Holby City's Kaye Wragg on the personal challenges she's faced portraying Essie di Lucca's heartbreaking cancer storyline...
While undergoing intensive chemotherapy in her fight against cancer in Holby City, Essie di Lucca was left stunned recently when her good friend, director of nursing, Adrian ‘Fletch’ Fletcher revealed that he too was battling the disease.
While Fletch recovers from surgery, however, Essie has a consultation with her oncologist. But as she emerges from the meeting, her reaction suggests it’s not good news…
We chatted to Holby City star Kaye Wragg, who plays Essie, to find out more…
Did you have any reservations about tackling Essie’s cancer storyline, which continues in tonight’s Holby City?
“Our family has been struck by cancer many times. My dad died of cancer, my daughter Matilda developed a brain tumour when she was five [Matilda overcame the disease and is now 12] and a good friend died of pancreatic cancer, which is what Essie has. So, initially, I didn’t want to do it, I was very anxious that I wouldn’t be able to cope with it. But I knew it was a story that needed to be told.”
A few weeks back in Holby City, Essie felt she couldn’t continue with her chemotherapy treatment. Why was that?
“At first, Essie thought: ‘I’m going to get through this’. But because her cancer is very aggressive, she needs a very potent level of chemo, which made her very poorly. The side-effects really knocked her sideways, so she wanted to stop the chemo just to feel normal again. In her head, anything was better than how she was feeling at that time. Essie needed someone to tell her not to give up – and that person was Fletch…”
Indeed, as Fletch (Alex Walkinshaw) is recovering well from his surgery for prostate cancer, Essie gets some devastating news about her own condition. Does she have mixed feelings?
“Essie would love to be in that position but she doesn’t for one second begrudge Fletch the success he’s having with his treatment at all. Essie is delighted that Fletch seems to be getting over his cancer and that things seem to be going well for him. For Essie, it’s not a case of: ‘I wish it was me and not you’ but rather ‘I wish it was me as well’.”
What’s it been like working with Alex on this storyline?
“Alex and I have known each other since our days working on The Bill but we’ve hardly done anything together on Holby, so I’m delighted to be sharing this storyline with him. Filming has been emotionally exhausting but Alex works like me; we fully immerse ourselves in the moment and always cry proper tears. It’s great to work with another actor you really trust and who you feel you can go that distance with. As soon as Alex begins to well up, I start crying. There’s no acting required!”
What do you hope people take away from this storyline?
“It shows how two different people – who are friends – with two different types of cancer will still go through the same things. But the reality of dealing with cancer is that some people, like Fletch, can get over it relatively quickly while, other people, like Essie, have got a real fight on their hands. There’s no holding back with Essie’s story at all and, in the weeks ahead, things become very traumatic.”
Holby City continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC1.