Holby City star Joe McFadden on shock exit of Raf - 'Fans will see me dancing on Strictly on Saturday night, so they'll know I'm not actually dead!'

Joe McFadden plays Raf in Holby City
(Image credit: BBC/Kieron McCarron)

Thursday night's sensational Holby City saw a whole host of favourites fall foul of a gunman at the hospital with the final scenes revealing that medic Raf di Lucca had died alone in the hospital lift after being shot. Here, Joe McFadden talks about THAT dramatic exit...

Joe McFadden talks about the tragic demise of Raf and life after Holby City…

Tonight's explosive episode of Holby ended with Raf’s tragic and very sudden death, after being shot by the gunman at the hospital. Viewers won’t have seen that coming at all…

"No, they won't have seen it coming but you want to have a dramatic ending to your character. You want people to sit up and take notice and there's absolutely no way they're not going to do that. As an actor, it's nice to have a bit of impact when your character goes, instead of just getting transferred to another hospital. The producers have said that they only kill the characters they really like. So it's a compliment that they've decided to kill me off."

Raf dies Holby

Raf is already dead by the time he's found in the hospital lift by colleague Sacha Levy (Bob Barrett)

How did the decision to leave Holby come about?

"I've been there for four years now and I feel like I've played everything you can for a doctor - I'd hate for Raf to just be hanging around in the background and not really doing very much. So it's nice to go out on a high when he's still in the show and he's still loved by the viewers. Hopefully people will feel the loss of him."

Did being on Strictly Coming Dancing contribute to your decision to leave?

"With Strictly happening this year as well it just feels like perhaps it's the right time to go and hopefully it'll open up other doors for me. Going out on the Strictly dancefloor every Saturday and performing live in front of all of those viewers has given me a real hunger to do live entertainment again. I've had such a great time on Holby but it would have been too easy to have just got comfortable and stayed forever. Strictly's given me the injection I needed to go out into the world and see what else is out there."

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How hard was it to keep your departure from Holby a secret?

"It was really hard actually. I filmed those scenes a while back but being on Strictly and no longer being part of Holby, I wanted to be able to tell people but I absolutely understand why the producers wanted to keep it a secret because they wanted maximum impact for the viewer; they don’t want spoilers and the viewers really don't want that either. But, yeah, it has been really difficult actually. It's so nice that everyone now knows!"

Thursday night’s episode of Holby was pretty intense throughout, with Raf’s death coming as a major shock to viewers right at the very end. Do you think the whole episode may traumatise some people watching?

"I think the producers wanted Raf just at the end, so that they had maximum surprise that it's him that's gone. It is a shocking episode but it's a drama; there's supposed to be drama and conflict. It is probably one of the darkest episodes that I've read but I like that they're pushing boundaries and challenging people and I think it's been done really well. I don't think viewers will be traumatised, besides, they'll see me dancing on Strictly on a Saturday night, so they'll know I'm not actually dead!"

Has Strictly been a comfort for you, knowing your final Holby episode was coming up? It's obviously the end for Raf but it's nice that you're still on Strictly…

"Yeah! It would have been really difficult leaving the show and not going onto something else. It really softened the blow having Strictly to focus my energy on. It would have been a big adjustment if I didn't have something else but, fortunately, I've had this to put my energy into and to concentrate on."

As Raf is already dead in the episode by the time he's found, are you disappointed your Holby colleagues didn’t get to operate on you?

"Ha, ha! No, not really because I know it's not much fun being on the gurney being operated on because you're just stuck on there all day and it's not like you get the chance to act or do anything, so I'm quite glad. I think we probably would have just giggled to be honest, so I think it's better that Raf died on his own."

What was your last day like on set?

