Former Doctor Who star Paul McGann joins Holby City next week as respected surgeon Professor John Gaskell. And it seems he's arrived at just the right time, as Paul reveals...
Former Doctor Who star Paul McGann on playing Holby City’s latest super-surgeon…
What can you tell us about your character Professor John Gaskell?
“John gets to make quite an entrance. We discover that he’s reversed a motor neurone condition in a patient using stem cell research, so he’s enjoying a certain level of fame because of his work. John could have gone to any other hospital but he’s chosen come to Holby, so the staff are really excited about his arrival, knowing it will be good for the hospital and good for them.”
Has John’s reputation as a ‘miracle worker’ made him rather sure of himself?
“Not at all. John doesn’t wear his fame easily, in fact, when he first appears he deliberately sneaks in through the back door. He’s a brilliant surgeon but, socially, he’s quite awkward. Also, John’s made his name through this research but until it works on another patient, his glowing reputation isn’t quite assured. So he feels under pressure to ‘repeat the trick’.”
In the first of two episodes this week, John operates on a patient with fiery surgeon Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel). What does he make of her?
“They don’t quite hit it off straight away. They’re almost combative and his charm doesn’t really work on her. But he acknowledges Jac’s brilliance and her talent. We do learn that John actually knows Holby boss Henrik Hanssen and neurosurgeon Roxanna MacMillan. They were all students together, so they’ve got a shared history, which will be explored in upcoming episodes.”
In a nail-biting second episode, the hospital is under threat and John is forced to operate on a Holby favourite. How does he handle the situation?
“This is where we get to see how good John is in a crisis. He’s tough, he’s decisive and he’s able to work on the hoof and, without giving too much away, he’s able to think quickly and make something work quickly. It’s almost like you see in Western movies when the hero turns up to save the village – that’s John! The impact of what happens at the hospital is played out for months in the aftermath of these events.”
You get straight in there with the surgical scenes. Are you squeamish?
“Not in the slightest. I was glad to get stuck in straight away. Blood and guts has just never bothered me – unlike certain other people on the Holby crew, who can’t even go into the same room as somebody covered in fake blood! If I’d have been really clever, I’d like to have worked as a medic.”
And have you got to grips with all the medical jargon?
“Yes but with some difficulty. There are some real tongue-twisters but it’s not just about saying the words it’s about saying them whilst looking like you know what your doing with one medical instrument in one hand, one in the other and a dying patient on the table!”
You’re best known for playing the eighth Doctor Who. What do you think of Jodie Whittaker as the first female Time Lord?
“I’m chuffed – I think it’s long overdue and Jodie is a brilliant choice. A year from now people will be wondering why they didn’t do it earlier. Would I like to be regenerated again? Ah, wouldn’t that be great! I’d love to get involved again and one day I do hope the phone rings. Maybe it’ll happen.”
Catch Paul’s debut in next week’s Holby two-parter, starting on Tuesday December 5 and concluding on December 7 at 8pm on BBC1.