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'Holby City' newcomer Natasha Leigh teases Lilah role - interview

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Miss mode: natasha leigh inside soap awards

© Mike Marsland/Inside Soap

Holby City welcomes a new character next week as ambitious Australian doctor Lilah Birdwood arrives at the hospital.

Lilah is a hugely talented student who is in the UK on a scholarship, having clawed her way up from an underprivileged background. Viewers will see that she is determined to be a success in her new position, well aware that she'll lose her sponsorship and have to go back to Australia if things don't turn out well.

With failure not an option for Lilah, her storyline explores just how far she will go to prove herself. Will life at Holby be everything she is expecting?

Digital Spy recently chatted to Melbourne-based actress Natasha Leigh, who plays Lilah, to hear all about her eight-episode stint on the BBC medical drama.

How would you sum up your time on Holby City?
"It was absolutely brilliant. This was my first time going into a series that is so long-running, but it's like a family there and everyone was so lovely. Obviously I was very nervous going into such an established show, but I was very welcomed and I've made a lot of friends."

What was the main attraction of working in the UK?
"Well, I've been over to the UK about four or five times before just for visits, and I have a few people in the industry over there who are good friends. This was my first time working there, but I found everyone to be really friendly.

"I also go over to LA a lot, but London seriously felt like home. It was very similar to Melbourne, where I live. The feeling of it was exactly the same, so it felt like a natural progression to do some work in the UK."

Natasha Leigh


Who did you make friends with in particular while you were on set?
"Well, I was quite lucky, because my character changes wards. A lot of the regular cast members on Holby City don't get to work with all of the other actors due to the different wards, but my character flits in between at the beginning, so it was lovely that I was able to work with everyone.

"Some of the cast members became more like mentors for me, such as Catherine Russell, Hugh Quarshie and Hari Dhillon. They're a lot older than me and seeing them work was amazing. But then Jimmy Akingbola and Lauren Drummond are more my age, so we had some good nights out and became really good friends."

Is Holby City known in Australia?
"I'd heard of the show before, but it's not on the day-to-day channels here. On pay TV we get it, but I think it's a bit further behind the UK broadcasts. As we're not up to date, I had to look at YouTube and the BBC website when I was doing the research for my audition! It's not as easily accessible over here."

How would you describe Lilah?
"She was an amazing character to play and I was so lucky to have this opportunity. Lilah is a very ambitious person who is driven, passionate, intense and she has an amazing heart. I related to that as much as I could, as she's a bit of an underdog but she sets her sights high.

"The main thing that makes Lilah very interesting is that she runs before she can walk. In a hospital, that's not the best thing to do because it gets her into trouble! She thinks that she's more experienced than she actually is, so it was great to be able to play that.

"It's fun to get into these tricky situations without consequences. Acting is living without consequences - they say 'cut' and you don't have to live with what you've just said or done! So it was a very interesting character and storyline to play."

Natasha Leigh in Holby City

© BBC



How does Lilah feel when she joins the hospital?
"She sees this as a really important chance for her. She's a CT1 doctor, so she is experienced, she's done her time and she's very good at her job. Lilah has come over to the UK on a scholarship and she has to make it, otherwise she'll lose her sponsorship and have to return home. As far as she's concerned, that can't happen! It's now or never time."

Will Lilah make any enemies, or does she get a warm welcome?
"She absolutely makes friends with everyone. Lilah is very good and you'll see that in the first episode. She's savvy and sometimes that can be taken the wrong way, but she has got a good heart. She's good at working people out and talking to them on their level. Lilah warms to everyone, which is nice."

With so much at stake for her, is there a chance she could become ruthless?
"Well, I think every actor or actress will defend their character. When you take on a role, you have to see that person's point of view, or else how can you play them honestly and truthfully?

"So although I say Lilah is very good-hearted, sometimes her straightforwardness and her focus can be misconstrued, definitely! You'll have to wait and see how far she'll go to make sure she succeeds."

Is the door left open for Lilah at the end of the eight episodes? Would you be up for going back?
"It is left open and I don't die, which is always a good thing! The character leaves beautifully on a really awesome note. I'm really happy with the way it finishes and I can't wait to see how the audience responds to Lilah in the first episode. It'll be good to see how they view the journey she goes on.

"As for me, my life as an actress is seriously one day at a time, and whatever happens happens! I loved working on Holby City and it's been a bit like a film. I had a nice strong storyline, it had a peak and some really great moments. I'm happy with how it is, but we'll wait and see."

Natasha Leigh


Are you sad that you can't watch your first episode go out on BBC One as you're back home in Australia now?
"I am, but I've been looked after by everyone at Holby. Production are going to send me a copy after it airs every week, otherwise I won't get to see the experience through to the end! I'm actually planning to have a movie night each Thursday with my good friends. When I receive the DVD, we're going to sit down with some popcorn and watch it."

You made a guest appearance on Neighbours last year. Did you enjoy that?
"I did! Funnily enough, Ramsay Street is actually a two minutes' walk from my house! It was great, and that was my first little guest role in a big show. I think Neighbours is bigger in the UK than it is here in Australia, but it's lovely being on it.

"When you're on-location with a team that really knows what they're doing and everyone knows their role, it just runs so smoothly. It was lots of fun."

Would you like to add Home and Away to your CV?
"Absolutely! I've never had an audition for it, it's very upsetting actually! (Laughs.) It looks so beautiful up there. It's about an hour away from Sydney, but I've never actually been there. I know it's a beautiful spot, so maybe I can plan that for next year!"

How did you get into acting?
"It started very organically, I guess. I was always good at drama, dance and sport at school, and then a professional acting school came to my high school. They picked me out and said they'd like to do some weekly classes with me.

"It's when you finally get your first acting job that you finally think, 'Maybe I could do this!' I'm a personal trainer as well, because I wanted to have a back-up plan. However, slowly but surely you get a couple more jobs and then your confidence grows. Now there's nothing else - this is what I have to do, I can't do anything else."

What are your future ambitions?
"I'd like to get more into film. I'm also really interested in delving deeper and exploring the mythology behind it - why do people watch TV and film and what do they get from it? It's the deep and meaningful, and I like learning about that.

"Obviously I need to just grow as a person and an actress. Holby has been such a great stepping stone for me, and hopefully it will lead to bigger and better things."

> Read our spoiler for the next episode of 'Holby City'
> Read more 'Holby City' spoilers and news

Holby City airs on Tuesdays at 8pm on BBC One. Get the Inside Soap magazine on your iPhone or iPad

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