"It was a surreal experience actually. It was a very nice final scene because I didn't really have very much to do, I just had to lie there and be a corpse. It was my only scene with Paul McGann, who plays Professor John Gaskell. I'd been really excited about working with him – and then, for my one scene with him, I happen to be dead. But we did have a bit of a chat on set, so it's nice to meet him, even if we didn't properly get to act together. It didn't really feel real and I don't think it will sink in until I've finished on Strictly and I'm at home looking back on it all."

holby raf essie

Joe as Raf with his on-screen wife Essie, played by Kaye Wragg

Are you a little sad that your Holby exit is so 'final', so you won't ever get to go back?

"There is an element of that, yeah. I suppose it would have been nice to have had that safety net, so I perhaps could have gone back. But then I'm a real believer in closing doors firmly. When it was decided that my character was being killed, there was a part of me that was relieved about it. It's happened to me before – my character got killed off in Take the High Road and it was a good feeling because you think: ‘OK, that's that chapter of my life done now’. It's not really good to repeat yourself. I want to see what else is out there, challenge myself, have no safety net for a while and see what else is around. So I think it's for the best."

What will you miss most about Holby?

"I'll really miss the atmosphere on set. The fact that we all got on so well and that everyone was so happy to be there. It's probably one of the happiest jobs I've ever been on and that's because everyone gets to go home every night, the work is of a really good quality, you have some fantastic people working there from the writers to the actors, all the runners, and it's just a really happy ship. I'm gonna miss the camaraderie and hanging out with all those lovely actors but I've made some really good friends, who I'll definitely keep in touch with."

Raf and Essie get married

Raf and Essie had only recently got married - unaware their time would be so short

Do you think Raf's tragic demise in Holby will encourage people to vote for you on Strictly on Saturday night?

"Ha, ha! I hadn’t really thought of that to be honest. But, yeah, hopefully. It’s great that a lot of the Holby fans have come over to Strictly and Strictly fans are now watching Holby. It’s great seeing on social media that people have started watching Holby and they’ve really gotten into it. It's a great programme that I'm proud to have been associated with. But all good things come to an end… eventually.”

Strictly Joe Katya Samba

Joe and Katya performed a samba for Strictly's Musicals Week last Saturday night

You're dancing an American Smooth and Argentine Tango on Saturday night. How are you feeling about the Argentine Tango in particular? It’s known for being a tricky dance…

"It is a tricky dance but then none of the dances are simple. They said the samba was a tricky dance and it ended up being one of our best dances. I’m in the best hands with Katya [Jones, Joe's dance partner] and we just dig that bit deeper for the ones that are difficult. We just plough ourselves into it and we try and not to think about how difficult they are and try and make them look as easy as possible. So I'm not worried. Perhaps I should be – but I’m not."

What would it mean to you to get to the final of Strictly?

"To get to the final would be brilliant, mainly just to say you’ve done every episode. At this stage, there’s no shame in going home because you’ve done every stage of the journey - you’ve done Blackpool, you’ve done Movies, you done Musicals - but to get to the final would just be the cherry on the cake. It would be a great feeling to get to the final, I'm not gonna lie."

Strictly Come Dancing Joe McFadden

(Image credit: Kieron McCarron)

Joe's loving his time on Strictly and would love to get to the final in two weeks

Have you thought about lifting the glitterball trophy?

"Absolutely not! That thought has never entered my head, we’re very consciously taking it one week at a time. In the beginning, I was looking around saying: ‘Oh, they’re really good’ and ‘They’re really good’ and Katya was like: ‘Don’t do that, just concentrate on yourself, that’s the only thing you have any control over'. So we’re just taking it one week at a time, going out there, hopefully doing our dances well and hopefully entertaining people. Other than that, it's in the lap of the Gods. I try not to think about all that stuff."

What's next for you? The Strictly tour perhaps?

"Not being in Holby does free me up to do the Strictly tour but I’m not sure I’m doing it yet, they’re in the final stages of putting it all together, so we don't know the line-up as yet. But I'm absolutely hoping to do it because I hear it's a fantastic thing - you know all your dances by that point, you’re not having to learn your dances, so you can relax a bit and just enjoy it."

Holby City continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC1.

Victoria Wilson
Feature Writer for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and WhatToWatch.com

With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!