In heart-breaking scenes screened on Tuesday night, Holby City surgeon Jac Naylor suffered a major mental breakdown. Here, actress Rosie Marcel talks exclusively to whatsontv.co.uk about filming the dramatic episode and her own battles with mental illness...
Holby City star Rosie Marcel on how Jac’s emotional breakdown bears similarities to her own mental health battle…
Tuesday night’s Holby City ended with your character, Jac Naylor, suffering a huge mental breakdown in the hospital car park. What was it like filming those scenes?
Rosie Marcel: “It was not fun. I didn’t enjoy doing it at all. We only shot the ‘breakdown’ once, thankfully, because I didn’t think I could do it again. It’s all real. It’s not just Jac you’re seeing, it’s Rosie. When it came to my own mental health, I had no idea that I was going to have a nervous breakdown. And then I had one. I knew something was wrong and I knew something was coming but I didn’t know what it was and then it happened. And I think it’s the same for Jac.”
So, given your own mental health struggles, did you have any reservations about taking on the storyline?
RM: “Definitely. I didn’t want to do it, I didn’t know if I could do it. There’s the actor part of you that goes: ‘I know I can do this, I know I can rock it and I know I can get it across’. But there’s the part of me that then realises that the reason I can get it across is because I’ve been there, I’ve done it, it’s happened to me. So will I be ‘acting’ it?”
So what got you through it?
RM: “In the end, it really became about how I could help other people because mental illness is a real thing and it’s a really important story to tell, particularly for women. Working mothers really do feel this way, and I myself, have suffered in this way where I felt like I was letting everybody down, not helping my family and not helping myself. So I knew it was an important thing to do but it was a really hard thing to do and very bittersweet. I just hope we can reach as many people as possible. Then it would have been worth it.”
Watching the drama unfold in the hospital car park, we couldn’t imagine anyone else being there to support Jac than Fletch and you’re good friends with Alex Walkinshaw, who plays him. Was it easy filming with him?
RM: “I love Alex, he’s brilliant. I’ve known Alex for a very, very long time, he’s a dear friend and he was extremely supportive. Alex is very good at protecting people and he knows me very well. He could tell when I needed to be left alone, so he kept people away from me and he would often find me at a spot where I could go and keep my head down and keep quiet and stay within myself, so that I knew that I could do the scene. Alex took an absolute pounding from me. As I say, luckily, we only shot that scene once…”
That’s quite unbelievable, given what’s involved in it…
RM: “I know! And the hard part for Alex was I couldn’t tell him what I was going to do. I knew I was gonna have some kind of breakdown but I couldn’t tell anybody what I was going to do because I didn’t know what I was going to do! So that whole scene was reliant on Alex having to try and get his lines in wherever he could, try and grab me whenever he could and try and keep me facing the camera, so he would literally be steering me to where I needed to be. He was amazing. It was only shot once and that’s because I said to them: ‘I don’t think I’ll be able to do it again. So you need to get this in one take!'”
Where she’s ordinarily such a strong woman, was it important show that even someone like Jac Naylor can suffer from mental illness?
RM: “Absolutely! It doesn’t matter if you’re strong or weak, rich or poor: it can happen to anyone. At any time. Fifty per cent of my friends have mental health problems. It’s massive.”
Fortunately, as a society, we do seem to be talking about it now. People seem less afraid to admit: ‘I’m struggling’…
“I’m not a huge Royalist at all but I think Prince Harry has had a big hand in that. Here is a Prince admitting: ‘You know, after my mother died, I had huge, huge problems.’ I think if we can start there and work our way down every level and every type of person and we can say we’ve all struggled, I think it’s a really important thing. It’s a really important time for mental health awareness and we’re certainly living in a better culture now where it’s much easier talk about it.”
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues raised in the episode, for information and support visit mental healthy charity mind
Holby City continues Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC1.