Was it strange doing the show partly as a comedy – when there’s so much tragedy, too?
Actually, no. We had two amazing directors, Lucy and Tom, who were so well-versed in both comedy and drama and they really helped us along, but also it was just all there in the writing. We didn’t ever have to think, “Oh, we can make that funny.” It just happened.
The show is so naturalistic, there’s no frills, there’s no shine. It is witty. It’s raw, and it’s visceral. Especially in somewhere like a hospital, like where you see the extremes of human emotion, there’s no way that comedy and drama can’t sit side by side. They are part and parcel of the same thing, because they are the two extremes of human emotion. So it didn’t feel like we were having to make a conscious choice between flipping back and forth. Because it’s natural.
As a human, when you’re around life and death every day, you have to find a way to live with it. And for a lot of doctors, especially for Adam, especially for the character in the show, like his coping mechanism is comedy. That’s the way that he protects himself. That’s the way that he distances himself from situations. And I’m sure that people can relate to that.
How did you cope with the gore of the show? It certainly doesn’t hold back in terms of showing the bloody reality of the obs and gynae wards…
Well, that was my other favourite part of the job. How disgusting it was! We got so much medical training – with medical experts on set. Working with those prosthetics was such a privilege, because the layers were exactly the same as what would actually be in a human body.
I’m so glad that I’m not that squeamish – and also that, well, it wasn’t real. I found it really fun and it was just like such a thrilling part of the job. That’s something that I’ve heard when people have been watching it. They’ve been like, oh my God, it’s so gory – and it’s quite intense to watch. But news flash, that’s what it’s really like to work in a hospital.
****MAJOR SPOILER ALERT AHEAD****
Your character has a tragic ending, suffers from depression and eventually commits suicide. How did you navigate portraying such sensitive themes?
I was very cognisant of having to be responsible for portraying a storyline like that. Especially the way that it ends… It’s such an important storyline. You don’t want to make them into art. You don’t want to sensationalise or incorrectly dramatise something like that. So, again, for me, it was all in the research. I watched documentaries. I read books.
We had an expert from the Samaritans who was consulting, so I was able to have a couple of chats with her. And she was there also during the writing of the last few scripts. It was really just about grounding it in reality as much as possible. And hopefully we’ve portrayed that.
All seven episodes of This is Going to Hurt are available to stream now on BBC iPlayer.
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