Crystal plays the role of Dr Lily Chao in Casualty, I caught up with Lily to find out about the 30th anniversary episode and where things might be headed with Dr Ethan Hardy.
Thank you for talking to Break A Leg, Crystal, what can you tell me about the 30th anniversary episode?
Oh, it’s so exciting, I get to work with a legend and that’s all I can say! To the point where I felt like I should have bowed when I met her and I can’t say anything more than that. Although I will say that she came in for a make-up test and I introduced myself and said I was going to be working with her. I became like this little girl around her and didn’t know what to say, this lady is Queen-like!
That is what is so great about this show, the wonderful guest artists that we have and that have so much experience. I can learn from them and they make me feel like I’m becoming a slightly better actress for working with them and learning from them.
Oh, I want to know who that is going to be! OK, so moving on, what does the future hold for Lily’s love-life? Any developments on the horizon with Ethan?
I think sometimes with Lily and Ethan it is a little bit like a role reversal, Ethan is the emotional one and Lily is the practical one. For example, where the HD storyline is concerned, she’s the one saying “there must be research” and “there must be doctors” “we can sort this out” – she’s the logical one. We’ll see if anything happens or it could be that maybe they’re such good friends that they don’t want to jeopardise their friendship. It’s always difficult with great friends, you don’t want to risk losing the friendship if the relationship doesn’t work out.
How do you feel that Lily reacts to relationships?
With Lily, a relationship has never been at the forefront of her mind, it’s always been about work and about becoming the best doctor she could be. Almost becoming the next Connie because Connie is her idol. I think in many ways Lily sees Connie as a mentor, a father figure and a mother figure (I mentioned this to one of the writers). In terms of her parents, they were never really there for her, intellectually and emotionally. They worked in restaurants, they weren’t doctors and so having Connie there as the clinical leads, I think Lily thinks wouldn’t it have been amazing if my mum was a doctor, we would have shared so much in common. I think Lily connects with Connie because she sees her as more than a mentor.
Lily doesn’t want to disappoint anyone, especially when it comes to Connie, if Connie wants her to do something then she’s going to do it, and really, really well.
Going back to your first day on set, what was it like becoming part of the cast?
It was so nerve-wracking but my first scene was with Tony Marshall (who plays Noel) and I have to say that I love Tony, he put me at ease. It was quite a hectic day as well as Lily arrived on her moped and I don’t ride a moped, but the last scene of the day that we shot was of her arriving on the moped. Not only was I worried about my lines and worried about the day, I was worried about killing someone!
Were you a regular viewer before you were cast?
Yes, I was also in a guest in an episode just under two years before I joined the show when the studio was back in Bristol. So there was a sense of familiarity while still feeling strange because I had played a patient, before. Some of the Supporting Artists have been on the show for years and I remember on my first day I didn’t have a clue what to do with myself, the Supporting Artists were so helpful with showing me the various gestures I could do. Of course we also have medical advisors on set as well but it was sometimes easier to say to my colleague “help, hold my hand!”.
Finally, what would you like to see happen for Lily?
I’m always interested in seeing characters that are flawed, flawed in the sense that the audience will have the ability to empathise with their mistakes and imperfections. I think that’s human beings at the end of the day, but I like strong female characters that are flawed, emotionally vulnerable, which I think Lily is, but professionally very strong. I also think that with a character like that, things must have happened in her life for her to become someone who is so guarded and it would be interesting to almost rediscover that part. We got a really good glimpse at what Lily can be like when her father passed away. However, I’d like to see what happens if she loses control a bit or she’s put in a situation where she’s completely uncomfortable and for the first time she needs to ask for help. We’ve also seen moments of her vulnerability, for example when Jeff died and we were all in that car crash, Lily was panicking because she thought that Ethan had died. She lost control big time and it’s really nice if the character to revisit those emotions.
Huge thanks to Crystal for a lovely interview while she was getting made up ready for a scene! It was a real pleasure!