Entertainment

Paul McGann says Holby City debut was a ‘baptism of fire'

The actor shared his experiences of stepping into the soap world for the first time.

Actor Paul McGann has described his entry into Holby City as new high-flying neurosurgeon Professor John Gaskell as a “baptism of fire”.

His debut on the BBC soap next week will mark his first foray into the world of regular drama, following a 30-year acting career that has seen him take up roles in Luther, New Tricks and Doctor Who.

Several months in to a busy filming schedule that kicked off in August, the 58-year-old told the Press Association: “It’s an unusual way of working, I’ve never worked like this … it’s a bit of an eye-opener.

“I’m just glad that I have got through the first bit, which was physically tricky. It’s relentless with a new character. They front-load you with it.

Paul McGann
Paul McGann in Holby City (BBC)

“It’s a little bit like being the new kid at school … a baptism of fire. But it has been great and thankfully everyone is delightful, which is never guaranteed.

“(A soap) is always something I thought I should have a go at. I am a fan of EastEnders and a part of me has fantasised about whether they would ever ask me to be on it – but then, I thought, probably not, because I’m a northerner.”

McGann’s entry follows merger drama for the fictional hospital and his character, who aims to bolster his pioneering research into the treatment of motor neurone disease, looks set to be a “shot in the arm” for everybody involved.

Careful not to reveal too much ahead of time, McGann hinted that his character’s need for funding will soon see him “dragged into the politics of things”.

Remembering his first moments on set, he joked: “I was immediately pitched into theatre, trying to look cool and say all this stuff and look like I knew what I was doing.”

While busy with his 12-month contract on the programme, McGann told how he is also keeping a close eye on developments with hit sci-fi show Doctor Who .

He has been involved with the programme for 20 years, first playing the Time Lord in the pilot for an American version of the series, before moving on to “hundreds” of audio roles.

Commenting on the casting of Jodie Whittaker as the 13th and first female Doctor, he said: “I completely, utterly, thoroughly approve.

“A couple of years ago I thought that if and when Peter Capaldi calls it a day, they would be missing a trick not to cast a woman.

“I am really pleased and they have done the right thing. She’s the best actor for the role and in a year or two from now it won’t be a novelty anymore. People will forget that it was ever contentious and that’s how it should be.”

McCann revives Doctor Who role
McGann as Doctor Who (Adrian Rogers/BBC/PA)

Musing over his own plans for the future, he added: “I have never done Shakespeare professionally, and a British actor who has never done Shakespeare sounds mad.

“I am getting a bit long in the tooth so a few of the great roles have already passed me by. Somebody give me a Shakespeare job and put me out of my misery.”

:: McGann’s first episode of Holby City will air on BBC One on December 5 at 8pm.

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