Every episode of Holby City is precious now, as we inch closer towards the series finale in March. And it’s fair to say the 23-year-old series is in achingly good form, with pleasing guest appearances from old favourites, taut interwoven plots, and powerful performances.
This week (Tuesday 22 February 2022 at 7.50pm on BBC1 - See our TV Guide for listings) the relationship between Nicky McKendrick and her mentor Jac Naylor is put under the spotlight.
The two women are locked together, in more ways than one, when Nicky opens a card containing a death threat and white powder purporting to be anthrax. Without giving too much away, let’s just say emotions as sky-high as they face their mortality.
We called talented Belinda Owusu, 32, who plays Nicky, to find out more. Here she explains the terrible impact of Cameron’s actions and Jac’s brain tumour on the young medic, plus working with her baby daughter and giving Holby City the send-off it deserves…
'Holby City' interview: Hi Belinda, thanks for chatting to us. Is it strange to talk about 'Holby' now filming has finished?
Belinda Owusu: “Because filming has stopped it feels even more in the rearview in a way, but I’m hoping these last episodes do the show justice. There’s a lot of pressure knowing that these are the final episodes. We just want to make sure that we give it the send off that the fans deserve.”
What was the atmosphere on set like towards the end?
Belinda: “From the announcement onwards everybody, in every part of the show, from story planning right down to us on the floor everyday, had the feeling of it being important. I think it’s leaving it with a nice feeling. You don’t want to go out on a downer. But it still has to be big enough to say goodbye.”
Every episode feels really special at the moment…
Belinda: “It really is. It’s only now, coming to the end of it, that we think to ourselves ‘this show is so good.’ You take things for granted whilst you're in it. The final few weeks of shooting for us [we felt] it was such a shame that this was happening. You’d look around the room and think ‘I’m not going to see you for a very long time, and you’re so talented.’ It’s a really good group of people, I’m so lucky. I wish that I’d soaked it up a little bit more.”
This episode is particularly poignant, especially for Nicky and Jac. What can you reveal?
Belinda: “As we go into it, Nicky’s off the back of having made a really big decision about her daughter Juliet going to Eli and Amelia. Now she's single-minded in making sure that it was worth it - and that means saving Jac.
It opens with Nicky holed up in an empty theatre with Jac’s notes and scans, despite having been told that she's not allowed anywhere near them. She opens a card that’s come in the post and white powder falls out all over her. In the car is a picture of Cameron and a note saying it’s anthrax.”
That’s terrifying. How does she react?
Belinda: “It’s instant shock. She is sitting covered in it when Jac enters to give her a good telling off for having stolen her scans, only to see that something entirely unbelievable has happened.”
Incredibly, Jac chooses to join Nicky in the sealed off theatre!
Belinda: “The wonderful woman that she is, she joins Nicky in an anthrax quarantine. The hospital is gone into alert and they’re stuck there while the power is being tested. Is it anthrax? If it is, are they going to die in agony in a matter of days?”
How intense does it get?
Belinda: “It starts off combative. Jac is determined not to be an excuse for Nicky to ignore her struggles as a mother. It’s emotional!”
How was it working so closely with Rosie on this?
Belinda: “There’s nothing quite like the masterclass of being stuck on set with Rosie Marcel! Something I've had the pleasure to be doing for the last few years. It’s incredible when you're working opposite somebody and it’s the right kind of concoction. Both of those women are going through so much, so there are a lot of home truths being told."
It sounds like an important chapter for Nicky and Jac…
Belinda: "This is one of the big episodes. There was a lot of planning. Nick and Jac’s relationship is more than just a mentorship. Not that they sit around together in their fuzzy socks and watch films! It's much deeper. From Nicky's perspective, it’s motherly in a way - yet it's not! - if that makes sense. She learns from Jac. This woman is teaching her how to be strong and successful. Jac’s technique is to get Nicky to stand on her own two feet."
That makes sense, especially when you think of Nicky’s relationship with her mum, Tracey…
Belinda: "Yes, Nicky’s relationship with her mum is very difficult and exhausting. There's love there of course. But Nicky has this great talent as a surgeon. What better woman to look up to than Jac Naylor. Nicky wants to show Jac that the time she’s put into training her won't be wasted. And a part of that is Nicky rationalising to herself that she can do the surgery to save Jac."
What do you think is really standing in the way of Nicky bonding with Juliet?
Belinda: "Nicky thinks that she can't be a mum, that Cameron has taken that from her. She has an insane amount of guilt over everything. It’s eating away at her. When she looks at this baby she’s reminded of him and what he did. She feels hopeless, helpless and that she’s failing. Giving Juliet to parents who will melt when they look at her is, in Nicky’s head, the best thing she can do for her daughter."
Having become a new mum yourself, was it tough to film Nicky’s emotional twists and turns in relation to Juliet?
Belinda: "It was really difficult because Juliet is [played by] my baby! It made it a little harder because Nicky’s relationship with Juliet is quite different to mine. I was gushing over every single gurgle my baby was doing. In hindsight I’m so glad we did it because those are days I got to be with her that I wouldn’t have. It’s really difficult going back to that kind of schedule at the same time as being a mum. It was amazing because I could have her on set with me and feed her between takes. Also, when she gets older, I can show her when she had her first job at six months old!"
This episode of Holby City airs on Tuesday, Feb. 22 2022 at 7.50pm on BBC1 and will be available on BBC iPlayer afterwards.
With twenty years of experience as an entertainment journalist, Elaine writes for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and (opens in new tab)www.whattowatch.com (opens in new tab) 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.
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