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CUTTING edge of drama; MEET THE STAFF OF THE EXCITING NEW MEDICAL SERIES HOLBY CITY - JUST WHAT THE DOCTOR ORDERED.

Nicola Stephenson (Brookside): The realistic special effects on Holby City hold no qualms for ex-Brooksider Nicola Stephenson.

In fact, she prides herself on being far from squeamish and says brightly: ``I love all that stuff.

"When a friend of mine had four wisdom teeth out, I was desperate to have a look in her mouth and see how it had been done. It's just a fascination. I loved biology at school.''

Nichola plays nurse and single mum Julie Fitzjohn in the new series and says: ``Nursing is the other job I'd do if I wasn't an actress.''

Nicola spent time at a local hospital with Angela Griffin. ``I talked to Angela about what it was like leaving a soap and encouraged her to have a go because she would get lots of jobs and here we are, a year later, working together.''

Nicola first hit the headlines as Margaret, the Brookside nanny who shared a lesbian kiss on screen with Anna Friel.

But when it came time to leave Brookside, Nicola was happy to go. ``At 22, with no kids, no mortgage and money in the bank, what had I got to lose?'' she asks reasonably.

``I have never wanted a steady life. There is no point in going into a job like this if you are scared of the pitfalls. I like the peaks and troughs of what I do.''

Lisa Faulkner (Brookside): It was a tough round of interviews, a real trial of dedication and commitment, but actress Lisa Faulkner struggled on because she really wanted the job - as a nurse.

The 26-year-old, whose on-screen nose ring and braided blonde hair made her one of Brookside's more distinctive residents, was on the verge of swopping her acting ambitions for the blood, bed pans and low pay of life in the NHS.

``When I first started acting I got a film and then didn't work for a year,'' says the ex-schoolgirl model. ``The only other thing I could think of doing was nursing, as I was really interested in it. I had been in and out of hospital as a kid and even liked hospital food.

``I wrote to the Whittington Hospital in north London to apply and got through all the initial interviews. I was due to start my training and then got offered a part in a film.

``It's just as well. I think it was my acting skills that managed to convince them I would be a brilliant nurse. Looking back I don't think I could have dealt with it very well. ''

After playing Dangerfield's daughter, then the troubled Louise in Brookside, Lisa is thrilled to be given the chance to show a totally different side as Dr Victoria Merrick in Holby City.

She laughs: ``I really didn't want to do any more stroppy teenagers.''

Angela Griffin (Coronation Street): Angela Griffin has swopped scissors for bedpans to play Nurse Jasmine Hopkins in Holby City.

The former Coronation Street hairdresser laughs: ``I've learned loads of things, even how to put rubber gloves on properly, but the most important thing for me is not only the duties that nurses perform, but they way they act, the way they deal with patients and other staff.''

Angela became a household name playing Fiona in Coronation Street for more then five years, but she remains down to earth about her career.

``I love playing Jasmine, getting this part in Holby City is a great move for me,'' she says.

``When I first announced I was leaving Corrie, no-one seemed to notice at first. It might have been because it was the same day Geri decided to announce her split from the Spice Girls. My story ended up on about page 142.''

Twenty-two-year-old Angela always wanted to be an actress and says: ``It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't do it. I thought about other things I could do if I was out of work, but acting was always the big thing.

``It all started when I pestered my mum to go to a children's theatre group. I remember we used to have to pretend to take different things out of imaginary boxes.''

Her first job came when she was 13 when she played a drummer in the children's book programme Under The Bedclothes. Three years later she made her first appearance in the Street.

``Maybe I was just a strange little girl but being on television never seemed unnatural. Even when I got Corrie I didn't go around thinking `Oh, my God, I've got a job on television.''

Leaving the Street could have been tough but Angela was determined to prove her worth.

``Yes, it was scary,'' she admits. ``But I had to make that leap of faith. It was sad leaving and I did get twitchy because other people who were going about the same time kept talking about the work they'd got and I didn't have anything.

``I discovered just how many bad scripts there are out there - for one they wanted me to be a Cleopatra in a sit-com. Then Holby City came up and I knew I had fallen on my feet.''

Michael French (Eastenders): Eastenders love rat Michael French was determined to get the research right when he was offered the chance to play Holby City's dashing heart surgeon Nick Jordan.

But he did not reckon on just how much he would have to put his back into it keeping up with the medical teams.

``These guys are on their feet for hours on end,'' he says in admiration.

``If the operation demands it, they will be there from eight o 'clock in the morning until nine o'clock at night.

``I was there observing all the intricate work they were doing and my back started to go long before the end of just one operation. Goodness knows how they must feel doing it day in, day out.''

Michael's need to know took him to the world famous Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire where he shadowed a consultant surgeon and a registrar as they performed a heart by-pass and a lung biopsy operation.

``I was watching what they were doing and taking notes,'' he explains, ``but it wasn't only the medical information I needed. I had one eye on the operation and one eye on the way the people in the theatre inter-acted, from the surgeon to the scrub nurse.''

Michael insists he is not phased by the sight of real blood and gore, but does admit he was relieved the green surgical covers disguised the patient, revealing only the open wound where work was being done.

``I do watch what I eat now. I want to stay healthy and look after my body.''

Having won himself a reputation as a screen love rat playing David Wicks in EastEnders, Michael's famously roving eyes are used to good effect in Holby City, with Nick Jordan taking inter-staff relations very seriously.

``I'd say Jordan was more compassionate, more human than David Wicks though,'' he argues.

``Like most blokes, he sometimes treats women as playthings - if they're willing. A bit of hanky-panky is all part of the human condition, after all.''
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:McMullen, Marion
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 9, 1999
Words:1191
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