Spotlight On… Casualty Star, Crystal Yu

I had the pleasure of chatting to Crystal Yu who plays Dr Lily Chao, earlier in the year before Casualty’s 30th anniversary extravaganza. As we head towards the end of the year, what else is in store for the studious doctor? I was delighted to speak with Crystal, again to find out.

It’s lovely to be talking to you again, Crystal, how are things moving forward for Lily in terms of any romance?

I think for Lily, romance is secondary to her work so her focus has always been about work. There was a very brief thing with Ethan (George Rainsford), but I think they realised that it was better to be friends. Lily wants a man who’s brain she could jump into and swim in his knowledge and wisdom, so although Lily and Ethan are great friends, it makes sense for them to stay friends, they don’t want to ruin their friendship.

So, with romance with Ethan off the cards, might there be someone else that Lily is interested in?

You will be introduced to Mr Grayling, which is Sebastian’s (Rik Makarem) father and Lily first meets My Grayling (James Wilby) when he comes in to see what his son is doing. He has high expectations for his son, he wants to see Sebastian succeed, he wants him to be a great doctor, he wants him to be as brilliant as he is capable of. That is one of the first things that catches Lily’s attention,  here is a man that demands excellence and that’s the type of person Lily is, she wants to be excellent all the time, especially when it comes to her professional life. The age isn’t a massive thing, I think for Lily it’s more that he speaks her language and she knows exactly what he is telling his son, but his son doesn’t seem to be understanding what he’s talking about. On another level, Lily would have loved a father who was a brilliant surgeon , which wasn’t what she had, but to have had that intellectual influence from a young age would have been something she would have thrived on. To see Mr Grayling appear, who’s demanding attention and demanding in terms of medical knowledge, she thinks to herself “I want a man like that”.

So, with that coming up, is the door to romance with Ethan definitely closed?

I think so, because back when Lily cheekily questions if Ethan understands signals from girls because she can see that he’s interested in Alicia (Chelsea Halfpenny). Alicia, on the surface is interested in Ethan and Lily sees that and doesn’t want Ethan to get hurt. Alicia is a lot more promiscuous so that she can hide what she’s really feeling. However, Lily is very protective of her friend, Ethan, because she wants Alicia to have good intentions when it comes to Ethan because he is a good man. Lily feels that if Alicia doesn’t know what she wants and is going to mess about then she should leave Ethan alone and to wait until she knows what she wants in life. Also, Alicia has this thing with Cal (Richard Winsor) and Lily’s been there too, so this makes Lily very cautious of the situation. Lily knows what Cal is like, and Cal is a massive playboy, and if that is the kind of man that Alicia is into then in Lily’s mind, she’s not going to be good enough for Ethan.

How do you see the relationship developing in the future between Lily and Alicia, will they ever be friends?

I think that’s a very interesting question, I think Lily wants a resolution because she’s going to see Alicia every day and they’re going to work together in the same hospital whether it’s on the same patient or not. Lily feels that she is only going to give as much as Alicia will allow her to give, so if she doesn’t want her to be a friend and won’t accept her apology, then that’s fine. Funnily enough, with Mr Grayling’s appearance, it is Alicia who sets the whole thing up, she’s been asking what men Lily likes and what her type is. Lily doesn’t even think she has a type until Mr Grayling arrives, then it’s Alicia who does the cheeky introduction and says “this is my colleague, Dr Lily Chao” to push her along getting to know Mr Grayling and I think that’s quite a nice moment because they may not be proper friends but I think it also shows that they care about one another. Lily accepts Alicia’s help in terms of what to wear for her first evening out with Mr Grayling, because Lily doesn’t have much idea. She comes to work and is very professionally dressed, but in terms of being girlie, she doesn’t have much idea.

After the helicopter crash, we saw a relationship of sorts develop between Lily and Iain (Michael Stevenson) is that going to be explored further?

At the moment there is a lot of interesting development between Lily and Iain, but it’s not the traditional ‘eyes meet across the crowded room’, what they have at the moment is friendship. Since the crash where Iain had tried to hide his burst ear drum, we’ve seen a softer side to Lily. Iain is a guy who wants to play the hero but is also trying to run away from his problems. We will then find out what he has been running away from and Lily becomes involved in that. Lily and Iain are outsiders in a way, Iain has been out in Afghanistan experiencing things in a different way and similarly Lily is neither Chinese nor British and she’s got this wonderful mix of characteristics, cultures, beliefs and values. I think it might be quite interesting to see how these two characters get along and it might do Lily good to be more involved in socialising, as Iain gets  involved in the socialising scene much more. It might be interesting to see a different side of Lily.

Finally, what would you say to encourage viewers to keep watching?

There are so many elements, first and foremost there’s Charlie and Duffy, the will they/won’t they storyline. Alicia/Cal/Ethan what’s going on? This very confusing triangle and even though Lily doesn’t get involved, she can see the danger of it because she was there once upon a time. There’s also the potential for Lily and Iain, at the moment they’re great friends and is this going to develop into anything? Is anything going to be thrown in to interrupt the wonderful friendship that they have? Then there’s Mr Grayling who will be played by the wonderful James Wilby, we had a lot of fun working with him. When viewers see Lily with an older guy they will wonder if her past is coming back to haunt her without her realising, is this her finding a father figure after the anniversary of her father’s death? Is Mr Grayling a true romance or is Mr Grayling there to play her, emotionally? Is she hoping that he will ask her to work with him?

Thank you so much for talking to Break A Leg again, Crystal – it’s always great to speak to you about your fantastic character.


Spotlight On… Casualty Star, Crystal Yu

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!

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