Jing Lusi has over the last year won many a heart on Holby City, but last night saw it all come to a teary end when Dr Tara Lo didn’t pull through her surgery in a move that will have Holby fans reaching for their hankies or claiming that something’s in their eye.
We talked to Jing about her final few episodes of Holby City, her new work on stage and her rather odd run in with a Bollywood legend.
Dr Lo is no longer a member of the Holby staff, but what was it like from your side?
It’s a very tragic storyline; it wasn’t that fun to play towards the end. I knew what the ending was yet I had to stay happy and positive and determined as the character yet I was just thinking this was really sad.
So what was your reaction then when you first got the scripts through?
Well, I knew from the beginning the character was going to die, when I got involved they straight away said they were going to kill me off. So I didn’t have any nasty surprises of like a month towards the end going ‘Oh!’. There was no Joey Tribbiani moment when I find out I’m falling down a lift shaft (laughs).
So we all knew about it and just used humour for the first nine months to deal with it. Then when I finally got the scripts with those final numbers on, I just couldn’t read them for such a long time. I just had so many questions like ‘What’s my last word?’ and ‘What’s it going to look like?’.
One day I was on set filming the episodes before the last two weeks and I just went “Sod it, seize the moment” and read them right there and then. I cried so much that all the makeup artists were running over asking if I’d just read it. I was just sobbing going “I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” So it was really a ripping the plaster off kind of moment.
Has it been weird communicating with the fans then knowing all this time?
I came off Twitter for a long time and since I’ve come back, I feel like I’m deceiving them as I’m still tweeting like I’m still there. The whole point is I can’t let them know about that as it would just ruin the show for them. If I’m tweeting about being in Bath and saying I’m doing another job, it’s just a little too obvious really.
It’s so rare in Holby that they actually kill off a regular; we always wanted to keep it a secret from the first minute. When I left, I said to the producers that I’ve got no interest in going online and go “Someone hire me!”.
Fortunately, someone did and I’m just about to go on stage before Tara dies. So we’re just going to keep that on the down-lo, I don’t think they thought I’d be so employable (laughs)! There’s a real irony to it all.
So was it really bitter-sweet shooting the wedding then?
It really was. In Holby land it’s only the day before her operation. She proposes in the morning and marries on the evening and I just think it’s a time when it catches up to her that if she doesn’t do it now, then she might never do it at all. So, one of the things that every girl wants is to get married, and it’s fuelled by the fact she really does love Ollie and wants to get married before she dies even if she hides it behind the practical sides.
It really was bitter-sweet and it was really bad for me as this was the last scene I filmed of her where I’m not wearing a paper gown and have makeup on. It was very sad, but the biggest thing was that it was so fricking cold!
We did the scene in December and we weren’t going to shoot it to start with. We were just going to allude to the before and after as it wasn’t the main storyline of the episode. Suddenly the producers thought it really would be a beautiful scene and not everyone gets married in Holby every day. So, they just set up a gazebo and some lights outside and we were just stood there going “You’re kidding right? It’s outside!”
It was hilarious to film as it looks beautiful and lovely bit we’re all wearing thermal layers on underneath our outfits and holding hand warmers whenever we can and I even at a hot water bottle stuffer up my dress at one point! I’m really glad I had the opportunity to do something like that though before I left.
You recently directed your first play, what was that experience like?
That was amazing! It was a very last minute thing too, as my friend was involved in a play and they didn’t have a director. So she asked me to come see and I gave them some thoughts and by the time I got home they were going “Please be our director!”. It was going up within a week, so I didn’t really have tome to process it, otherwise I might have got scared and backed out. It was amazing; it was a very intimate situation.
There were three of us all about the same age, so there was a lot of banter and it was so, so insightful as an actor to see actors work and go “Oh my God, am I like this!” I think as an actor, you can be consumed with what you’re doing, even though you’re just a piece of the jigsaw. Obviously it’s a collaborative thing, everyone from the runner to the makeup and lighting make you who you are and makes your job possible. As a director you see that huge process and you become less conceited as an actor. You realise that it’s not all about you and you can chill out a bit.
You’re now on stage in 4000 Miles, what can you tell us about that play.
It’s a really, really intimate and sweet look into people’s lives. I’m with Sara Kestelman, who I’m learning so much from just watching her and it’s only a cast of four. It’s about a grandmother and her grandson who learn from each other and bond. There are so many plays that feature parents and their children, but hardly any that dare to skip a generation. It’s set in the West Village in New York and I play the drunken blast into his life.
That must have been a great change of scenery.
Definitely. Which is extra funny because I recently did a day on the new Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman film ‘Before I Go To Sleep’, where I played a nurse. It was just too surreal. So, to actually step away from a hospital and wear navy coloured clothing was really nice. It’s so different being on stage too. With film and TV you get to a point when you feel so relaxed. It’s just this family around you and if you get something wrong, as I inevitably do all the time, you can just say cut and it’s all fine. There is no cut in live theatre and that’s a bit scary.
Moving away from the stage, you were also in a Bollywood film right?
(laughs) Only for like a split second, I haven’t even seen it! It was called Tezz with Anil Kapoor. I just remember my agent calling me and asking if I was a round that weekend as someone wanted me for a Bollywood film, which I thought sounded pretty cool. So, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I got set and waited around for a few hours.
Then Anil Kapoor shows up with the most quaffed hair and the most impressive moustache and I just knew that must be him. I’d seen Slumdog, but I couldn’t quite recommend what he looked like before then. He was so, so nice. At one point he put his hands on my face and said “You’re wonderful, you’re so good” even though I only had one line with him. It was really cold though, I don’t know why all my stories revolve around the weather, but I was so taken a-back all I could say to him was “I’m really cold!” Which is the single dumbest thing to say to someone! So that was my memory of meeting a Bollywood legend.
So, finishing up, a lot of people might not know that you actually have a law degree. So what got you to do that when you’ve been performing for years?
Chinese parents (laughs). Being an only child in an academic family, my parents are of the mind-set where education is the route towards success and a happy life. For them, growing up around the communist regime, they didn’t have that opportunity. That’s how they escaped from that, so for them education is your ticket to security and I totally agree. I’m happy I did it as it’s given me a real sense of grounding. I spent three years a bit drunk and then pulled out a 2-1, so it wasn’t such a waste of my time.
Jing can be seen in new play ‘4000 miles’ which is currently showing at the Theatre Royal, Bath and will transfer to The Print Room, London from the 14th May-1st June. You can follow her on Twitter at @JingLusi.