Holby City’s Hugh Quarshie invites TV Times magazine on set to see him make his directorial debut.
How do you feel about directing this episode of Holby City?
“It’s such a privilege to do it. Holby is a flagship production for the BBC. It’s a very popular show and does a very important job for the BBC, so it’s quite an endorsement to be allowed to do one.”
What did you learn?
“The thing that you learn very quickly is that this is a production line and the beauty of it is that we produce 52 episodes a year up to a certain standard. We have to produce it no matter what and the standard can’t slip.”
Was it difficult making the leap from actor to director?
“My style of management is much more consensual than authoritarian! In terms of having to rant and rave, I did warn them that I’m following the advice of Mel Brooks, which is to fire someone on the first day. I promised that I would, but I haven’t got round to it yet… I’ve been very lucky to be assigned a crew who know me and we get along. Anyone who works here invariably says what a great atmosphere it is. There are egos around, but they’re usually kept in check and I think that we all understand we get along better if we work in a co-operative way rather than somebody throwing their weight around.”
What has it been like for you seeing the job from the other side of the lens?
“I think initially my approach was a bit tentative. It’s the challenge that any director has that you don’t have control over the cast or the script because those are a given. Or the budget or the schedule, for that matter! But within that, you can find your way of leaving your signature on a couple of scenes. The less time you have, the more it forces you to be creative. The key thing is not to get a shot for the sake of the shot as it will be out of place. We’re not making arthouse movies here.”
Why did you want to direct?
“Directing was something I felt I needed to do to further my education. There seems to be a mystique about directing and I wanted to understand it. But I’m not sure that there is a mystique. Directors work really hard. It’s long hours, a lot of thinking time and a lot of preparation.”
Was it harder than you anticipated?
“The stress level was a little higher than I was used to. I was a sprinter in my youth, I wasn’t a marathon runner. This has been very much a marathon. It’s been very good to find out just what is involved. And good to find out what your capabilities are. There was I thinking I was going to be the next Orson Welles!”
Are you glad to have done it?
“I’m very glad to have done this because it has made me appreciate the value and importance of what the actors do. I like to think that the performances in this episode are really good, largely because I’ve been blessed with great guest artists and also because my colleagues are fantastic.”
And what about the future of super surgeon Ric Griffin?
“I think the key thing is that this is a hospital and the NHS has been all over the headline news. But sometimes you get the sense in Holby that our main concern is who’s sleeping with whom! I wish and I hope and I fully expect that we are going to be tackling some major issues. In the past we did it on implants and transplants. I think there are a quite a few things we could tackle. And I think they’re always considering issues like Movember and prostate cancer. So I don’t know what’s next for Ric, but I hope that it won’t simply leave people thinking it’s time that Ric had sex!”