EXCLUSIVE: Holby City star Rosie Marcel on Jac Naylor’s fate: ‘I fought hard against it…’

Holby City's Jac Naylor in a hospital bed.
Holby City, the last goodbye. (Image credit: BBC)

There are some characters that live on in your mind long after the credits stop rolling. It’s fair to say for Holby City fans Jac Naylor is one of those characters.

We caught up with Rosie Marcel, who has played the formidable and inspirational surgeon since 2005, to talk about Jac Naylor's swan song.

Warning: Below this point, there are spoilers about the final Holby City episode. Ready? Here we go…

In the final episode of the series, Holby City (Tuesday, March 29, 2022) closed its hospital doors for good after twenty three years of delicious drama, heart-stopping medical procedures, and many, many, MANY affairs of the heart in an emotional finale.

The answer to the question ‘How do you end a much-loved show and pay tribute to its many characters?’ was finally revealed. And it was as brutal as it was beautiful.

Jaye Jacobs as Donna Jackson in Holby City.

Last warning - spoilers below! In the meantime, enjoy this lovely picture of Jaye Jacobs, who plays nurse Donna Jackson.  (Image credit: BBC)

There were reconciliations, reunions and more than one show favourite seemed to find their place in the world. But it was the death of iconic surgeon Jac Naylor that emotionally hammered home that Holby is well and truly over.

Throughout the last episode, it became clear that Jac was losing her battle with her brain tumour as she became weaker. Knowing what was on the cards, she pulled Adrian ‘Fletch’ Fletcher aside and asked him to help her write a living will, refusing any more medical interventions.

Fletch has questions for Jac. Will she answer them honestly?

Fletch had to stop the team treating Jac when she suffered a stroke. (Image credit: BBC)

A short time later Jac suffered a stroke, having just told Sacha Levy that she loved him. Then it was a race against time for Jac’s distraught friends to organise the donation of her organs…

In the closing scenes Jac Naylor’s nearest and dearest fulfilled her final wishes, with her organs going on to save lives.

We talked to Rosie Marcel who has played the Holby City favourite since 2005. Here she reveals her feelings on Jac Naylor’s demise and saying a permanent goodbye to the hospital drama...

Holby City EXCLUSIVE: We anticipate Holby will be up for awards after that finale…

Rosie Marcel: "I really hope we are. I’ve always been very vocal about this - as a show Holby City is incredibly overlooked. It’s never put up for awards and never wins awards. This is one of the best shows the BBC has ever had. The team has given their soul to working on these final storylines. I hope and pray that they get some recognition. I think we did an amazing job on our show. It's very hard to be in the position that we’re going to fizzle out and not get the recognition we deserve."

No one can accuse Holby of fizzling out after the last few months!

Rosie Marcel: "I hope not. They’ve done a great job, haven't they? They really pulled it out of the bag for the last six months. The last four episodes were just so emotionally draining, but so beautifully written and directed by our long running directors who did a fabulous job."

Was there a sense of grief while filming the final episodes?

Rosie Marcel: "We all went through emotions [of grief]. We were all angry at one point, bereft at another. For the last six weeks of the show, we were all just bursting into tears sporadically."

Sacha Levy is the last person to speak to Jac Naylor.

Sacha Levy is the last person to speak to Jac Naylor.  (Image credit: BBC)

How did you feel about Jac’s death while filming?

Rosie Marcel: "On a personal note I never reconciled with the fact Jac was going to die. I understood why they did it but, for me, having been that character for 16 years… the idea of never being able to play her was emotionally very difficult. It’s like bereavement. Yeah, we all went through weird phases!"

How did you deal with the gruelling filming schedule? Jac is front and centre until the very end… 

Rosie Marcel: "It took its toll on everybody in different ways. Personally, I ate rubbish for the last six weeks! I was only able to work three days a week unfortunately, because I was unwell for the last six to eight weeks of the show. So they had to work around a doctor’s note for me. I just let myself go physically and mentally for those last few months."

Jac Naylor in hospital bed in Holby City finale.

Jac Naylor bravely made peace with her fate in the final Holby City.  (Image credit: BBC)

It’s poignant that, right until the end, Jac gives everything to the NHS, and lives on in a way…

Rosie Marcel: "That was the important part. 

"You know, when I found out that they were going to kill the character I was bereft. I fought very hard against it, actually. I think I drove everybody a little bit insane -  I was a nightmare! I just didn't think it was the right thing to do at the time."

Did that change for you?

Rosie Marcel: "Yes, when it was explained to me properly about how it was going to be done. It’s a beautiful story about staying positive and how we carry on - and how doctors carry on - no matter what they've lost in their lives. They are there to protect and help.  

"When I was told about Jac’s organs going to others and her heart going to Lexy, I understood it more. It became more of a celebration of someone's life, who they are, and what the NHS meant to them. But I haven't seen it. I can't watch it."

What do you hope Holby City’s legacy will be?

Rosie Marcel: "I think the show’s legacy should be about the NHS. You know, the relationships that people have in the NHS and what they give up for people that they don't know. Not to under-appreciate or overlook what people give up to work for the NHS. I think that's a really important message."

Rosie Marcel as Jac Naylor.

Gone, but not forgotten. One way or the other, Jac Naylor lives on... (Image credit: BBC)
Elaine Reilly
Writer for TV Times, What’s On TV, TV & Satellite Week and What To Watch

With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and www.whattowatch.com covering a variety of programs from gardening and wildlife to documentaries and drama.


As well as active involvement in the WTW family’s social media accounts, she has been known to get chatty on the red carpet and wander into the odd podcast. 

After a day of previewing TV, writing about TV and interviewing TV stars, Elaine likes nothing than to relax… by watching TV.