Get ready to go on a nostalgia trip, Holby fans. After eight years apart, former lovers Jac Naylor and Joseph Byrne are reunited next week! Luke Roberts reveals all about filming the one-off special...
Joseph Byrne and Jac Naylor will go down in Holby City history as one of the medical drama's greatest ever love stories. Alas, it wasn't to be. But now, eight years after leaving the show, Joseph is back... with wife - and Jac's love rival - Faye Morton in tow.
In an exclusive interview with whatsontv.co.uk, actor Luke Roberts reveals that, when Jac and Joseph meet again in Holby City, all their old feelings come flooding back...
What was it like coming back to film Holby's special episode?
"It was awful! No I'm joking… It was lovely. It was a treat and it was kind of like coming home. For me, it was just full of nostalgia, fun and warmth and it was fantastic to work with Patsy Kensit and, of course, Rosie Marcel again, and rekindle all those confusing flames."
Did you find it easy slipping back into playing Joseph?
"I did actually. I like to think we collectively created quite a specific character. So it was like revisiting an old friend. I guess he's a part of me and I'm a part of him. So it was a quick, easy fit. And it was fun to recharge and reanimate him again."
What brings Joseph and Faye (Patsy Kensit) back to Holby and what do we learn about them while they've been away?
"Well, in true Holby fashion, Faye is in dire need of a heart transplant. But the hospital where she's being cared for has been cut off because of this tremendous storm, so we get diverted by the Holby gods to Holby City, which brings us into the clutches of the great Jac Naylor…"
Remind us what Jac (Rosie Marcel) and Joseph’s relationship was like back in the day – and how does he feel about seeing her again?
"I think of their relationship as being like a gladiator-style, eternal struggle. It's a force that has defined them. They had a tumultuous relationship, very passionate, despite Joseph’s rather ‘stiff’ approach to things. So they had a great passion, a degree of violence and just a real, deep-seated love. For each other, they are the 'one that got away'. But there’s always that storm-like, magnetic force that pulls them back together, which is what definitely happens here."
So do the old feelings come back to the surface?
"Oh, definitely! As Holby does so well, people find themselves there in an extreme moment of their lives. So passions are high. And that couldn’t be truer for those two here. Jac is dealing with her own problems; the feeling of rejection and isolation of having a new, happy family for her daughter, and she feels marginalised and then Faye and Joseph come along as another happy family unit. But, of course, Joseph very much harbours feelings for Jac, which will never go away. Jac is Joseph’s one true love."
How does Joseph feel about Jac being the one to operate on Faye? Does he think it's a good idea?
"Yes, he does. Obviously, there are personal reservations because, you know, they toy with the idea of wanting to bump each other off! So there's always an element of danger. But, at the end of the day, Jac and Joseph have enormous underlying respect for each other as professionals, because they've both been through the fire together. And they both know what each other is capable of. So Joseph is all for Jac doing it because he knows she’s just the best in her field. But that creates massive amounts of tension because Faye doesn’t want dangerous Jac going anywhere near her!"
The scenes between the three of you in this episode are quite intense. Was there much time to have fun while you were filming?
"I’m glad they’re intense because we had SO much fun. There was probably too much merriment. In fact, Patsy and I were very concerned we were bringing the tone of the place down! But there were lots of laughs, between Patsy, Rosie and myself and Alex Walkinshaw [who plays Fletch] as well, who provides a brilliant comic foil to all the shenanigans. And it was really lovely working with him. Patsy, Rosie and myself are long-standing friends, so there were too many laughs and we were a bit naughty. Luckily, nobody told us off!"
It’s 20 years of Holby this year. Why do you think the show has been a success for all these years?
"I’ve always marvelled at the fact that Holby was just ahead of the curve in that as certain stories were breaking in the real world, we seemed to already be telling those stories. For me, the attraction of playing Joseph was the fact that he had obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. That really was the handle for me with which to grasp the character.
"Holby’s very topical, it has a good social conscience and I think it deals with everyday people in quite extreme circumstances and I guess it plays on our fears a little bit. So I guess the show taps into that but also it’s the strength of the performances and the personalities of the characters they have like Hugh Quarshie, who plays Ric, Jaye Jacobs, who plays Donna and, of course, Rosie as the formidable Jac Naylor. Just fantastic actors doing such good work at such speed. That’s why it’s so special."
And, from your point of view as an actor, a show like Holby City must open doors. You’ve enjoyed some fairly major roles, namely in Ransom and Game of Thrones, since leaving the show…
"Yes, definitely. I can completely thank that show for all the knowledge I have about the craft. I gained so much experience there, so much camera time, so much screen time. So it was kind of a gateway. It was quite nerve-racking leaving the show because it was steady work with a really fantastic team there and you sort of plunge into the darkness and see where else you can forge those relationships and do some good work hopefully. So I was quite nervous leaving but, at the same time, I’m very glad I did. And I’ve been very fortunate. The last 7-8 years have been amazing."
Could you ever see Joseph coming back to Holby City again and reuniting with Jac both professionally and personally?
"Never say never. Patsy and Rosie are two of my favourite people and I’m lucky to know them. I would always work with them, so if they want us to work together again, I would be delighted. If the story is right, the timing is right, I’m available and I happen to be in the UK then sure, why not!?"
Holby City continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC1.
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