Everyone’s favourite uptight registrar Lily Chao does her final shift in the Holby ED tonight as actress Crystal Yu exits Casualty after four years on the BBC1 medical drama.
Saturday’s episode sees Lily interviewed for a research post in Hong Kong – but where does this leave things with paramedic Iain? And how does Yu herself feel about bowing out and leaving the hospital behind?
Your final episode airs this evening – how are you feeling about it?
I’m sad. I’ve been away from the studio for a couple of months now, so it’s the reality of knowing that this is going to be my final episode. Since it was announced that Lily is leaving, I’ve had so much love on social media. It’s really going to set me off tonight.
You’ve been at Casualty four years – does it feel like that long?
No, not at all. I loved going to work – Casualty is such a family and it’s a great training ground because you’re there every single day of the week and you really build up stamina. In the end, it was my decision to leave, but I feel like I’ve formed lifelong friends on that show.
You must have explored every aspect of Lily by now?
Well, we’ve really seen her mature. She’s still headstrong but she’s learned a lot from her patients and her own losses, so it’s softened her. And because I’ve been playing her for so long, I now find it quite easy to get under her skin. The team at Casualty are always open to us asking questions because we know our characters better than anyone else. So there have been moments where I’ve said, “I don’t know if Lily would do this?” And I’ve gone to the production office just to have a conversation about it. But they do value our opinions.
And what a time to be a part of it all – what with the 30th anniversary and that NTA win?
I know. There was a moment when we were filming the one-shot episode and I was upstairs on the hospital set observing all the work that was going on. And I suddenly thought, ‘I’m so proud to have been a part of something so great’. It’s always been a strong show, but we’re constantly pushing boundaries. By this stage, I knew I was going. So there was this mixture of emotions: I was witnessing something amazing, knowing I was saying goodbye to it very soon.
How did you feel when you finished your final scene?
The whole of my last week was really hard. I was filming every single day. And you try to put your personal emotions out of it because you want to give the best to Lily. But, there were moments – especially the parting scene between Iain and Lily – where it really was how I felt. I was trying to be strong and do the Lily Chao defence mechanism, but I was heartbroken.
So why leave?
Well, sometimes there are tough choices that you have to make in life. I’ve been working away from London for four years. I needed to be back there to sort out some personal stuff and put my life in order. I’ve been moving house and I wanted to take some classes and start auditioning again. I always like to keep learning and absorbing.
And since you’ve left, have you had any nightmares where you wake up thinking you should be learning a Casualty script?
In this last episode, I have a massive chunk of medical dialogue. I have to do the paramedic handover that Iain usually does. And I remember thinking, ‘are you guys kidding me?’ It was like an unwelcome present from the writers! But I nailed it. And then, not long after I left, I woke up in the night thinking I’d messed it up! But I’ve kept that part of the script in my diary – I’ve stapled that chunk of dialogue on to the day I did it. So it will always be there!
Crystal Yu’s last episode of Casualty can be seen tonight at 8.20pm. You can watch a preview below