wasn't the case here.

Photo credit: BBC
Photo credit: BBC

Rosie Marcel: I'm deeply disappointed actually that it wasn't recognised more. Not my performance, but the fact that we tackled an extremely difficult subject, and we were not nominated for anything. The reaction on Instagram and Twitter was absolutely incredible.

Paul Bradley: We tend to downplay continuing drama in this country. I did The Pianist with Roman Polanski and when he asked me how many films I'd done, I jokingly said, "This is my first and probably my last." And he said "Why? You have so much experience!" He viewed it completely differently to how we do.

Joe Ainsworth: When we're good, we're just as good as any hour of telly knocking round. I think some of our episodes really hit the mark. When you're on 52 weeks a year, you're gonna have highs and lows. But given the constraints, I think writing-wise, directing-wise, production-wise and actor-wise, we hit a decent standard all the time.

Brave new world

Holby enters its 22nd year on primetime off the back of an enforced break due to COVID-19, with filming restrictions limiting each episode to 40 minutes, and producers and actors having to adapt to a whole new way of working. It returned to screens in November 2020, scheduled against TV titan The Great British Bake Off, and with a big hole to fill following the exit of its longest-serving actor, Hugh Quarshie.

But it's also in a unique position to play out the profound problems faced by the NHS following a world-changing pandemic – and has promising new signings like Jo Martin as CEO Max McGerry. However, another challenge remains – surviving as a weekly terrestrial drama in a 'binge-watch' world of digital streaming giants like Netflix

Deborah Sathe (Senior Head of Content Production, Continuing Drama Series, 2019-Present): We had to re-storyline twice – the first round of storylines were pre-social distancing, when there was an assumption everyone would be back up and running by whatever date it was. And then social distancing of two metres came in, and we had to jettison a round of stories that just couldn't work with that. We've had to learn an extraordinary box of tricks in order to deliver intimacy on screen while keeping everyone safe.

Rosie Marcel: It's a time of flux and we're finding our way through like every other show, but having to be more imaginative isn't a bad thing. We've risen to it and we're getting a lot of praise for how we've portrayed everything. When you've been on a show a very long time there's a fear it could get stale, and this has forced us to refresh.

Deborah Sathe: I think Tony McHale was bang on the money with what he felt Holby should be all those years ago. Kate Oates and I are really interested in what the show was intended to be and how we make that relevant in 2021.

Rosie Marcel: Every year you go, "I'm absolutely exhausted, I can't do this anymore." But it's family and I love it. [This was] my 15th year, and I never planned on being there this long, but I think while Jac was still interesting and the audience still loved her, and while I could still get sympathy from people even though she's an absolute arsehole, it was absolutely worth being there!

Rachel Leskovac: The sheer volume of diverse work within my small timeframe is something I'll always be grateful for. As an actor I look back and think, my goodness, they trusted me with a lot! People still stop me in the street from time to time and bring up Holby, even though it was such a long time ago. I've only got good memories of it.

Angela Griffin: I genuinely think that however successful channels like Netflix get, and however much more drama is produced on demand, there will always be a place for the Holbys and Casualtys, because you can't recreate what long-running shows give you from their history. They're part of the DNA of British television. There's no point in any of them trying to compete with any of the pay channels – they haven't got the budgets, and it's a different audience. They have to carry on doing what they do, and keep doing it well.

Tony McHale: It's one hundred per cent about making those stories interesting, and it can't be about being shocking. Holby is about a situation we've all been in. That feeling when you go into a hospital, or someone you know and love does, and may not be coming out – that's drama enough, isn't it?

Holby City airs on Tuesday evenings on BBC One.

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