Holby City star Bob Barrett on how the BBC medical drama will be paying homage to the NHS and how Sacha is hit with terrible grief
When Holby City went on hiatus back in July, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the popular BBC1 medical drama left us on an almighty cliffhanger.
First, there was high drama in the operating theatre when acting CEO Max McGerry (Jo Martin) was called away as Holby stalwart Ric Griffin (Hugh Quarshie) was about to undergo brain surgery, leaving his arch-rival Guy Self to step in.
Elsewhere, Sacha Levy was all set to marry his terminally ill fiancee Essie Di Lucca – but he was left devastated when he learned she’d tragically passed away on the way to the altar.
As Holby returns this week, the staff are dealing with the aftermath of those events. And, as the story begins, Ric wakes from a coma, following his surgery, to find the hospital at the centre of the Covid-19 pandemic. Max faces an uphill battle to keep things under control and her staff safe as the virus takes hold, but Ric questions her judgement…
Meanwhile, Sacha is feeling angry at the world following Essie’s death and takes his frustrations out on ‘hypochondriac’ patient, Jodie (played by ex-Emmerdale actress Sian Reese-Williams). Sacha tells close friend Jac Naylor (Rosie Marcel) he wants to erase all memory of Essie – but will he seek comfort from a stranger?
We caught up with Bob Barrett, 54, who tells us more about filming Holby City in these challenging times and teases what’s to come for Sacha…
When Holby returns this week, we find the hospital in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic…
“I think we needed this first episode to focus on Covid-19 and pay homage to the NHS. Sacha fears Covid-19 is going to change everything. It’s important to voice all the different reactions that care workers, doctors and nurses would have towards the virus. With this episode, Holby really hits the ground running but I know, for some, it will feel very close to home and be very emotional to watch.”
Is Sacha struggling in the aftermath of Essie’s death?
“Very much so. Sacha has Complicated Grief Disorder, which means you become the opposite of who you normally are, so he’s behaving appallingly – he’s snapping at people, he’s angry – because he just cannot escape this grief that he has for Essie. In one scene he tells Jac: ‘I wish I’d never known Essie’. Of course, that’s not the case but he’s completely locked in his grief – it’s like he’s in a maze and can’t find his way out.”
Sacha’s quite rude to hypochondriac patient Jodie, played by ex-Emmerdale actress Sian Reese-Williams. What more can you tell us?
“When Sacha and Jodie meet, they’re both in some way very damaged. Because he’s stuck in his grief, all the empathy and compassion you’d usually expect from Sacha as a doctor is gone. So when he discovers Jodie’s homeless you’d think he’d want to look after her and make sure she’s OK but that doesn’t happen at first because he’s not in that place, mentally, at all. Sacha and Jodie are both victims here; Sacha’s a victim of this awful grief, Jodie’s a victim of her situation. The storyline gets very interesting.”
And what’s happening with the other characters?
“The producers have had months to think about what Holby would do when it came back and they’ve come up with an avalanche of stories for all the characters. In the coming months, I know there’s so much going on with Fletch and Ange, and Jac and Kian. It’s really exciting stuff!”
What’s it like being back filming Holby?
“Firstly, it’s a relief, as I was so desperate to get back to work. Everyone kept saying to me: ‘You’re gonna struggle, because you can’t hug anybody now’ but it’s not as weird as I thought it would be. We’re used to social distancing now and many of the actors are lucky in that they don’t have to wear face masks, whereas the crew have to wear masks all the time and the cameramen are now shooting from another room. Everyone’s got the attitude that we’re a family, let’s make it work and just ‘Keep Calm & Carry On’.”
Holby City is on Tuesdays at 8.15pm on BBC1.