Move over Connie Beauchamp, there’s a new top dog in town at Holby City as actress Leslie Ash joins the cast as CEO Vanessa Lytton. Leslie gives us the lowdown… Vanessa seems like she’s yet another strong woman at Holby City – is she going to ruffle feathers? “She's a very calculated woman. She rose through the ranks from a nurse to become a CEO rather easily and we can only imagine that she’s done it by stepping over people along the way. But with a smile on her face.” She seems to have a friend in Michael Spence? “Yes, they are old mates and he's helped her get the job. In turn she's keeping an eye of Connie for him – she knows Connie is after Michael's job. Together I think her and Michael are going to whip the hospital up into a frenzy.” You’ve had plenty of experience with hospital managers before (Ash famously sued the NHS in 2008). Does that make her easier to play? “I've had my moments over the last five years! It’s ironic to be playing a CEO. I think it’s very close to real life. Obviously I spent a lot of time on wards and, the politics of hospitals so yes, my knowledge of hospitals was there.” Was there part of you that found it hard, stepping onto a hospital set? “Yes. The first day on set it was quite strange. There was some reluctance from me to walking on set. Also, it's my first role in five years so it was very scary.” How did the role come about? “I had to audition, quite rightly so – they didn’t know what I was capable of dealing with working again. It was weird to figure out if I had that endurance to film for a day and to learn lines, and I'm pleased to say that I can. I'm very thankful of them for giving me a chance. Most people wouldn’t take a punt. I have missed the acting world.” What made you want to return to acting after so long? “I was feeling physically strong and I did the documentary about plastic surgery last year which I really enjoyed. I said to my agent that I was ready to see what was out there.” What was your first scene like? “My first lines were in sat in a car. I actually only had one line to say and my mouth just suddenly went really dry – I couldn't talk! But I knew I couldn’t mess up so I just went for it and I did do it in one take.” What do your family make of your coming back to work? “They’re just very supportive. My two sons are grown up now so they couldn’t really care less! But no, I think they’re proud – although they’d never tell me that.” Vanessa arrives at Holby City on Tuesday 13th October.
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Patrick McLennan is a London-based journalist and documentary maker who has worked as a writer, sub-editor, digital editor and TV producer in the UK and New Zealand. His CV includes spells as a news producer at the BBC and TVNZ, as well as web editor for Time Inc UK. He has produced TV news and entertainment features on personalities as diverse as Nick Cave, Tom Hardy, Clive James, Jodie Marsh and Kevin Bacon and he co-produced and directed The Ponds, which has screened in UK cinemas, BBC Four and is currently available on Netflix.
An entertainment writer with a diverse taste in TV and film, he lists Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Chase, The Thick of It and Detectorists among his favourite shows, but steers well clear of most sci-fi.